Employers' perceptions of Black South African English usage
Tlaka, Henrietta Ntombi
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The common usage of Black South African English (BSAE) forms the main focus of this study. Its usage by members of the black population has caused a major debate on language standards and usage, and acceptance of BSAE as a variety of English. The purpose of this study was to establish employers' perceptions of BSAE usage by employees (and prospective employees). The employers' preferences, views on re-standardisation of English and the usage of English in South Africa were established. The literature review dealt with topics related to the usage of English in South Africa, namely, the domains of English use, English usage and varieties of English -with specific focus on BSAE -and perceptions of English. A questionnaire, with three application letters, was used as an instrument to investigate the perceptions of employers from different companies. The questionnaire examined issues of style and language usage, comprehensibility, language usage and employment, correctness and preferences in language usage, accent as a factor that influences employment opportunities, and re-standardisation and the standard of English usage in South Africa. The results indicate that most employers appreciate a well-written application letter and they regard correctness in written communication as very important. Most of them seem to be familiar with the grammatical and lexical features of BSAE, but the application letter with BSAE features is considered the least comprehensible. Therefore, BSAE may still be unacceptable or even stigmatised, and may affect employment opportunities in some cases. Although the British model of English is preferred by the majority of the employers, they agree that the African model is widely used in South Africa and at the workplace. The results also indicate an awareness of sociolinguistic variations and the possibility of accepting the re-standardisation of English in future. According to the findings, accent is unimportant. However, in some cases, proficiency in English may play a role as prerequisite for employment. The results of this study show the importance of proper teaching of English at school level, with the inclusion of Business English to prepare learners for the workplace.
- Humanities 
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