[lg policy] Ngugi wa Thiong'o: 'African languages need to talk to each other'

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Jun 20 11:07:58 EDT 2018

 Ngugi wa Thiong'o: 'African languages need to talk to each other'

Renowned Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o has been in Germany, reading from
his work at the event "Voices of Africa." He spoke to DW about the crucial
role of African languages in empowering the continent.

[image: Ngugi wa Thiong'o (DW/M. Khelef)]

*DW: What do you see as the role of young people in taking Africa forward?*

Ngugi wa Thiong'o: Young people are always the future of any country, the
future of any nation. Do you want to know the character or the future of
any nation? Look at the young people, what they are reading, what language
they are speaking, what their behavioural patterns are, what knowledge they
are getting and that will give a clue as to the future of that country.

* So do you think Africa's young generations can take the continent

 Yes, they can! But we have done them wrong, we the older generation, and
the wrong thing we have done is we have made the languages of Europe as if
they are the only ones which can bear knowledge, intelligence and
everything else. This is very wrong. My policy which I am advocating is
simple: Start with your mother tongue. Then, know whichever is the lingua
franca or the language which can enable people from different linguistic
communities to speak to each other and then add English, French and any
other language. So we have a minimum of three, I mean triple language
policy. My philosophy is summed up this way: If you know all, and I mean
all, the languages of the world and you do not know your mother tongue,
that is enslavement. If you know your mother tongue and add all the
languages of the world to it, that is empowerment.

*What role does language play in decolonising the mind, as you say?*

That is what I am talking about, a different language policy in Africa,
where we have a triple language policy: Mother tongue, lingua franca and
then French or English or whatever. That is how we are going to decolonise
Africa because that also creates an attitude. You see, knowing only English
and French creates an attitude that knowledge comes from outside. That all
is good and everything else comes from outside and you can see it has
created a mentality in Africa where even African leaders look for
validation from the West. If initiative comes from within the country, they
are suspicious of it unless there is validation and it is never the other
way around.  Start with ourselves, add to it. It is very simple but very
effective. Then you are able to build confidence, to create inventors,
discoverers, makers of things because we have the three language policy.
But the key thing is starting with the mother tongue, build confidence and
then we shall get engineers, inventors, and makers of things with our gold,
with our diamonds, with our copper, with all the resources we have now. 90
percent of African resources are controlled by the West. Africa, if I may
say so, has been the eternal donor to the west.
[image: Ngugi wa'Thiong'o reading from one of his books (CC-BY-SA-Kanaka

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is regarded as a leading candidate for the Nobel Prize
for Literature

*You have written many books and your latest is called "The Mind." How do
you see the future of literature in Africa? *

First of all already, even within the European languages, I have read all
the brilliant produced novels from young writers who produce incredible
literature. Unfortunately it is all in European languages. But the future
of African literature lies in African languages. African languages quite
frankly are the new frontier and we must go there and explore. It is like a
virgin territory that has not been explored yet and wonderful things will
happen to us.

*So in the future you think that African literature will be written in
African languages?*

We shall write in African languages, we shall invent in African languages,
African languages will be talking to each other. Let me give you one quick
example: I would like people to please visit the Jalada website, go to the
internet and look up Jalada translation issue number one and look up the
story called *The Upright Revolution. *That story I wrote in Kikuyu but
young people called the Pan African Collective, they took the story and now
it has been translated into 71 languages the world over, 50 of them are
African. So here we are getting African languages talking to each other and
that is very important, having respect for each other's languages and this
is the way to the future.

*The interview was conducted by Mohammed Khelef.*
DW recommends
Berlin holds its first African literary festival

Berlin's first literature festival with and by African writers, "Writing in
Migration" explores these authors' trans-cultural experiences. Ahead of the
event, DW spoke to three authors taking part in its program. (25.04.2018)
Who will win the 2017 Nobel Literature Prize after Bob Dylan?

Who are the potential laureates for the prestigious literary award? After
last year's controversy surrounding Bob Dylan, the Swedish Academy is
expected to go with a more traditional choice. (04.10.2017)
German university honors Kenyan writer

Ngugi's literary works, like "The devil crucified" and "Matigari," pointed
mostly to shortcomings within the Kenyan state. Now, Germany’s University
of Bayreuth is awarding him an honorary doctorate. (05.05.201


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20180620/d8e28d01/attachment-0001.html>
-------------- next part --------------
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list