Back to top

Language use and communication challenges faced by customers who are less proficient in English and Afrikaans: case studies of two South African state-owned enterprises

Use of Official Languages Act (No. 12 of 2012) applies to all national departments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and stipulates that they should promote multilingualism when interacting with members of the public and/or customers. The main aim of this study was to investigate how two SOEs, that is, the South African Post Office (SAPO) and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), manage communication with their customers, particularly those who cannot communicate in English and Afrikaans. Data for this study were gathered through a mixed method approach. Quantitative data (i.e., a Likert-type scale) were gathered from 120 respondents who were customers of the two SOEs, and qualitative data (i.e., face-to-face interviews) were gathered from 20 participants who were drawn from the 120 respondents. The researcher was based in Gauteng, thus conducted the study in that province because it was convenient and practical. The data were gathered in Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and the West Rand. The study found that customers believed that those who could not communicate in English and Afrikaans received inadequate information from the SOEs due to this shortcoming. The study also revealed that the marginalisation of BSALs by SOEs was justified because they provided services to customers who speak different languages. The study also found that it was necessary for SOEs to continue to use English as the main language of communication with customers because it is an international language, which also promotes unity among the people of South Africa, including customers of SOEs.

Full Name
Dr Lungisani Xolani Khumalo