[lg policy] discussion: language policy and planning on Namibia: success or a failure?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 14 15:51:30 UTC 2011

Describe the impact of language policy and planning on Namibia. Do you
believe that it has been a success or a failure? Please explain.

Nick Aston

The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that ³the
limits of my language mean the limits of my world´. It is therefore
the aim of this paper to argue that the use of English as Namibia¶s
national language has created both opportunities and challenges for
its citizens.Whilst universal languages such as English can create
opportunities for economic growth, for example, these opportunities
are limited by an individual¶s proficiency in these languages.One such
challenge can be seen in the difficulties in defining µlanguage
policy¶ and language planning¶. Cooper¶s view of language planning as
³deliberate efforts to influence the behaviour of others´ (1989: 45)
for example does not tell us who makes these attempts, nor who
theµothers¶ are. Fishman (1979: 11) meanwhile suggests a Marxist view
of those in power making structured, organised decisions to solve
communication problems, with the strategies then implemented and
enforced upon the country.In Namibia, SWAPO¶s decision to choose
English as the national language of Namibia can bethought of as one
which has created a number of problems for the country. As Maho
(1998:185) discusses, SWAPO aimed to use a language which was not that
of its colonisers, namely Germany and South Africa. In gaining
independence for Namibia, SWAPO desired to create anidentity for both
Namibia as a country and for its citizens. Since English had not been
enforced upon Namibia, SWAPO chose this language as Namibia¶s national
language.One can suggest that SWAPO chose English as a means to enable
Namibia¶s cultural groups to communicate with one another. As Namibia
has a number of indigenous tribes andconsequentially a wide variety of
languages, one could say that ³English may have a role inproviding a
neutral means of communication between its different ethnic groups as
it does, for example in India´ (Jenkins, 2003: 35). Yet at the same
time, the Ministry of Education and Culture (1993: 63) acknowledges
that English in Namibia is not yet a lingua franca. As English is
neither a first or second language for many Namibians, and is
therefore a foreign language,one could ask: to what extent did SWAPO
consider this problem in establishing its language policy?
Furthermore, should English language teaching in schools be considered
as a foreign language, rather than the official language of
instruction?Whatever the extent of the government¶s planning, LPP has
become one of Namibia¶s greatestc hallenges. In 2010, almost half of
Namibia¶s 33,570 full-time Grade 10 students failed to progress to the
next grade (http://www.namibian.com.na/news-articles/national/full-story/archive/2011/january/article/nantu-calls-for-grade-10-supplementary-exam).
Whilst thereare disagreements as to the reasons for these results, it
could be suggested that if a teacher¶sproficiency in English is low,
how can we expect our students to achieve a high proficiency in
English? If the Namibian government is to create ³unfettered
capitalism´ (Kibbee 2003: 47) for its citizens through the utilization
of a global language, it will need firstly to address the
qualifications and training of teachers.In recognising Namibia¶s
indigenous languages, such as Oshiwambo, as official languages,
thegovernment has aimed to create both a national identity for all,
whilst respecting the individual heritage and cultures that form part
of the country¶s history. Where LPP has at best struggled,and at worst
failed, however, appears to be in creating higher job prospects for
its citizens. We may be living in a ³global village´ (McLuhan, 1967:
63), yet if Namibians are unable to communicate in the national
language effectively, how does this improve job prospects andwealth
creation in a country with a high unemployment
rate?(http://www.indexmundi.com/namibia/unemployment_rate.html) It is
this author¶s belief therefor that the Namibian government prioritised
a non-colonial identity for the country and its citizens,rather than
the proper implementation and consideration of a language policy.

Cooper, R. L. (1989).
Language Planning and social change.
Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.Fishman, J. (1979).
Bilingual education, language planning and English. English Worldwide
Jenkins, J. (2003).
World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students.
London: RoutledgeMinistry of Education and Culture Namibia (1993).
Toward Education For All: A Development Brief for Education, Culture
and Training.
Windhoek: Macmillan Education NamibiaKibbee (in Maurais and Morris, eds) (2003).
Languages in a Globalising World.
Cambridge:Cambridge University PressMaho, J. F. (1998).
Few People, Many Tongues: The Languages of Namibia.
Windhoek:Gamsberg Macmillan PublishersMcLuhan, M. and Fiore (1967).
The Medium is the Message

-- http://www.scribd.com/doc/62216985/The-Challenges-facing-language-policy-and-planning-in-Namibia
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