The reading comprehension of Grade 5 Setswana-speaking learners in rural schools in South Africa: Does home language matter?

Keywords: reading comprehension, Setswana, multilingualism


The main aim of the study was to determine the reading comprehension performance of Grade 5 Setswana-speaking children in a rural province in South Africa, where the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) is English. Thirty-four Grade 5 learners from one province and from the same socio-economic background were selected through purposive sampling.  The research design adopted was non-experimental, descriptive and quantitative in nature. Participants were required to perform reading comprehension tasks in English and Setswana. Four stories were utilised from the reading comprehension subtest of the GORT-4™ Test Form A. Two of the stories from the test were administered on completion of the English reading comprehension task. The other two stories were translated and adapted into Setswana. The mean raw scores of results obtained were calculated and comparisons at different levels were performed using t-tests.Results revealed poor overall reading comprehension scores in both languages; with scores below 55%. Furthermore, current results indicated better performance in Setswana reading comprehension, with higher scores obtained in the difficult Setswana story than in English. These findings were statistically significant (p<.05).  Implications of the influence of home / first language on reading comprehension, if the LoLT is not the learner’s first language, are raised.

Author Biographies

Munyane Mophosho, University of the Witwatersrand
Munyane Mophosho is a senior lecturer in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. She holds a PhD. She publishes in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, multicultural and multilingual issues in Speech-Language Therapy and is a member of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics (IALP).
Katijah Khoza-Shangase
Katijah Khoza-Shangase, is an Associate Professor and former Head of Department in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She is a member of a number of committees and Boards at Discipline, School, Faculty, University, and National level. She has a number of peer-reviewed journal publications, technical/research reports/position papers, chapters, and a published co-edited book.  
Lesedi L Sebole
Lesedi L. Sebole is a Speech-Language Therapist. She works for the Department of Health.