Alexander K Opicho
This year has had plethora of public worries in Africa over broken English among the young people and school children. It first started in the mid of the last months in Nigeria, when the Nigerian government officials displayed public worry over the dying English and the strongly emerging slang known as pidgin English in Nigerian public offices and learning institutions. The same situation has also been encountered in Kenya, when in march 2014, Proffessor Jacob Kaimenyi, the minister of education otherwise known as cabinet secretary of education declared upsurge of broken English among high school students and university students a national disaster. However, the minister was making this announcement while speaking in broken English, with heavy mother tongue interference and insouciant execution of defective syntax redolent of a certain strong African linguistic sub-cultural disposition.
There is a more strong linguistic case of broken English in South Africa, which even crystallized into an accepted national language known as Afrikaans. But this South African case did not cause any brouhaha in the media nor attract international concern because the people who were breaking the English were Europeans of non British descend, but not Africans. Thus Afrikaans is not slang like the Kenyan sheng and the Nigerian pidgin or the Liberian krio, but instead is an acceptable European language spoken by Europeans in the diaspora. As of today, the there are books, bibles and software as well as dictionaries written in Afrikaans. This is a moot situation that Europeans have a cultural leeway to break a European language. May be this is a cultural reserve not available to African speakers of any European language. I can similarly enjoy some support from those of you who have ever gone to Germany, am sure you saw how Germans dealt with English as non serious language, treating it like a dialect. No German speaks grammatically correct English. And to my surprise they are not worried.
The point is that Africans must not and should never be worried of a dying colonialism like in this case the conventional experience of unstoppable death of British English language in Africa. Let the United Kingdom itself struggle to keep its culture relevant in the global quarters. But not African governments to worry over standard of English language. This is not cultural duty of Africa. Correct concerns would have been about the best ways and means of giving African indigenous languages universal recognition in the sense of global cultural presence. African languages like Kiswahili, Zulu, Yoruba, Mandiko, Gikuyu, Luhya, Luganda, Dholuo, Chaka and very many others deserve political support locally as well as internationally because they are vehicles that carry African culture and civilization.
I personally as an African am very shy to speak to another fellow African in English or even to any person who is not British. I find it more dignifying to speak any local language even if it is broken or if the worst comes to the worst, then I can use slang, like blend of broken English and the local language. To me this is linguistic indicators of having a decolonized mind. It is also my hypothesis that the young people who are speaking broken English in African schools and institutions are merely cultural overtures of Africans extricating themselves from imperial ploys of linguistic Darwinism.
There is no any research finding which shows that Africans cannot develop unless they speak English of grammatical standards like those of the United Kingdom and North America. If anything; letting of English to thrive as a lingua franca in Africa, will only make the western world to derive economic benefits out of this but not Africa to benefit. Let Africans cherish their culture like the way the Japanese and the Chinese have done, then other things will follow.