Narrative text production in L1 IsiZulu/L2 English speaking children from rural KwaZulu-Natal : a case study based on the wordless picture books Abongi’s Journey (Saadien-Raad and Rosser, 2004) and frog, where are you? (Mayer, 1969).
Jiyane (nee Mntungwa), Mbali Gloria.
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The investigation of children’s narrative skills is important as they yield literate language use and a child’s comprehending abilities (Curenton and Justine 2004) and at the same time provide access to a child’s level of competence concerning narrative-specific aspects of their linguistic development. Narrative abilities are interlinked to literacy development and academic achievement (Dickinson and Tabor 2001) and are often used to predict language progress (Botting, Faragher, Simkin, Knox and Conti-Ramsden 2001). Sadly, children in multilingual societies may find themselves in an “educational environment in which their cultural and linguistic practices are misaligned with the language(s) of their teaching and learning” (Tappe and Hara, 2013:299). Investigations of narrative text structure are needed in multilingual countries so that curricula may be adjusted in order to not only preserve cultural and linguistic diversity but to also cater for the needs of multilingual children. This study sets out to analyze narrations produced by isiZulu speaking children from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, by using the Narrative Scoring Schema (NSS) (Heilmann et al., 2010, 2010). This study aims to concentrate on language and culture specific narrative text structure elements and to investigate whether the children’s storytelling is based on a ‘Canonical’ Narrative Text Structure (CNTS, Heilmann et al., 2010, 2010) which is taught at school or on a Southern African Narrative Text Structure (SANTS, Tappe and Hara, 2013), which is akin to the text structure underlying traditional Southern African Folktales. The investigation furthermore considers the factors of “cultural familiarity” and “urban/rural upbringing” as possible parameters that might influence the children’s narrations. The participants in this study numbered 44 children (26 female and 18 male) whose age range was 10 to 16 years from Northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as the primary group of participants and a second group of 39 10-12-year-old children from the urban Centre Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The results reveal that in the children’s narration(s) some of the ‘canonical’ narrative text structure elements are absent or demoted. The children’s narrations consisted of more African narrative text structure elements than ‘canonical’ narrative text structure elements. This finding was also irrespective of the cultural familiarity of the stimulus material and the upbringing in a rural versus an urban area. Importantly, the results demonstrate that the narrations of children do not conform to the ‘canonical’ scoring schemas. The results reveal that children seem to possess a Southern African story grammar that is in line with Southern African folktales. The Southern African Text Structure appears to be different to the narrative text structure proposed by Stein and Glen’s (1979) and other versions of narrative text structure that researchers developed from Stein and Glen’s (1979) narrative text structure (see e.g. Anderson and Evans, 1996). This study recommends that further research be done to investigate narrative skills of Southern African children to explore the Southern African Narrative Text Structure proposal in greater depth. Additionally, it recommends that further research be conducted in languages which have been under-represented in or are absent from text production research. Existing research has not concentrated enough on macrostructural differences between texts produced in different languages, in particular, non-European languages; more research is therefore required to assess language- and culture-specific narrative text structure elements.