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Literacy practices of english second language first year students at a university of technology.

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This dissertation reports on a study involving English Second Language first year students at a University of Technology. In this study, I argue that English Second Language first year students’ early literacy practices have an influence on their academic literacy. Sociocultural theory serves as the theoretical framework, and, using four data generation methods I aimed at eliciting participants’ stories on what they considered to have been their early literacy practices and how they understood those practices to have influenced their current academic literacy, was used. The participants were able to narrate their stories clearly through the varied data generation methods. This study adopted an interpretivist paradigm, allowing me to hear and understand participants’ perceived realities on their early and current literacy practices. Participants realised that their academic performance was shaped by their home literacy environment, and primary and secondary education. They understood that even though an English rich home literacy environment and English-medium schools might have better prepared some of them to comprehend English at university, academic literacy, particularly academic writing, remained a foreign concept with which they all seemed to grapple. Participants were aware that they needed to adapt to the new university literacies and that they were largely responsible for the assimilation of these university literacies in order to perform positively. Additionally, participants felt empowered to participate in this study, as it allowed them introspection, awakened the desire to improve academically and enabled a cathartic experience, as some were able to let go of negative past events, which affected present literacy experiences. One implication from the findings is the acknowledgement that fluency in English does not necessarily imply competency in academic literacy and academic writing. This dissertation adds to the discourse on academic literacy and English Second Language first year students’ literacies, by demonstrating that the combination of an interpretive paradigm together with sociocultural theory, enables an understanding of the literacy practices of English Second Language first year students at a University of Technology.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.