Language, migration and identity: exploring the motivations of selected African migrants in learning isiXhosa in Cape Town, South Africa
This study is an exploration of the motivations of a particular group of Cameroonian and Nigerian migrants in Cape Town for learning isiXhosa. South Africa is a multilingual and multicultural country with eleven official languages and many migrant languages, resulting from the flow of people from other countries, especially African countries, to this major economic force on the continent. Among these migrants are West African migrants who have managed to acquire some of the local languages. Forced by new trends in globalization witnessed across the globe, and by the socio-political instabilities in their respective countries, some of these West Africans from Cameroon and Nigeria have moved to South Africa for greener pastures. South Africa to these migrants is economically, socially and politically better than their countries. In the Western Cape Province, the major and official languages are isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English. These West African migrants in Cape Town find themselves in another multicultural and multilingual environment in which the use of particular languages are important for their survival in school, community and other domains. The research also seeks to find out to what extent these migrants have succeeded in acquiring isiXhosa and also to what extent has their acquisition of this language enabled them to survive in Cape Town. Is there any evidence that their identities have been changed and modified in this new space? The research paradigm followed for this study is qualitative in nature, drawing from short questionnaires followed by individual interviews and focus group interviews that were tape recorded. Data was analyzed by using thematic content analysis as well as discourse analysis. Discourse analysis since people have different identities and the creation and use of such identities can only be understood by trying to study the language that people use (Fulcher 2005). Appraisal theory (from the Systemic Functional Perspective) was used to categorize the data. The findings suggest that both the Cameroonian and Nigerian migrants have almost the same motivation for learning isiXhosa. They were both instrumentally and integratively motivated to learn the language, and most believed that they had attained a satisfactory level of proficiency. The findings also suggest that the multicultural and multilingual environment of Cape Town had affected the identities of these migrants.