Friday, 12 October 2007

Are African languages destined for obscurity?

This is a question Kopano Matlwa, a Medical student and author of ‘Coconut’ asked last week on Sunday Times. At first I didn’t get what she was saying but as I read through her article – I realized how this could be true.

Some would argue this without providing scientific and well research recommendations or results why African languages are not destined for obscurity. And some on the other hand would tend to agree with Kopano, and I totally agree with her.

For example, this article you are reading is written in English and not in Tswana as I am a proudly Tswana boy. Not that I’m not proud of my language or anything like that, it’s just some times things that we do that make us do things in languages that is “popularly” used by the majority.

Even in campus, some students would prefer using English as their medium of communication even if they are at their homes. I personally use it here and there, provided the person I’m communicating with clearly doesn’t understand Tswana. Then I can justify its usage at that time.

To this far, I haven’t read any indigenous book written by an African writer but only those written in English or by English speaking people. And that on it's own – it is somewhat an indication that African languages are destined for obscurity.

According to Matlwa:
When a French woman walks into the room staggering and stumbling over English
words, her heavy accent making it near impossible to decipher what she is
saying, we find ourselves captivated. When a Zulu woman walks into the room
knocking herself on English words, bumping and smashing terms in her way, her
heavy accent making it difficult to discern what she is up to, we find ourselves
What are we really saying then? Are we saying we are supposed to speak better.

In the workplace or just in corridors – have you realized if two ‘black’ people we talking in Tswana or any other indigenous language and then suddenly a white person walks in or just passes by – everything changes? It’s like Bill Clinton or Robert Mugabe has just walked in or passed by. Some even fear using they Zulu, Tswana, Ndebele, Nguni and Xhosa languages as if it’s a sin.

What do you have to say Mo-Africa?

Something drastic has to be done or else African languages are really destined for obscurity.

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