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English(es) in Post-Independence Namibia

An Investigation of Variety Status and Its Implications for English Language Teaching


Helene Steigertahl

This volume contributes to the fields of World Englishes, English Language Teaching and Second Language Acquisition, assessing the English(es) spoken in post-Independence Namibia beyond variety status. Based on questionnaires and corpus analysis, the author analyzes morphosyntactical structures, language use and attitudes towards English(es) in comparison to home languages. She gives new insights into the structure of spoken language and potential varieties of English in particular. Focus is put on a geographical area that only recently attracted increasing attention in the field of World Englishes. The author’s work can be regarded as an attempt to bridge several aspects of the frequently discussed «paradigm gap» between World Englishes and Second Language Acquisition studies.

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1 Introduction


1.1 Aims of the Study

In 2015 Namibia celebrated 25 years of independence, thus 25 years of English – “the language of liberation” (Harlech-Jones 1997: 231) – as the sole official language of the country. Namibia gained independence in 1990 and left a period of more than 100 years of colonialism behind. Despite the low numbers of first language (L11) speakers of it then and now, English was appointed the status as the only official language while the former official language Afrikaans, often perceived as “the language of the oppressor” and still Namibia’s lingua franca (LF) in central and southern parts of the country, was repealed (Knappert 1981: 5, 143; Tötemeyer 2009: 8; Tötemeyer 2010: 9; Stell 2009: 86; Lewis et al. 2016; Stell & Groenewald 2016: 2). In the year of independence, only 4 % of the Namibian population were L2 (second language) speakers of English and 0.8 % were L1 speakers of English (Beck 1995: 207 f.; Harlech-Jones 1997: 227; Hopson 2005: 99; Wolfaardt 2004: 367; Frydman 2011: 182 f.). Since then, the number of English L1 speakers has slightly increased, up to 1.9 % in 2001 and 3.4 % in 2011, according to the Population and Housing Censuses (NSA 2001: 48; NSA 2011: 68). Figures on L2 speakers do not exist (NSA 2001, 2011).

In general, Namibia is linguistically diverse, i.e. people speak two to four languages on a daily basis, as is typical for many African states (Ouane 2009: 54...

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