Rwanda: Language ties unravel

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Nov 4 16:08:11 UTC 2008


Language ties unravel
    The Ottawa Citizen
Monday, November 03, 2008

 Rwanda has announced that it is changing its language of instruction. No
longer will students learn in French; now they'll learn in English instead.
It's likely the decision is, at least in part, politically motivated. It
represents a break, not only with the country's history of Belgian rule, but
with France, a country that many Rwandans associate with the old Hutu regime
and the 1994 "genocidaires." But the official reason is utility.
"Introducing English is just being realistic," said senator Aloisea Inyumba.
"English is the language of business."

It's a solid argument. The main language in the country is Kinyarwanda.
Obviously, it would be ideal for all students to learn both English and
French as well. But if students acquire just one secondary language, in a
globalized economy, English makes at least as much sense as French does. The
news of a country actually switching from English to French should get
Canada's attention -- even if it is a small country. Our foreign policy
should be concentrated in spheres of influence that are likely to expand in
the 20th century, not contract.

Canada was host to a summit of la Francophonie last month, but even news
junkies might not have noticed. There were fine speeches about important
things, but nothing that managed to escape from the shadow of bigger news,
such as the Canadian and U.S. elections. For now, Canada does still share a
kinship with other French-speaking nations, such as France and Haiti. But as
new leadership groups and power dynamics emerge, and as the English language
dominates international affairs, there's no guarantee that those ties of
language and history will continue to be relevant.
(c) The Ottawa Citizen 2008
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=99463e91-ac72-475c-9903-dbe89265257f

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