Challenges of Learning in Second Language among South African School Learners with Developmental Language Disorder

Nettie N. Ndou
Segun Emmanuel Adewoye


Language in education plays a critical role in effective teaching and learning worldwide. This study aimed to explore the challenges of learning in a second language among secondary school learners with developmental language disorder (DLD). The study also unveils strategies used by professionals to support learners and learners’ attitudes towards support. The study participants were learners (n = 12), teachers (n = 5), a speech Language therapist, and an educational psychologist. A qualitative research approach was utilised employing a case study as the research design. Data generation sources included non-participatory observations, interviews, and focus group discussions. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings indicated that learning in a second language as the medium of instruction posed challenges for learners with DLD. They struggled with comprehension, reading, and word recognition of learning content. Teachers indicated that they used strategies such as remedial lessons and giving learners more reading material to enhance their vocabulary and narrative skills. They also referred learners to other professionals for further assistance. Parental involvement is also encouraged in support of learners. However, one of the factors limiting learners’ support is learners’ attitudes. Learners’ attitudes towards support may be attributed to limited awareness of DLD. Hence, there is a need to raise awareness of DLD among the learners. An in-depth course on special education in secondary teacher training programmes is necessary to further equip teachers with strategies to enhance inclusive classrooms. The promotion of local languages as a medium of instruction must be highly prioritised, even at a secondary level of education.


developmental language disorder; second language learning; medium of instruction; learning challenges; home language

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Published : 2024-03-29

NdouN., & AdewoyeS. (2024). Challenges of Learning in Second Language among South African School Learners with Developmental Language Disorder. Theory and Practice of Second Language Acquisition, 10(1), 1-17.

Nettie N. Ndou 
University of Pretoria  South Africa
Segun Emmanuel Adewoye
University of South Africa  South Africa

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