Language Barriers

Lusaka, Cairo Road.

My first language was English and that was the case for a couple of years. I once visited some relatives and they teased me whenever I constructed sentences in Nyanja. They still tease me to date about it, one finds it hard to believe that I’m now fluent in Nyanja.

As mentioned before I can now speak Nyanja but not Bemba my native dialect. I’m glad I learnt it because it’s been much easier to communicate with people. With over 72 languages and very low levels of literacy we’re in a fix.

I live in Zambia and our official language is English. This can be attributed to the fact that we were colonized by the British. We attained our Independence in 1964 but we’re still enslaved in so many ways, this calls for another blog post. Are we really free if our official language was imposed on us? It’s not like we don’t have options, it’s selfish if you ask me.

So maybe picking English was the easier option but what about the high numbers of illiterate people? Why should all newspapers and billboards be in English? Who is the government and companies trying to reach? Does having all newspapers printed out in English make sense to you? What happens to the many to illiterates? Don’t they matter?

Maybe the people that really matter are the middle class. And why should your intelligence be based on your ability to speak English? Why should speaking English go hand in hand with being smart. Is it because people that speak English are taken more seriously?

Local languages are declining. Most parents will get upset if their children speak a local language. Who will be left to carry them on? How do you think your children will communicate with people that can’t speak or maybe your child will stay in an “English speakers only bubble?”

I will teach my children a local language so they should know that there is more to life and they shouldn’t look down on people that can’t speak it. If someone doesn’t speak good English then they probably know another language. Where’s the harm in that?

The High School I went to had rules against vernacular speaking. Why? This is Zambia. I did go against that rule. Why should I be limited to English only?

Edited by Ruth Nyakerario

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