Rationale: The importance of well developed phonological awareness and the effect of poor phonological awareness skills on reading and spelling have long been recognised. However, a dearth of research exists regarding populations in multi-cultural, multi-lingual contexts both nationally and internationally. This issue is of particular importance in the South African context where many Black learners in the school setting have no other choice than English as the Language of Learning and Teaching (ELoLT). Aim: The purpose of the study was to explore the effect of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual context on the English phonological awareness skills of a group of Black Grade 4 learners in a primary school setting in South Africa. Method: An exploratory, descriptive and contextual research design was implemented, which incorporated both quantitative and qualitative paradigms. An assessment battery consisting of formal and informal assessments was used to determine levels of development. The researcher endeavoured to find statistical correlations between the participants' phonological awareness skills on the one hand, and their phonological abilities, their expressive and receptive language abilities, and their reading and spelling abilities in ELoLT on the other. Participants: Fifteen Black Grade 4 learners, each with a Black language as mother tongue, who attended a mainstream school where English was the language of learning and teaching (ELoLT), participated in the study. The participants' ages ranged between 9 years 11 months, and 10 years 11 months. Results: The participants’ phonological abilities in English as LoLT showed that 47% of the participants produced the target consonants with a consonant approximation, and vowel approximations were produced by all of the participants in single words. All fifteen the participants’ expressive and receptive language abilities in English as their LoLT, were on a below-average level and their expressive language abilities were more advanced than their receptive language abilities. All the participants evidenced problems in terms of their phonological awareness skills. Based on the results obtained for reading decoding abilities, only one third of the participants could be considered to be readers of an average standard. The reading comprehension abilities of all the participants were on a lower level than those of first language speakers of Standard South African English. Furthermore, the participants’ spelling abilities in English as LoLT were not age-appropriate. Even though no significant correlation could be determined between the participants’ reading comprehension and phonological awareness skills (due to the fact that memory probably played a role in their reading comprehension), it was statistically determined that their poor phonological awareness skills could be associated with their below-average phonological, receptive and expressive language, reading decoding, and spelling abilities. Conclusions: The results of this research have implications for the role of speech-language therapists in terms of collaboration, prevention, assessment, and intervention where the development of these learners' phonological awareness skills is concerned. Clinical implications focus on the dissemination of information, therapy planning, and EAL learner support. The need for further research in this field is emphasised.
Dissertation (M (Communication Pathology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.