English-Only laws in AZ

Donald Z. Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Thu Sep 23 03:26:31 UTC 2004

Susan describes attitudes about monolingual vs. bilingual education that from my
impression (as a foreigner who has worked in West Africa for 11 years, though
not specifically on formal education) are also at play in much of Africa.
Indeed the example I cited earlier of parents trying to raise their children in
English only (there are also examples where it is French) to the exclusion of
their maternal languages has been mentioned by others, e.g. in South Africa
(for French it is pretty well known for southern Cote d'Ivoire).

The African context is different, however, in that people are generally
multi/bilingual even when they think or plan in terms of monolingual formal
education. From observation and discussions with people in the region it seems
that African languages are discounted to one degree or another even by many
(but definitely not all) native speakers. Senegalese Pres. Wade recently made
an extraordinary statement in a visit to Nigeria that it's a pity that Africans
are not bilingual - what he meant of course was that they did not speak both
English and French, but the underlying assumption seems to be that that's all
that really counts linguistically (even though in fact a large majority don't
really speak either English or French well, from what I've seen and read).

Ultimately it's the speakers' decisions what to do with their maternal
languages, though there as in the US people with more influence who think one
way can make hard-to-reverse decisions that limit the possibilities of those
who think another way. Part of why I have focused on multilingual ICT, aside
from its potential for development communication, is that it's a way to open up
possibilities for use of Africa's indigenous languages in various new ways. The
issue comes full circle to education (and the attitudes and policies shaping
its approach), however, in that for instance you hear educated people say they
never learned to read their first language.

Don Osborn

Quoting Susan Penfield <sdp at EMAIL.ARIZONA.EDU>:

> Matthew,
> Thank you for your thoughts and insights...I'm in total agreement on all but
> one point. There are many people still telling me that 'more than one
> language is confusing for children' and often these are the tribal elders I
> work with. I am pretty sure these are attitudes forged from boarding school
> experiences but they continue to be reinforced through local language policy.
[ . . . ]

More information about the Ilat mailing list