The influence of oral culture and English on the academic and social interaction among tertiary students for whom English is not a mother - tongue.
The oral background, ability in English and academic and social interaction of the non mother-tongue student was the focus of this study. The oral background of the African student is an important consideration as it helps one to contextualise his life and educational experiences. A severe lack of knowledge and interest in each others' cultures and backgrounds among all the players at the tertiary institution was apparent. The focus group interview technique was adapted to elicit students' perceptions of their own problems. This technique proved invaluable in allowing participants to express their views freely, thus offering the researcher an in-depth insight into their life at the tertiary institution and an understanding of the problems they encounter. The focus group discussion was supplemented by questionnaires. The study comprised 40 non mother-tongue students who were divided into 8 groups of 5 students each. On completion of the group discussion, a verbatim transcript of each audio-recording was made. Analyses of the focus group discussion and the questionnaire revealed that non mother-tongue students do in fact experience many problems with academic and social interaction due to their cultural background and ability in English. These students feel isolated and misunderstood. Racism, albeit subtle, seems to be a problem on the campus. It was found that with a few exceptions, there is very little difference between the experiences of the first year students as compared to the second year students. Also, the admissions criteria for the different faculties did not 'eliminate' problems.This illustrates that the problems do not 'disappear' after a whole year at the institution, because the underlying causes are not being addressed. One cannot expect the non mother-tongue student to simply adapt to the new experiences, namely, a different environment and a second language as the medium of instruction and communication. Several recommendations were made for the implementation of the research findings in the tertiary environment. Further research possibilities were also suggested.