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ABET surmounts language communication barriers

ABET or AET surmounts language communication barriers in your company. This is by imparting the English literacy skills that your employees need to communicate efficiently at work.

Language communication barriers reduce clarity and precision. Employees who have difficulty expressing themselves or understanding their colleagues or higher-ups, will miss important details or intentions conveyed in instructions and messages. This impedes their ability to make decisions; problem solve; and execute their respective tasks correctly and according to deadline.

Language communication barriers also waste time. When employees are not fluent in the language being used to communicate, managers and team members may have to repeat or rephrase themselves. This slows down processes; hinders productivity; and even increases the overall communication overhead.

Language communication barriers also stifle efficiency. When employees struggle to express themselves, it takes them longer to communicate with team members. They also take more time to understand what is required of them.

Research has shown that poor communication costs companies significantly. For example, according to The Cost of Poor Communications by David Grossman, American companies lose up to US$62,4million a year due to poor communications. These costs are because of increased stress; delays or failures to complete projects; low morale; missed performance goals; and disciplinary action. For his research, Grossman surveyed 400 companies with 100 000 employees. Refer to Meanwhile, Debra Hamilton, another author and communications expert, notes that miscommunication costs smaller companies with 100 employees about US$420 000 a year. Refer to Top Ten Email Blunders That Cost Companies Money.

According to a study by SIS International Research, 70% of small- to mid-size businesses struggle with ineffective communication. According to the survey, companies with 100 employees spend an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. This translates into R3 742 253 a year.

ABET teaches workplace literacy skills

ABET teaches workplace literacy skills to your low skilled and semi-skilled employees.

It is expected that all employees are able to communicate effectively in English. This is considering that English is the formal language of business. Yet, it is one of the languages that is least spoken at home by the vast majority of South Africans.

In fact, there is strong possibility that the majority of your low and semi-skilled employees actually communicate in isiZulu and isiXhosa as a home language. If they are coloured, their home language will, in all likelihood, be Afrikaans. Considering the demographics of semi- and unskilled labour in the country, most general workers only communicate in English if they really have to and at work.

The reality is that English is actually only spoken as a home language by a very small portion of the South African population. Only 10% of South Africans are native English speakers. This is compared to 23% of the country’s citizens who speak isiZulu as a home language. Meanwhile, 16% and 13,5% of South Africans are native isiXhosa and Afrikaans speakers, respectively. Refer to The 11 languages of South Africa – South Africa Gateway (

English was adopted as the formal language of business, politics, media and academia to streamline communication. This is considering the many formal languages spoken in the country and that are protected by our constitution. Refer to It would not be both economically feasible and impractical to incorporate all of these languages into politics and business. However, we are, in fact, a multilingual society that also speaks Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga and isiNdebele. Refer to the Use of Officials Language Act:

ABET for growth and development

ABET or AET equips your Employees with the English literacy skills that they need for growth and development. This is considering the extent to which the language is used in South African workplaces.

Since 1994 when South Africa re-entered the global markets, English has grown in stature as a formal language. However, this has been at the expense of other South African languages. For example, there has been a notable decline in the number of students studying African languages at university. Meanwhile, the majority of South African adults continue to insist that their children are also taught in the language at school.

This is according to data gleaned from the South African Social Attitudes survey [South African Social Attitudes Survey – HSRC]. Yet, overwhelming research shows that children develop learning problems if their oral proficiency is not equivalent to the language of instruction. This has been identified as one of the many reasons for school learners consistently underperforming in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Therefore, the Department of Basic Education recently introduced the Incremental Implementation of African Languages programme in our schools. Refer to IIAL Policy September 2013 (3).pdf (, which aims to “decolonise South African schools.”

However, there has been stiff resistance to this strategy from parents because they believe that fluency in English facilitates growth and development. They want what they believe is best for their children. This research corroborates these views: Returns to English skills in the South African labour market ( The results show that proficiency in English improves employability and wages. A one unit increase in the fitted value of proficiency is associated with a 23 to 25 percentage point increase in the probability of employment.  Meanwhile, a wage premium of 33% is associated with a unit increase in the fitted value of English proficiency.

ABET helps build equal society


ABET or AET helps to build an equal society by enabling people to learn a language that dominates just about every facet of formal life. English puts “money on the table”.

The wide adoption of English in South African society can be viewed as a double-edged sword. It is a politically “neutral” language for public use. Political speeches are almost invariably in the language and national conferences are held largely in English. At this level, English is considered a national asset and a “liberator”, providing international access and means of communicating between the many language groups.

However, it is also viewed as an “oppressor” by those who have not been able to learn the language because it has excluded their participation in many facets of life.

There is still a negative stigma attached to individuals who are unable to communicate efficiently in English. We still encounter this mindset in many workplaces. Despite the fact that English may be their third, second or fourth language, individuals are unfairly discriminated against. It is important to note that socio-economic factors prevent the majority of South Africans from accessing quality English instruction.

Most public schools offer English as a First Additional language, which is considered inferior to English as a Home language. The absurdity of the situation is that all leaners can be taught English as a Home language if their parents can afford higher school fees. Therefore, some experts have called for the dismantling of a system that promotes the teaching of different English language offerings. They want English to be taught equally across the schooling system. This is especially considering that it is used as a medium of instruction in all schools regardless of whether it is offered as English Home language or First Additional language.

ABET at NQF Level 1

ABET or AET imparts English literacy skills at a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 1. At this level, employees’ English literacy skills are considered to be sufficient to perform general and entry-level type work.

These English literacy skills are learnt over four ABET or AET levels. ABET Level 1 literacy skills are equivalent to those taught in Grade 3. English literacy skills learnt during ABET Level 2 are the same as those taught in Grade 5. Meanwhile, individuals who have completed ABET Level 3 have English literacy skills at the same level as someone who has completed Grade 7.

At this level, individuals are already able to engage in a range of speaking and listening interactions. They can initiate and maintain a conversation and request and provide information, explanations, directions and instructions. Moreover, they can make and respond to opinions and requests. They can also express and respond to opinions and feelings. This is in addition to being able to listen and respond critically to oral text.

Individuals who have completed ABET Level 3 can also read and respond to a range of text types. This is because they are able to make sense of the literal meaning of writing. They have an ability to relate writing to their own experience and knowledge and respond critically to it. Moreover, they have been taught how to use appropriate reading strategies to suit the text and its purpose.

They are also able to write for a variety of different purposes and contexts. At this ABET level, individuals can select, and present content suited to the writing task. They can use language conventions appropriate to the nature of the text, as well as plan, draft and edit their own writing.

ABET imparts awareness of language

However, ABET Level 4 imparts a critical awareness of the English language. This AET level treats reading, writing, speaking and active listening in a more integrated manner. The focus is on how language can be used as a tool that shapes society and constructs power relations therein.

Individuals who have completed the final level of ABET possess workplace literacy skills. They can identify and analyse the likely purpose, audience and source of texts. Moreover, they have been taught how language is used to transmit and shape socio-cultural ideas and values. They can identify, analyse and respond effectively to the manipulative, ideologically driven and biased uses of language and text. In addition, they can make inferences from writing and reflect critically on an author or speaker’s point of view. They can explain, challenge and respond to attitudes towards languages and their varieties. After completing ABET Level 4, they can produce writing that demonstrates a critical awareness of language.

Individuals who have completed the ABET programme, can engage with aesthetic, affective, cultural and social values in texts. They have been taught how to identify, analyse, evaluate and use literary and stylistics devices. Moreover, they can give and justify opinions on writing. They can also review beliefs in relation to those of others. This is in addition to being able to relate text to their own personal lives and those of others. Furthermore, they can identify ways in which context affects meaning and understanding.

ABET Level 4 certificate

Holders of an ABET or AET Level 4 certificate can access, process, use and present information. They understand the need and aim for data and evaluate its accuracy, reliability and relevance. Moreover, they can categorise, classify, select and arrange information appropriately and develop reasoned arguments in the course of applying it. They have also learnt how to present the results of the information in a proper format and apply newly acquired knowledge to life situations.

Importantly, employees have been taught how to use language to continue learning. This is in addition to how to take responsibility for and make the appropriate choices about their learning. They can identify different types of learning strategies and use what is appropriate to the task. Moreover, they know how to deploy resources effectively to supplement learning and reflect on and evaluate learning strategies.

At this ABET level

At this ABET of AET level, individuals have a sound grasp of English literacy. They have been taught how to use proper communication skills, conventions and structures for specific purposes and situations. They can identify the purposes of the interaction and choose an appropriate medium of communication. Moreover, they can use format and conventions suited to the task and select and present content appropriate to it. Moreover, they can apply knowledge of language conventions to produce a text and use register and tone that is suitable to the written task. Furthermore, they can plan, draft, edit and inspect a text and use register, tone and body language appropriate to the oral task.

ABET Level 4 also teaches how to identify and interpret format, layout and typographical features of texts. This is in addition to imparting an understanding of how to apply conventions of different genres. Individuals also learn how to identify and interpret the literal and inferred meaning of text. Moreover, they gain knowledge of the internal devices for cohesion and coherence in a piece of writing. They also learn how to identify and analyse visual features of texts.

ABET improves company performance

ABET or AET improves company performance by facilitating effective communication.

A Willis Towers Watson’s study reinforces the power of effective corporate communication skills. It found that companies with highly effective communication achieved 47% higher total returns to shareholders. This is compared with organisations with less effective communication strategies and skills. Refer to

One of the common communication barriers is complexity and fluency levels of the formal language used in the workplace. When members of your team have varying levels of proficiency in a particular language, they may not understand one another. They may also struggle to express themselves clearly. Limited vocabulary, poor grammar and a lack fluency prevent the smooth flow of communication that leads to misunderstandings. Notably, English is a very complex language that makes it more difficult for individuals to grasp and use effectively. This is especially the case for workers who are not native English speakers or have limited exposure to the language.

Incorrect accents, intonation patterns and pronunciation styles also affect understanding in the workplace.

Another hindrance to effective communication is limited vocabulary. This impedes workers’ abilities to convey thoughts, ideas or emotions. It can also negatively impact the ability to understand complex concepts or engage in meaningful conversations.

Employees who are not fluent in English will also misinterpret idioms and figurative language.

Poor language skills also inhibit the ability to communicate effectively in writing. Examples of language problems that prevent effective written communication include poor vocabulary and awkward phrasing and unconventional grammar. This is in addition to the inappropriate use of colloquial language and poor sentence structure and word order. The incorrect use of word sounds, spelling and meanings are also a problem.

An ABET specialist

Triple E Training is an ABET or AET specialist that is accredited by Umalusi. Refer to Home – Umalusi. Our extensive skills and experience are being harnessed by companies to equip their low- and semi-skilled employees with workplace literacy skills. These include English literacy and numeracy.

Moreover, they harness our expertise for their corporate social investment programmes. These are having a large impact on high illiteracy in poor areas of the country, complementing ABET or AET programmes driven by government.

Learn more about Triple E Training and our quality adult literacy and numeracy training programmes.

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Book a Call

Unlock the Full Potential of Your Employees. Leave your details & our team get back to you.

Note: Please be assured that all personal data submitted is handled with the utmost confidentiality & will only be used for the purpose of addressing your inquiries.