Nexus between Gender and Language Shift among the Youth in Nairobi County, Kenya
Gathigia, Moses Gatambuki
Nyarigoti, Naom Moraa
Kimani, Rosemary Wamaitha
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The phenomenon of language shift is brought about by language contact. Language shift from mother tongue to another language among the youth is an issue that cannot be wished away due to, inter alia, factors like urbanization, migration, multilingualism or bilingualism and the country’s language policy. Studies have also shown that there is notable difference in the use of language along gender lines. The objective of this study, therefore, is to assess the nexus between the gender variable and language shift among the youth in Nairobi County, Kenya. The study is anchored on a sociolinguistic theory known as the Domain Theory. The study adopted the ex-post facto research design. The study targeted students in public day secondary schools in Nairobi County, Kenya. The sample size of the study comprised 98 students drawn from public day secondary schools in three sub-counties in Nairobi County. Questionnaires were used as the tools of data collection. The reliability of the tool was computed using the Cronbach’s coefficient method with a reliability coefficient of 0.83. Descriptive statistics was used to describe the findings of the data. Chi-square tests were conducted to establish the relationship between gender and language shift. There was a significant relationship (χ2=18.143, p<0.05) between gender and the language used in communication with students of the same sex. There was also a significant relationship (χ2 =13.144, p<0.005) between gender and the language used at school. The findings also show that majority of those who use Kiswahili (62%), Sheng (100%), English and Sheng (100%) or Kiswahili and Sheng (100%) are males. The findings, therefore, show that female and male students use languages differently and therefore, language shift occurred differently between the two genders. The findings, therefore, imply that in schools, female students are more likely to use English while male students are more likely to use Sheng. Kiswahili is used equally among males and females while mother tongue is not used at all. The study concludes that gender plays a significant role in language shift among the youth in Nairobi County. The study recommends that the Ministry of Education reviews the current language policy to include instructions in mother tongue in secondary schools.