Original Research

Local language proficiency of fourth-year medical students at the University of the Free State

Peter Ngobeni, Maleho Sebolai, Licham Hlotshana, Tshwanelo Henani, Siphosomusa Masango, Smangaliso Hlongwane, Samkelo Ngqulu, Thabelo Makhaba, Carl van Ramesdonk, Gina Joubert
South African Family Practice | Vol 65, No 1 : Part 4| a5800 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v65i1.5800 | © 2023 Peter Ngobeni, Maleho Sebolai, Licham Hlotshana, Tshwanelo Henani, Siphosomusa Masango, Smangaliso Hlongwane, Samkelo Ngqulu, Thabelo Makhaba, Carl van Ramesdonk, Gina Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2023 | Published: 21 December 2023

About the author(s)

Peter Ngobeni, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Maleho Sebolai, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Licham Hlotshana, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Tshwanelo Henani, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Siphosomusa Masango, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Smangaliso Hlongwane, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Samkelo Ngqulu, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Thabelo Makhaba, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Carl van Ramesdonk, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Gina Joubert, Department of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Language proficiency is beneficial for doctor–patient communication and health outcomes. Poor communication can lead to misdiagnosis by the doctor and/or non-adherence from the patient. This study aimed to evaluate medical students’ proficiency in the most commonly spoken local languages.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in the class of 119 fourth-year medical students at the University of the Free State (UFS) in 2019. Students’ proficiency was tested for Sesotho and Afrikaans, as these are the most widely spoken languages in the Free State province. The study consisted of two phases: completing a self-administered questionnaire where students self-rated their proficiency in the two languages, followed by telephonic interviews consisting of a series of proficiency-testing questions.

Results: Of the 119 fourth-year medical students at UFS, 96 (80.7%) completed the self-administered questionnaires. Forty-six students (47.9%) rated themselves as either advanced or proficient in Afrikaans, whereas only 23 students (23.9%) rated themselves as advanced or proficient in Sesotho. Only 28 students were subsequently interviewed. Their actual language proficiency matched their self-rating.

Conclusion: The findings suggest a need for language skills training improvement in the curriculum for undergraduate medical students for languages most commonly encountered locally. We also found that students report their language capabilities accurately.

Contribution: The research findings reinforce the need for language skills training in the curriculum of undergraduate medical students regarding languages commonly encountered in the local area.


Keywords

communication; language; proficiency; medicine; student; patient; health care

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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