Monday 19 April 2021
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Language: The continued presence of colonialism

Allow me today to deal with the idea of decolonialisation and the continued presence of colonialism in the form of foreign (Western) languages.
Colonialism was not just a system that sought to conquer African lands for their economic and political expansion.
If these were the only reasons, reversing the effects of colonialism would have been a very easy task.
Focusing only on economic and political issues would have been counter-productive and colonialism would have collapse in a matter of a couple of decades.
Western colonialism wasn’t just looking for an expansion, it was also meant to be a transplantation of values in new contexts. It was systematic, intentional and psychological.
This wasn’t about transferring Western civilisation but the conquest of the African mind, to instruct it in Western ideas.
This was on the conviction that African cultures were inferior because Africans were sub-humans and their existence of no greater value than that of an animal.
As such, the education process was meant to have the African understand his/her inferiority and worthlessness.
It served as a tool to help the African conceptualise his/her own insignificance in the universe and loath his/her own existence.
In this whole process, the African, was to abandon his/her religion for a new one (Christianity in this case) and abandon his/her culture for a new one.
The latter was important to continue the ideology of dominance, came in the form of language.
Language, didn’t only represent communication but as a way of reorienting the African and give him/her a different way of thinking, perceiving and understanding the world.
This was on the pretext that African languages were backward and had no market value in the larger scheme of things.
Since then, the African has sought validation of their existence by learning Western languages.
And so made the task of the colonialist easy.
Centuries down the road and after the end of colonialism as a legal-political system, Africa has continued to suffer in her identity.
The colonisers have left, but their languages have remained with us – now used as evidence of our education.
It’s actually sad when my fellow columnist Vitalio Angula argues that ‘Except perhaps for serving as a relic of history to be preserved for cultural identity and celebratory ritualistic practices,

indigenous languages have somewhat become an impediment rather than a facilitator to the early childhood development of the Namibian child.
English as a medium of instruction for all public schools and institutions is an ideal for the full and proper development of a learner.’
Arguing simply for the economic value of the English language is representative of ‘Black self-loath’, an oppressed consciousness and justifying the very idea of early colonialism.
I’m not here to respond to Mr. Angula’s article per se, so I’ll let slide the factual errors and logical fallacies in his article.
Whichever way the argument for Western concepts of language go, their presence in the African context, will always represent the continued presence of colonialism.
The same way, as long as African land remains in the hands of descendants of Western origin.
I hold that the demand to master Western languages on the African soil, should be revisited. Today, we’ve established entire cultures, politics, economics and thought patterns around French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, German etc.
Sadly, we don’t seem to see anything wrong with these developments.
Adopting English as a national language, in itself was counter-revolutionary, it was a betrayal of all that African nationalist advocates stood for.
Not to mention the irony that I’ve to make my arguments in a foreign language in order to have an audience of an educated public.
I contest that as long as our conceptual frameworks and view of the world are constructed in foreign languages, we’re in a fight for existence.
The demand to reclaim African languages in all spheres of life, isn’t a sentimental call, it’s a call for our survival.
We need to deal with this self-loath we’ve learned and ingrained, and realise that our existence is under threat.
It’s sad that we’re accomplices in our own extinction agenda of colonialism, even decades after its obliteration as a legal-political system.
We should see Africa as a continent and as such we should extend our cultural presence.
As a people, we should be proud of our languages, promote them and pursue studying African languages.
Language isn’t just a form of communication, it establishes how we view the world and in many ways it’s our identifier.
The presence and dominance of Western languages in Africa, is evidence of a huge identity crisis that we’ve failed to deal with.
In many ways, we’ve embraced this abnormality, simply for purposes of survival.
Rethinking our approach to language could perhaps be our beginning to conceptually interact with the world and gain our place as a people.
No nation or people have ever developed on a borrowed language.
A colonial language, no matter how officialised, is a tool of mental, cultural and developmental oppression.
And it’s time we as Africans start dealing with this reality that impedes our progress.

Disclaimer: These are my own opinions and do not represent the views of my employer or its associate.

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