Language use, language choice and language attitudes among young Mauritian adolescents in secondary education
The present study reports on a research project conducted in Mauritius in 1992/93. The project was designed to investigate patterns of language use, language choice and language attitudes of a subsection of the Mauritian population: adolescents in full-time education. Mauritius has been a French and British colony and therefore, both English and French are used in formal and official contexts. Furthermore, a French Creole is the lingua franca of the island and several Indian and Chinese languages, often called Oriental languages, are also spoken. The research was carried out in the field, and data was collected by means of a questionnaire and interview from a representative sample of the secondary school population. The basic questions raised in this study are the following: (i) Which language(s) is/are used in a given context, Creole, English, French, Indian or Chinese? (ii) What are the linguistic choices of this particular section of the population? (iii) What kind of attitudes do informants have towards Creole in education? (iv) What is the influence of social factors on the language use, language choice and language attitudes of the informants? The findings of this investigation are compared to the results of the 1990 census on language use. They reveal that although the present sample cannot be considered as representative of the whole Mauritian population, it is representative of the adolescent population in education. The responses indicate that Creole is the first language of the home, but that French and English, to a lesser extent, are also spoken. The majority of the sample seems to be against the idea of studying Creole in school, and yet, accept Creole as the national language of Mauritius. Despite the efforts of successive governments to promote Indian and Chinese languages as "ancestral languages", their use is generally declining, and the majority of informants see little or no use for them in practical terms. The statements made by informants interviewed appear to suggest that there are no conflicting attitudes relating to languages. There is a widespread feeling that Creole should not be used as the language of instruction, but should remain the national language for informal communication. English and French are more useful than Creole and Oriental languages, since they allow success in education and upward social mobility. Oriental languages are not important in daily life, but they represent cultural values, as such they are primarily used in religious practices and learnt as third languages in schools.