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Review of Language Planning and Policy in Africa Vol 1
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 11:47:26 +0200 From: Luna Beard Subject: Language Panning and Policy in Africa, Vol. 1: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa
EDITORS: Baldauf, Richard B. Jr; Kaplan, Robert B. TITLE: Language Panning and Policy in Africa, Vol. 1 SUBTITLE: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa SERIES: Language Planning and Policy PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters Ltd YEAR: 2004
Luna Beard Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
This collection of papers focuses on the language planning and language policy situations in four African countries that are members of the Southern African Development Community. Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa share common borders, a number of African languages, as well as a number of educational, social and economic challenges. Baldauf and Kaplan's series overview and their introduction to common issues are followed by a selected list of recently published further reading not cited in the monographs that follow. This is given by country and reveals a much larger published literature for South Africa than for the other three.
Contributors to this areal volume were requested to examine four topics comprising a total of 22 related questions, namely; language profile, language spread, language policy and planning, and language maintenance and prospects.
Lydia Nyati-Ramahobo provides an overview of the language situation in Botswana. All four reports are specific and informative, but this one is particularly captivating. She (53) points out that 'Botswana's language policy is not written; it is understood, inferred and observed from reality' and then explains what that involves.
As far as language death and language maintenance are concerned, Nyati- Ramahobo (57) contends that, given the circumstances and the view that language diversity is a problem, one would not be surprised if by now all languages in Botswana were extinct except Setswana and English. Slavery also played a role in language shift, particularly in the way that the Batawa tribe dictated history. Nyati-Ramahobo (31) explains that the terms minority and majority have, by definition, no numerical significance in Botswana. What determines whether a tribe is major or minor is whether it belongs to one of the eight Setswana tribes and speak one of the eight Setswana dialects. The Batawana constitute one percent of the population yet are considered to be a majority tribe. The Batawa enslaved the Wayeyi for over 250 years (58). Even after the abolitions of slavery worldwide, the majority of Wayeyi still continue to be ruled by the Batawana, despite their efforts since 1936 to achieve autonomy. As a result, the Wayeyi suffer from low self-esteem; many would prefer not to reveal their true identity, but rather say they are Batawana, particularly to outsiders who have no reason to suspect anything to the contrary. While the denial syndrome is not exclusive to the Wayeyi, the Batawana more extensively subjected them to slavery than any other tribe. Most of the Wayeyi have become assimilated and cannot speak (their language) Shiyeyi, while others speak it but do not admit that they do because of the low status of the language through its association with slavery (31). Nyati-Ramahobo (58- 67) describes the work of some groups that have begun to form organisations to revive their language and culture.
In the next paper Edrinnie Kayambazinthu explores the historical an political processes, as well as current practices of language planning in Malawi. In her discussion of the spread of Chichewa and Tumbuka in Malawi, the role of the language-in-education policy is central to the argument of both planned and unplanned language spread. The major question confronting language education planners in post-colonial societies such as Malawi, is what language(s) to include in the school system. The question in Malawi, it is pointed out (98), has often hinged on the feasibility of English as a lingua franca for its practical usefulness for science and technology and world civilisation, as well as the maintenance of cultural identity and ease of communication with the people, since English remains far removed from them. The current dominance of English in administration and legislature means that nearly 90% of Malawians are excluded from decisions that affect them. The dilemma surrounding the use of English often translates into programmatic issues such as what the first medium of communication in school should be and when the transition to English should be made. The section on language planning also focuses on the political philosophy, Zasintha ('things have changed') behind the current language policy decisions in Malawi. Consultation and lobbying for languages shaped the language policy during the colonial period. Kayambazinthu (137) explains that the post-colonial period is, however, marked by spontaneous planning without consultation and decisions that are connected to the socio-economic and political environment in which they were made. This report is concluded in the hope that the future development of language policy in Malawi will be systematic and that directives will be based on actual research, not on vested interest.
The aim of the paper by Armando Jorge Lopes is to provide a preliminary survey of the language planning situation in Mozambique. Lopes (150) admits that this project was more complex than anticipated, since available information was widely dispersed and unsystematic, the exchange of published ideas among researchers insufficient, and also because a comprehensive language atlas of Mozambique is still lacking. Like most African countries, Mozambique is a multilingual and multicultural country. Portuguese is the official language. The indigenous Bantu languages constitute the major language stratum, both with regard to number of speakers and in terms of language distribution over the territory. Lopes (159) explains that Mozambique's communication with the outside world is carried out by means of two languages, namely, Portuguese and English. These languages are the two official languages of the Southern African Development Community which integrates 15 countries, but, in practice, English has functioned as the major working language. Quite remarkably, according to Lopes (159), French, which used to be the primary foreign language in the colonial educational system, is now making a comeback at the pre-university level, and could, in future, become Mozambique's second most important foreign language.
Mozambique has a young population. Lopes (162) indicates that school age Mozambicans (5-24 years) represent more than 50% of the country's total population. Following the changes in overall national policies and the end in 1992 of the 16-year war which devastated the country, the government, with the help of the international community, has embarked on specific rehabilitation and restructuring programmes.
The fourth and last monograph by Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu examines the language planning situation in South Africa. He provides two reasons why English has been accused of being double-edged sword in South Africa (and in other former British colonies on the African continent), despite all its positive attributes. Firstly, although it provides access to education and job opportunities, it also acts as a barrier to such opportunities for those who do not speak it, or whose English is poor. Secondly, it is an important key to knowledge, science and technology, but it is increasingly being seen as the major threat to the maintenance of indigenous languages, as a remnant of colonialism and a cause of cultural alienation, and as a vehicle of values not always in harmony with local traditions and beliefs (203). Kamwangamalu (255) cites research which indicate that most black parents consider African languages to be irrelevant in the education process, because, unlike English- or Afrikaans- medium education, education in an African language is not rewarding.
One of the key issues highlighted in this paper is the mismatch between South Africa's multilingual language policy and language practices. The section on language and religion is not convincing as a result of the incorrect and confusing use of a term and a translation (217). Although long sections are devoted to the past, attempts are made to view the current situation in context and to provide a balanced perspective on some issues.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Luna Beard is a researcher in the Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign language and Language Practice at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She works mostly in Cognitive Linguistics. As far as microlinguistics is concerned, she enjoys syntax and phonology, but her real linguistic passions are stylistics and textual studies. She is in favour of interdisciplinary studies, especially those that combine linguistics and communication studies, as well as those that focus on the interface between linguistics and Bible studies. She taught linguistics for 11 years at the University of the Free State and the University of South Africa. After that she lived in Tucson, Arizona for five years where she joined in with linguistic discussions.