Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation

"Une contextualisation du français dans la pluralité sud-africaine, approche sociolinguistique et didactique"

Abstract : The democratic evolution occurring in South Africa, a country in which there are now eleven official languages, brought us to examine the position of French and to put it into perspective. Initially, our research seemed to indicate that its position was quite weak, leading us to question the relevance of French in the new South African configuration (Chapter 1), beyond its mere status as a « minority » Francophony The research is anchored in Sociolinguistics and Didactics and was built on a critique qualitative empirico-inductive approach, based on working with the stakeholders within the secondary and higher education structures of teaching and learning, through participative observations and comprehensive interviews. These observables are cross-referenced with studies undertaken on texts dealing with educational, linguistic and university reform as well as on political and media discourse on the subject of languages and identity (Chapter 2). Although the way in which the issue of otherness is dealt with in South Africa could have seemed « radical » coming form a partially external point of view, the notion of identity/otherness very quickly became fundamental in interpreting the observables (Chapter 3). It subsequently became clear that it was necessary to contextualise the South African plurality by drawing on cross-references from a variety of scientific fields in order to explicitly reveal ways in which French can be integrated into the challenges and projects facing South Africa. In this environment, there is a certain « laisser faire » which favours English and which presents plurilingualism as merely recognising multilingualism, thus revealing a paradoxical position with regard to that language. Indeed, the diversity of modes in which English is appropriated as an element of identity constitutes a socio-linguistic marker of a type of social democratisation. By the same token, English can also be considered as concealing the real issues around plurality, thereby working against the democratic process which is resolutely turned towards the promotion of « unity in diversity », the country's motto (Chapter 4). In terms of its being an international language, which is often valued alongside English, the validity of French being present in the country is also studied in this light. Though the issue surrounding so-called foreign languages is not officially recognised, practices and representations of French are rapidly evolving, noticeably in terms of the country opening itself to Africa and the rest of the world, leading to other interests arising for the language (Chapter 5). Furthermore, school and university populations are diversifying and the question of plurality now needs to be addressed from within the classroom, where it is difficult to work with it. These major changes have raised questions on the adequateness of course contents and syllabi at the tertiary level, on the direction to be taken with research in French as well as the challenges of this type of education in a fully emerging South Africa (Chapter 6). By contextualising the position of French, these questions have become more far-reaching. South Africa will not be able to move to valorising diversity if it has not questioned and reflected upon the notion of plurality and the language classroom is one of the better spaces in which to do this. Paradoxically, South African languages other than English could become more visible through the promotion of foreign languages because this allows them to rise above the English/Mother Tongue pairing in the school repertoire. In this context French seems to be a privileged language as it opens onto a valorised plurality, embodied in the diversity of the French speaking situations in the world (francophonie). This image meets one of the core values of Institutional Francophony (Francophonie), opening to a potential for developing projects together with local languages (Chapter 7). The proposal of an « à la carte plurilingualism » scenario leads to envisaging the organisation of a flexible plurilingualism at the school level as well as the remobilising of languages in joint projects so as to favour a negotiated plurality. This research develops the potential of policies with regard to French if they are designed within a contextualised framework which not only favours plurilingualism in South Africa but which also, more broadly speaking, promotes the democratic project if the teaching/learning of this language is underpinned by the development of an appropriate didactic method, which implies, in turn, placing an explicitly reflexive focus on the concept of otherness. This makes us question the categorisation of so-called “minority” Francophonie situations: if they are more accurately defined, the specificity of their development could in fact contribute to renewing the dynamics of Francophony, just as it in turn could contribute to the democratic project of these countries. Such questions arise at a time when the construction of research is delicately poised and tertiary education has been weakened by the global trend whereby Human Sciences are losing their popularity. Notwithstanding the fact that it is caught in the dire pragmatic urgencies linked to its development, South Africa, now more than ever, needs its languages to rise above their purely instrumental function.
Document type :
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Céline Peigné Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 8:05:08 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 5:56:26 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 4:21:16 AM


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License


  • HAL Id : tel-00565537, version 1


Céline Peigné. "Une contextualisation du français dans la pluralité sud-africaine, approche sociolinguistique et didactique". Linguistique. Université François Rabelais - Tours, 2010. Français. ⟨NNT : 2010TOUR2002⟩. ⟨tel-00565537v1⟩



Record views


Files downloads