NEWS COMMENTARY ON LANGUAGE BARRIER AND PROMOTION OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES
Ghana upon gaining political independence adopted the English Language as its official Language due to the relationship it had with the British. There were debates in the first parliament on the choice of an official language for the country. Unfortunately, the English Language carried the day. Since then, one’s level of communication in the English Language is what tells one’s level of education. It has been accepted that once an individual is unable to communicate in the English Language, that individual is considered uneducated and an illiterate. But the inability to communicate in the English Language does not mean one is uneducated; instead it is just a matter of language barrier. If a German speaks only German and can’t speak or write in English, is he uneducated as the meaning denotes? Speaking or writing in a foreign language should not be the yardstick for measuring one’s level of education.
As a nation, we have scored low marks in developing a language policy that promotes our local languages on all fronts. While the world is getting globalised by the second, we can also ensure that our indigenous languages are developed and promoted. One will argue that the reason for our inability to score high marks in developing indigenous languages is the nature of our diversity. This diversity should be turned into some great opportunity. For instance, while some foreign languages are learnt at some public universities, there can be a policy that all first years in public universities should study one or two local languages. This could bridge the gaping diversity.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a world-renowned Kenyan writer and academic, noted that to choose a language is to choose a world. This is very true. Ghana can choose a world for itself and ensure that our local languages are worldly recognised. When the formally educated people of this country step out onto the world stage, they should endeavour to say few things in the local languages.
If there is the need to say a proverb, it should be said in the native language and translated into whatever foreign language that the audience speak. The more we sell our indigenous languages through speaking them everywhere we go, we will be telling the world that our languages are worth learning. While African governments are working hard at having common markets, there should be a deliberate plan of implementing educational policies that will ensure that African Universities have courses where one or two indigenous African languages are learnt in addition to French, Portuguese and English. That way conducting business across the continent will be enhanced.
It will go a long way to ensure that African markets get expanded easily for the holistic development of the continent. Every indigenous African language is inherently important to its native speakers; the inability to communicate in a foreign language should not be seen as illiteracy or one being uneducated. It is a matter of language barrier – a barrier that can become a bridge when policies are implemented to promote indigenous languages and at the same time showing the world how beautiful African languages are.