Uganda: what if we blogged in local languages?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon May 28 13:53:57 UTC 2007


What If We Blogged in Local
Languages?<http://dennozbug.blogspot.com/2007/05/what-if-we-blogged-in-local-languages.html>

I've been thinking. It took a workshop on writing for children in Ugandan
local languages to have me thinking: what clearly is the importance of
indigenous languages, and would it add any value if we blogged in our home
languages?

With the new language policy fronting the use of native languages as the
medium of instruction in lower primary school, and as subjects of study in
upper primary school, has Uganda, like most analysts believe, taken the
first step in defining its national identity in terms and words of its own
languages?

Do bloggers, like other writers, have a major stake in the development of
writing and reading materials in the local languages, and what is in it for
them considering the Ugandan society pays little attention to the written
word?

I don't have clear answers to these questions. However, the power of
indigenous languages to infiltrate the thinking of the local people cannot
be underestimated. When Ngugi wa
Thiong'o<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngugi_wa_Thiong>,
in 1985, resolved never again to write in a foreign language, English
critics dismissed him as a joker, but he has since been writing in
Gikuyu<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gikuyu_language>.
Ngugi, who had long knocked off the English part of his name, "James" to
become "Ngugi wa Thing'o" discovered the power of writing in his mother
tongue when he co-authored with Ngugi wa Mirii
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngugi_wa_Mirii>, *Ngaahika Ndeeba* (I Will
Marry when I Want). It was well received by the local audience that the
panicky political establishment then jailed him before he fled into exile.

Ngugi's gospel about us growing "our own roots in African languages and
cultures" is what I want reaching all the African nations. When a colonial
language subjugates our long-cherished mother-tongues to the point where men
like Gerald Moore
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Moore_(scholar)>shamelessly
brands it "the chosen tongue," then you know something is wrong somewhere.

As Dr. John Kalema, a renowned linguist, based at the Institute of
Languages, Makerere University, will tell you, in "1996 the OAU-Inter
African Bureau of Languages was established by the Assembly of Heads of
State and Government after realizing that much of Africa, politically
independent though it was, still suffered from a linguistic problem whose
epicentre lay in the continued overdependence on ex-colonial languages at
the expense of the languages of majority populations in the conduct of
public affairs.

"A language Plan of Action (LPA) which was a comprehensive blueprint
identifying a direction of development in favour of African languages, was
ratified in 1976. Through this plan, a framework through which member states
were to act in bringing about the much needed liberation and unity of
Africa, that the continent still needed in the linguistic field, was
provided. The current African Union (AU) has continued to champion the cause
of African languages as evidenced by the declaration of the year 2006 as the
year of the African languages<http://www.jananews.com/Page.aspx?PageId=21464>
."

Unfortunately, we have continued to busy ourselves 'mastering' foreign
accents, and showing off how much English we can speak and write. Prof.
Timothy Wangusa, who taught literature at Makerere University for a long
time, regretting how English has sank in our psyche confessed to dream
(sometimes) in very old English. More would rather not speak their mind than
be derided by their 'learned' friends for mispronouncing a few English
words. Yet for most of us, no language is understood better than the mother
tongue for it is associated with the social and cultural norms we identify
with.

Finally, brogren, let's not be like
Caliban<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliban_(character)>,
using his acquired language to curse his master. In fact, we can still
utilise English to interact well with the wider world. But we must espouse
all that is noble, true, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent about
our indigenous languages for there the African heritage dwells.
http://dennozbug.blogspot.com/
-- 
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