Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E

Second Advisor

Otto, Sue


This study investigates the strategies that learners of isiZulu use to understand and make themselves understood when they communicate in computer chatrooms. Chatrooms are viable tools for capturing linguistically rich interactions in conditions that are less restricted than the traditional classroom. The number and types of communication strategies that second language learners attempt, as well as their success in deploying them, have been a topic of interest to researchers in second language acquisition (SLA) because of their apparent role in the acquisition process. Strategies involve the efficient use of language to achieve successful communication in situations where there is some communicative deficiency, either in understanding or in self-expression. Examples of strategies are when learners ask for assistance from their chat partners, or when they check with their partners for confirmation of whether what they said is understood.

This study explores differences in the strategies that intermediate learners of isiZulu use when the person they are chatting with is another isiZulu learner, compared to when their chat partner is a native speaker. The study also investigates whether the topic and type of interlocutor have any effect on communication strategy production.

Eight learners were given cultural and personal topics to discuss alternately between their peers and native speakers. Given the tenet of the Interaction Hypothesis that language is best learned through interaction (Gass, 1997, 2003; Long, 1983, 1996), which is facilitated by communication strategies, exploring how strategies are utilized is important to the field of SLA as well as to African language pedagogy.

The results of this study show no difference in the number, category and type of strategies used when chatting with peers versus native speakers about personal or cultural topics. The highest learners' use of CSs overall was to solve problems of self-expression when they chatted about cultural topics. This finding encourages the integration of culture and technology use in language classrooms.

This study contributes to the small research base in technology and SLA for less commonly taught languages and, it is hoped, will promote the use of online chats and other communication technologies in the teaching of these languages.


Communication strategies, Chatrooms, Zulu, African languages, SLA, Technology


xi, 224 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 218-224).


Copyright 2007 Zoliswa Olga Mali