Roles of L1 and L2 in Literature in English Pedagogy

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We all possess the vital instinct of inquisitiveness for, when the unknown confronts us, we wonder and our inquisitiveness makes us probe and attain full and fuller understanding of the unknown (Kothari, 1990:1).


The need for localised solutions to Literature in English pedagogy at Grade Ten level in Zambia requires systematic study. This is in order to identify viable teaching/learning approaches for use in classroom interactions. This chapter discusses the methodology that was applied during the study in order to generate the data for the study. The chapter further articulates how that data were transformed to create a bilingual resource that makes it practical to teach Literature in English at Grade Ten level.


Using qualitative research methods, the study sought to develop a bilingual anthology of Oral Traditional Narratives in Bemba (OTNB) in order to demonstrate pedagogical possibilities of the anthology in the Zambian high school Literature in English teaching and learning context. The study was guided by four research questions. The research questions, initially presented in (Section 1.12) of Chapter One in this thesis are reproduced in the following section to reiterate their significance to the overall study.

Research Questions

At the outset of this study, I sought out to answer the following research questions:-

  1. Can oral traditional narratives in Bemba be collated into an anthology with accompanying didactic teaching/learning guides for Literature in English pedagogy in multilingual Zambian classrooms?
  2. Can the oral traditional narratives in Bemba be transformed into a written Bemba language text through the process of transcription, and then recreated into a written English language text through the process of translation, thereby making available a bilingual Bemba-English version of the Bemba narratives?
  3. What will the response be from teachers and learners during the process of trialling the Bilingual Resource of oral traditional narratives and trialling of the didactic strategies and learning materials in Literature in English classrooms in Zambia?
  4. What theories can be employed to form the parameters of an understanding of what constitutes ‘linguistic synergy’ and how can linguistic synergy be activated to achieve mutual benefit for both the L1 and the L2 in terms of increased motivation and participation in a Literature in English class?

Through archival retrieval and field work recording of OTNB, textual research data were established. Transcription and translation processes and procedures enabled me to create a bilingual anthology of seventy narratives – henceforth, the research data. Using random sampling procedures, a sample of ten narratives was drawn. The sample inspired the design and development of the Literature in English teaching and learning materials – henceforth the bilingual resource (BR) for Grade Ten. The materials were later trialled in one co-education (co-ed) school and one resource-rich school (RRS) in a Bemba-speaking city of Ndola in the Copperbelt province of Zambia. Using focus group discussions, I was able to generate evaluative data that illuminated my understanding of students’ and teachers’ responses to the BR. Analysis of the Focus Group data generated insightful constructs for an emerging linguistic synergy theory.

Research outcomes

The methodology applied in this study enabled me to achieve the following results:

  • Transcribing and translating Bemba narratives ensured that the literary knowledge which was available exclusively in Bemba was now made available in English as well.
  • It enabled me to make available in one body, Bemba and English narratives which, prior to this study, were non-existent in the Zambian high school Grade Ten literature teaching and learning context. As such, access to this literary matter would be possible for both teachers and learners.
  • Side-by-side presentation of bilingual narratives would enable both learners and teachers to deploy cross-referencing techniques that would be facilitated through code-switching and translanguaging. Using two languages at once would enable learners and teachers to maximise knowledge access and enhance articulational capacity during learning.
  • Use of the bilingual resource in the classroom generated vital responses from both teachers and learners. These responses constituted evaluative data on the efficacy of the bilingual materials and teaching methodology in a bi/multilingual Literature in English classroom in Zambia.

With this realisation, the study achieved its main outcome which was the creation of a Bemba bilingual anthology and resource of oral traditional narratives for high school Literature in English teaching/learning. This chapter therefore, outlines the research design, approach and methodology that underpinned the study. It discusses the processes and procedures that generated the research data from which a bilingual resource for teaching literature was created. In the section that follows, the research design is discussed.


Coming up with the most appropriate research design for this study was not easy because the designs in literature are not tailor-made to fulfil the purpose of every study. To this effect, several scholars, among them Kothari (1990); Bell (2005); Denzin and Lincoln (2003); Thomas (2009) and de Vos, Strydom, Fouché and Delport (2011) have observed that researchers usually face this difficulty when choosing an appropriate design for their respective studies. Nevertheless, Hofstee (2006) suggests that a researcher ought to design the research based on the variations of research designs available in research. For me, this called for a clear understanding of the nature and uniqueness of my research in order to develop an appropriate research design, given that research literature is replete with many definitions of research design. For example, Bell (2005); Denzin and Lincoln (2003); Thomas (2009), de Vaus (2002) and de Vos et al. (2011) have offered some useful definitions.
However, Kothari (1990) and Thomas (2009) provided the working definition that I adopted in this discussion. Kothari strongly argues that “… the research design is the conceptual structure within which research is conducted … the blueprint for the collection, measurement and analysis of data” (1990:39), while Thomas asserts that “the research design is the plan for the research … [implying that] it has to take into account [my] expectations [of what the research would bring out] and [my research] context” (Thomas, 2009:70). With these viewpoints in mind, I endeavoured to design a feasible plan to guide the execution of the research process in line with the purpose and objectives of the study. However, the research plan needed to be informed by a research approach that stemmed from my philosophical understanding of the world and how knowledge is generated from it.

Research approaches

A scan of research approaches indicates that qualitative and quantitative approaches dominate research practice (Kothari, 1990; Bell, 1993; Babbie and Mouton, 2001; Denzin and Lincoln, 2003; de Vos et al., 2011). Kothari forcefully argues that “there are two basic approaches to research, viz., quantitative approach and the qualitative approach …” (1990: 5-6). However, the “combined qualitative/quantitative approach” (de Vos et al., 2011:63) or the “mixed methods approach” (Alasuutari, Bickman and Brannen, 2008:15; Bergman, 2008:1) is gaining popularity. In support of this approach, Johnson, Onwuegbuzie and Turner (2007) argue that the mixed research paradigm is gaining currency as researchers strive to triangulate and corroborate data and research methods by applying a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods.
The counterpoint to this debate is that there can be no general consensus on the research approaches as these vary according to the specific requirements of the study. In this regard, Thomas (2009) argues that the approach should not be viewed in terms of whether a researcher uses one method or the other but:
rather about how you think about the social world… education and social sciences are hugely varied and complex, with our interests ranging across all kinds of individual and social behaviour. [However]… we are not sure what to focus on in this broad vista (2009:71).
Given this view, a brief discussion of the rationale for the choice of the research approach for this study is necessary. As Thomas (2009) has suggested, a researcher chooses a paradigm with which he/she thinks about and researches the world. On my part, this entailed a careful consideration of the two distinct paradigms: Positivism and Interpretivism, and the research approach assumptions that are associated with them.

The positivist paradigm

In the process of generating knowledge, the positivist paradigm requires a researcher to distance him/herself from the phenomenon under investigation, objectively observe and measure the social phenomenon, isolate the variables, generate and test hypotheses, and interpret data using quantitative methods (Thomas, 2009). Through this process, verification of the validity and reliability of knowledge would be guaranteed (Hume, 1748/1910). According to Bell, researchers in this paradigm “collect facts and study the relationship of one set of facts to another. They measure, using scientific techniques that are likely to produce quantified … conclusions” (1993:5).
Several researchers, among them Kothari (1990); Babbie and Mouton (2001); Denzin and Lincoln (2003); Kumar (2005); and Leedy and Ormrod (2005) generally share Bell’s (1993) description of researchers that use the positivist paradigm. In particular, Leedy and Ormrod (2005) characterize quantitative research as being standardised and procedural in the identification of concepts, variables, development of a hypothesis and the use of methods of measurement and statistical analysis to come to a conclusion about phenomena of a particular study. According to Kumar (2005), quantification of the variations in a phenomenon leading to statistical analysis of a given set of facts identified in a study before a conclusion is made would also render it quantitative. By implication, such an approach is positivist in nature. This paradigm was not suitable for my study which relied more on interpretation of social phenomena.

The interpretivist paradigm

Thomas (2009) suggests that the interpretivist paradigm developed as an alternative to the positivist view which claimed that the world was straightforward and that “knowledge about the social world can be obtained objectively: [and that] what we see and hear is straight-forwardly perceivable and recordable without any problems” (2009:74). In contrast, Interpretivism acknowledges that the social world is not so straight-forwardly perceivable because:
it is constructed by each of us in a different way… we are interested in people and the way that they interrelate – what they think and how they form ideas about the world; how their worlds are constructed…, we have to look closely at what people are doing by using our own selves, our own knowledge of the world as people (Thomas, 2009:75).
This paradigm suggests that researchers ought to be cautious in their claim to knowledge that is constructed from a social context because of the complexity and flexibility of the social context. In essence, researchers using this paradigm are qualitative in their approach. They “are more concerned to understand individuals’ perceptions of the world …” (Bell, 1993:6). As subjective participants in the research process, researchers in this paradigm engage in a “… subjective exploration of reality from the perspective of an insider…” (de Vos et al., 2011:308). As a former teacher of Literature in English in Zambia, I was eager to develop an intervention strategy that was informed by a research approach that was congruent with the way I perceived the world.
As I recorded the stories, I was immersed anew in the mesh of the Bemba culture in the sense that I had developed certain preconceptions or theories about Bemba narratives long before this study. My grandmother was a natural storyteller, and during my childhood I was entertained and charmed by her storytelling. In my adulthood, I used to listen to storytelling broadcasts on radio and even used some of these stories during oral literature lessons for Form Four. (Now this is taught at Grade Ten). At the time I decided to undertake the study, these experiences were still vivid in my mind.
The storytellers also brought to the recordings their own preconceptions of the narratives (primary data). As discussed by Bernard, Pelto, Werner, Boster, Romney, Johnson, Ember and Kasakoff (1986), the interactional nature of field research allowed data, informants and researcher to interact in a cultural context which I have recorded for posterity. As a participant in the research process, I aimed at making sense of the narratives from my perspective and preconceptions.
Some of the preconceptions stemmed from the belief that narratives that constituted my research data were a representation of human experiences which were holistic in nature. The narratives therefore encapsulated the metaphorical representations that the Bembas perceived to be part of their lives. In a typical high school literature learning scenario, learners would formulate “interpretive schemes or frameworks” (Usher, 1996: 18) from these representations to give meaning to human action depicted in the narrative data. Such data were possible through a vivid understanding of the Bemba community where the data were derived. By applying appropriate research techniques, I was able to develop a bilingual anthology of oral traditional narratives. Given that the social phenomenon that was the object of my study was as a result of social interaction between me and the source of the object, I was motivated, for this study, to adopt an interpretivist stance and apply the concomitant qualitative approach that is associated with it.

Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
List of Acronyms and Abbreviations 
Definitions of Key Terms
Roles of L1 and L2 in Literature in English Pedagogy
Problem Statement
Thesis Statement
Aim of the Study
Limitations of the Study
Significance of the Study
Structure of the Thesis
Language proficiency among Zambian learners
Learners’ Self-perception of Proficiency in L1 and L2
Comprehensible Input
Linguistic Interdependency Hypothesis
Cultural and Linguistic Familiarity
Schematic and Systemic Knowledge
Value of Linguistic Culture in Learning
Bilingualism in Literature in English Pedagogy
Empirical studies on Bilingualism
Code-switching as a Learning Strategy
Research Questions
Research Design
Qualitative Research Approach
Trialling the Sample Materials
The Bilingual Bemba Anthology
Focus Group Discussion – Findings and Results
A Summative view of Literature in English Pedagogy in Zambia
The didactics of an English-Bemba anthology of oral traditional narratives in the Zambian Grade Ten literature class

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