Multiple voices in bilingual Higher Education: Language choices of Afrikaans/English bilinguals at Stellenbosch University

  • Marcelyn Oostendorp Stellenbosch University
  • Christine Anthonissen Stellenbosch University
Keywords: bilingualism, heteroglossia, bilingual education, language policy


This paper uses a sociocultural theory and heteroglossic approach to investigate the bilingual learning experience of seven Afrikaans/English bilinguals at Stellenbosch University. In particular these bilinguals were asked to reflect on the language choices they make when completing various assessment tasks and when they are internalising new information. These students were also asked to reflect on the ways in which a bilingual learning context has changed their language proficiency. It is evident from the data that the language choices are made for a multiplicity of reasons, and that the participants draw on a number of different voices, some contradictory, to articulate their experience. These findings are discussed especially in connection to the implications for policy makers, showing that methodologies such as surveys and questionnaires in which participants are requested to make a choice, do not reflect the heteroglossic and ambiguous nature of bilingualism.


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Author Biographies

Marcelyn Oostendorp, Stellenbosch University
Marcelyn Oostendorp is a lecturer in the Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University. Her research interests include multilingualism in various institutional  and informal settings as well as multimodal forms of meaning-making.Email:
Christine Anthonissen, Stellenbosch University
Christine Anthonissen is an associate professor in the Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University. Her research focuses on typical South African discourses such as ones of censorship during the 1980s, public hearings on histories of violence in the 1990s and HIV-treatment since 2003. Currently she is investigating sociolinguistic aspects of bilingualism and multilingualism in a context where policy and practice do not suitably meet.Email: