Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 10

Language Policy in Namibia

Language Policy in Namibia


Is English the right solution?
We live in a world where distances have shrunk, and the global village is a reality. For Namibia, therefore, we had to choose a language that would remove the isolation imposed by the colonisers, which restricted our capacity to communicate with the outside world, restricted our capacity to produce our own literature Language in Namibia was taught to the majority with only one objective to give them instructions at the work-place. Isolation imposed on us, by denying most Namibians education in a global language, seems to have been durable. On independence, therefore, we had to choose a language that would open up the world to us. English was the obvious choice. After all, English is the most widely spoken language, spoken by some six hundred million people. There is no corner of the globe where you could not get by if you knew English Prime Minister Geingob 1993 (Ptz, 1995, p. 176)

Kommentar [Paul1]: Your essay is rather long. Does it go over the limit of 6 pages? Why did you choose this very specific topic?

Introduction
Approximately ten years before Namibia gained independence in 1991 the decision to implement English as the sole official language in the country had already been determined by SWAPO in 1981 (Ptz, 1995, p. 155). Was the outline as English as only official language the right solution, or just another natural step spread for the global language of English? Where the language planners forced to take that decision or could it be done I another way? Secondly and as some kind of conclusion I will look, which consequences and risks does the solution have in the Namibian society as well as in the future? Namibia is a country in southwest Africa with only 2.088 (est. 2008) million inhabitants ( Encyclopdia Britannica). Yet the country officially has 14 written languages in Namibia with a standardised orthography. In addition, there are also about 16 oral languages for which have no orthography (Ttemayer, 2009). Of the four European languages (Afrikaans, German, English and Portuguese (Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture (MBESC), 2003)) two are connected to the colonial history of Namibia. Namibia was colonized by the Germans from 1884 to 1914 and German is still an important business language in Namibia. The South African colonization which was supposed to be a Trusteeship lasted until 1990. In this period Afrikaans (a variety of Dutch) became the main official language and the language of instruction from grade 4 upwards. After Independence English became the official language (Maho, 1998, pp. 177-186).

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 1

Language Policy in Namibia

Language policy in Namibia the selection of English


The liberations movement The South West Africa Peoples Organization (SWAPO) choice of English as the official language was based on a key document produced by themselves in corporation with United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) based in Lusaka, Zambia spelled out in Toward a language policy for Namibia. English as the official language: perspectives and strategies (UNIN, 1981) (Ptz, 1995, p. 155). The document where based on the work of three named scholars attached to the United Nations Institute for Namibia, one an American, one a British Council employee and the third an Indian (Chamberlain, Diallo and John). The document was written after an international conference, with strong British and African representation, as well as The Ford Foundation financed the publication (Phillipson, 1992, p. 288). Choosing an official language for Namibia had two related purposes, According to the report: the need to combat South African-engineered divisiveness, and the unity of Namibians. (Phillipson, 1992, p. 293). It other words was the aim of the report to replace Afrikaans, which where perceived as the language of oppression.The research team selected five main language to choose within; Indigenous languages, Afrikaans, German, French and English. The next step in the process was to decide the criterions which UNIN and SWAPO felt a chosen official language must meet. As the subtitle in Toward a language policy for Namibia suggested English was the only possible choice, which the table below concludes with a high score for English.
Formateret: Fremhvning

Criterion 1) Unity 2) Acceptability 3) Familiarity 4 ) Feasibility 5 ) Science and technology 6 ) Pan-Africanism 7) Wider communication 8) United Nations Total Points

Indigenous languages _ + + _ _ _ _ _ 6

Afrikaans _ _ + + _ _ _ _ 6

German _ _ + + + _ + _ 12

French + + _ + + -/+ + + 19

English + + + + + + + + 24

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 2

Language Policy in Namibia

Table 1 Score table for an official language in Toward a language policy for Namibia. (Phillipson, 1992, p. 290)

The purpose of the report is no doubt aiming at the national issues, but somehow the criterions appear more international than national. It seems like the language of liberation: English, was choose in advance, because it was used within SWAPO in exile, a work that has been strongly supported by UN and over-seas agencies like ODA, US-Aid and Scandinavian Organizations (Phillipson, 1992, p. 296). Therefore would another conclusion, which is difficult to avoid, be that the criterions seem to have been selected so as to make English emerge as the absolute winner (Phillipson, 1992, p. 293). Moreover the score table over which language to choose is in fact a reflection over the hierarchy in how many states and by how many which the respective language is spoken (IBID, p. 291), which is strongly supported by Geingobs statement in the introduction as English as the language of opportunities. A more sceptic view would lead to questioning oneself whether or not these where right criterions for Namibia. The Report designed to identify one official language, but as it describes itself is Namibia multilingual society and multi-ethnic country, and to choose one official language is not to respect this. Actually there is a conflict between two goals of the report (the need to combat South Africanengineered divisiveness, and the unity of Namibians). The issue is the selection of one official language, contrasting to formulating a multilingual policy, and it would properly been better to get inspirations from multilingual societies like Canada and India. Besides from the currently language policy aiming at one official language and state of multilingualism in Namibia, there are three overall critical issues in the report, not including choosing a language which is mother-tongue to less than 1 %. First of all it is quite notable that the four indo-European languages are given separate treatment, and Namibian languages are lumped together into mix named indigenous languages, did the research team choose the correct languages to examine at all? Secondly the functions of criterions are serving the purpose of the educated elite. Thirdly almost all the criterions can be counteracted by focussing on other arguments, which are more suitable for the common Namibians (Ptz, 1995, p. 167). Somehow these issues are connected to each other, but I tried to divide them.

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 3

Language Policy in Namibia


Choosing the languages the imbalance between European and African languages
It occurs that within all the respective languages only one is African, which is Indigenous languages and they actually is a mix of all Namibias own languages and at the same time the indo-Europeans are treated separately a totally imbalance. Why are indigenous languages represented by oneself, and why are other major Southern African language represented e.g. the bantu languages in Namibia, or some of the major Sub-Sahara African languages closely related to bantu (e.g. Kiswahili spoken by 40 Million) (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 305)? If Kiswahili had been chosen, it would have been a language easy for all the Bantu speaking people in Namibia to learn. It would therefore have promoted unity. Its spread to southern Africa would also have made the chances that it became an official UN language greater (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 305). Related to the question was the arguments against in the report that choosing a local language as the official language could create unnecessary intra -linguistic competition (United Nations Institute for Namibia, 1981, p. 39). But likewise, Maho (1998) argues that this idea of a domestic war on intra-linguistics, because of the use of vernaculars as official languages, has never been proven. Another argument against the choose The cost of constructing educational material in indigenous languages is high both economically and in human effort (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 298), but the question is, does this cheaper English educational material fit into the culture and ways of teaching? An additional issue concerning the selecting of languages and language policy is that one would think that an independent Namibia would start thinking a new way by creating two or three language committees (one for the Bantu-languages, one for Khoekhoegowab and one for the Bushman languages) (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 306) instead of the one with a sole official language. Choosing an African language seems never to been a possibility for SWAPO, properly because they never investigated the opportunities mainly because of fear national conflict and the strong support for SWAPO by international NGOs, who maybe were lobbying for English as an official language. It seems somehow suspicious that African languages was not left no kind of opportunities competing against four indo-European languages.
Formateret: Fremhvning

Formateret: Fremhvning

Formateret: Fremhvning

Criterions for the elite


According to Phillipson (1992, p. 292) the languages chosen in the Namibian planning exercise reflect this linguistic white rule perspective. As he points out on pa ge 293 in the quest for criterion in selecting an official language fits to Pattanyaks analysis on educated persons in post -colonial developing countries often is tutored into western thinking. Pattanyaks theory is that mentioned persons consider: 1) Transnational communication more important than national communication 2) Standardization and uniformity more important than transmissions of knowledge and information within the country 3) Translation and transference of knowledge more important than creation of knowledge

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 4

Language Policy in Namibia


Phillipson describes (p. 294) this is a Eurocentric approach. Though many saw English as "the language of liberation" it was still a language built on European and western culture. The three items above represent the issue of selection of criterions especially the last four (5-8), where oneself can ask the importance of those on national level, and how they are relating to the two main purpose of report (disconnect from RSA and unity between the Namibians). Instead, the functions of criterions are serving the purpose of the educated elite, which is the exact opposite of creating unity between the Namibian. Phillipson concludes that the language planning is a function of linguistic imperialistic discourse, because the criterions are irrelevant to the Namibian people, and instead serves a higher purpose in connection to the international relations and the fact that choosing English, is besides choosing an agenda connected to the capitalistic world order. Therefore it seems reasonable to state that the Namibian language policy is a reflection of the linguistic white rule perspective, proving that there not the big difference between the new language policy and the old in the SA regime, because it is geared towards favouring one particular social group - the educated elite (Ptz, 1995, p. 167). After these accusations it is only reasonable to suggest which criterions had been fairer by serving the purpose of the report, and contributed to a more acceptable language policy.

The relevancy of the criterions


Criteria which are of extreme relevance but were not chosen are: 1) Ease of Learning 2) Nambian Cultural Authenticity 3) Empowering the Under-privileged (which could include Democratization and Self-Reliance). (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 305)

These would contribute to a selection of language which are more relevant for the regular Namibian and help create unity, which the last four criterions doesnt, thus could they e.g. be represented under one criteria as international relations, because they are important aspects. In other words it is important to focus on local and district level as well as national level, and less focusing on the international functions. A part of an overall language policy is to focus on the educational, political, economic and sociocultural factors, and one could question whether or not the language planners did that sufficient. The reason for independence was to achieve democracy and disconnect with the South African regime. Somehow there seems to be economical reason for choosing English, although it sounds Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1 Side 5

Language Policy in Namibia


horrible and is a radical thought within area of language policy and economy, it seems like almost status quo on the language policy area.
both children, teachers and parents prefer English to be the medium of instruction as from Grade one onwards, because of political reasons. In this regard they told me that there is a general understanding in society that a person who does not know English is useless and unimportant in society.

Kommentar [Paul2]: I dont get your point hereradical thought and status quo?

English was for some reasons choose because it was the language of liberation, but I can not helped but thinking that it p. is 310). in a (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, radical way the language of demolition in a Namibian perspective? The quotation seems horrifying, but which effects does English as an official language have on the Namibian society?
Kommentar [Paul3]: Explain whyis it the quotation that is horrifying or the situation?

English as the official language Consequences in the Namibian Society


If you know English well, you are considered educated. If you just know Namibian languages, even though you may know several of them and speak them well, you are considered dumb and uneducated

When English was chosen as (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 296). the official language of Namibia it was at the same time an opening of the struggle between the cultural damage and the economic gain in the Namibian society. As concluded in the last passage the one of the main explanation for choosing English was economical possibilities in having a global language as official language, but does that distract the fact the Namibians possibly loose there national identity? Furthermor lack of English skills make you a failure to the Namibian society, even though you are skilled in many other languages (e.g. indigenous).

Formateret: Fremhvning Formateret: Fremhvning

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 6

Language Policy in Namibia


Pros mostly economic International Trade/ business - More direct investments - Easier to attract foreign workforce Cons mostly cultural Language death - English makes the local language superfluous - Few studying Indigenous language, only one at UNAM in 1999/2000 (100 in 1995) (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 297) Lost of cultural identity - Languages as root to culture - Loosing language loosing traditions - Namibians are becoming global? - National Broadcasting System (NBC) is broadcasting in English (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 296). lack of modern art created in Indigenous language Harder to create own ideas - To have an own language often creates unique ideas Harder competition Languages policy favouring English - No currently sign language acknowledge for deaf people in Namibia (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 312) - English is working as concurring language

Global language wider communication - Easier access to science and technology - Cheaper access to educational material - Easier to communicate within the UN - Easier to handle possible conflicts - Easier for NGOs to work within Namibia

Table 2 English as an official language in Namibia: Pros and cons Is this your own table?
Formateret: Skrifttype: 11 pkt

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 7

Language Policy in Namibia


To shorten the pros and cons up I have made a comparable table below. New languages creating (born) in connection with English and the educational system is a grey zone were English has a major effect, represented both by pros and cons. English an official effect on the educational system With more than 80 percent of its adult population literate, Namibia has one of the highest rates of literacy in sub-Saharan Africa ( Encyclopdia Britannica). But with implementing English as the official languages the Namibian educational system got a major challenge even though the educational system went on like before just with English replacing Afrikaans (same system 1-3 Grade local language, 4 Grade and u, English as the medium of instruction). In 2001, more than half of Namibian Grade 10 learners failed, resulting in enormous numbers of teenagers being out of school, because they are not allowed to repeat Grade 10 in school but only through the difficult mode of distance learning with Namcol. According to a UNICEF survey on reading skills of Grade 6 Two-thirds of Namibian learners could not read English. It is even possible that many of them could not read at all, since not all schools had opted for mother tongue instruction during the first three years of schooling (Ttemayer, 2009). The main reason for this is the lack of skilled English teachers and the way the educational system is working.
There is little interest among the speakers of these languages to study them at the higher educational levels. The community downgrades the Namibian languages. The status for teachers is much higher if they teach history, for example, than if they teach in the African languages ... The people feel that in order to get a job you must have a European language and that if you study African languages you have no employment opportunities

In the same survey, UNICEF established that in Kenya almost two thirds of Grade 6 learners could read well and another (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 20% 310) could read with minimum competency. One difference to Namibia is that in Kenyan primary schools, the medium of instruction is mainly in the national language Kisuaheli spoken by more than 50 million in East Africa (Ttemayer, 2009). There two possible solutions out of this survey with low standards in the Namibian educational system: Make a greater effort in educating teachers o Change the educational system. The most recommendable way would be to change English into a foreign languages and teach as a subject, but that demands changing the language policy.

Future
One could ask themselves:What is the future language scenario of Namibia. As Ptz concludes (p.167) it is not possible to change the language policy again, even thogh the current one is not the optimal, instead should the linguistics and language planners accept the policy and work out the best practical solutions. Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir do in spite this has an argument against:
Kommentar [Paul4]: Who? Namibians? Scholars?

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 8

Language Policy in Namibia


It might be a wiser choice to strengthen the teaching of English as a foreign language through giving more time in school to the study of English as a subject and strengthen the Namibian languages as languages of instruction (Brock-Utne & Holmarsdottir, 2001, p. 314).

I think it might not be possible but definitely a appropriate solution. Instead should the undemocratic selection of English as an official language teach us new methods in language planning and policy. A local languages should have chance to represent oneself instead of being mix up in Indigenous languages and being challenge in a imbalanced way against global/European languages. One overwhelming fear is as mentioned that English displacing and replacing local languages instead of function as an additionally language. But as revealed in the grey zone of pros and cons it is possible that new language will be born in connection with English. Actually there might become a new Creole (pidgin, because of the connection with European language English)? Right now there are not any academic studies on creoles/pidgins in Namibia, but on the internet right now is a notion of Namlish a combination of mixtures of Northern Namibian languages (mainly Oshiwambo, a little Afrikaans) and English (Iileka, 2009). The term went on the internet in 2007 on the open lexica source Wikipedia, which there were an article posted in New Era in Namibia (Newspaper) (New Era, 2007). Hopefully somebody studies this exiting new trend and confirms it is a Creole (Pidgin), because it gains hope, that even though languages and cultures in Namibia dies out new will be born!

Kommentar [Paul5]: Why?

I have given your essay a gade 12.


You seem to have a special interest in the situation in Namibia and have researched it well, using a few very credible sources. Generally, your have cited your sources well, but be really clear what is your own work/ideas/arguments, so the reader cannot be mistaken about authorship.
Formateret: Normal

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 9

Language Policy in Namibia


References
Encyclopdia Britannica. (n.d.). Namibia ( 2009). Retrieved November 18, 2009, from Encyclopdia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9109713 Brock-Utne, B., & Holmarsdottir, H. B. (2001, July). The Choice of English as Medium of Instruction and Its Effects on the African Languages in. International Review of Education: Vol. 47, No. 3/4, Globalisation,Language and Education , pp. 293-322. Herlach-Jones, B. (1997). Looking at means and ends in the language policy in Namibia. In M. Ptz (Ed.), Language choices: Conditions, constraits and consequences (pp. 223-249). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Iileka, M. (2009, April 02). Namlish: A language for Northern Namibia. Informante (Namibia) . Maho, J. F. (1998). Few People, Many Tongues: The Languages of Namibia. Windhoek: GAMSBERG MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS (Pty) Ltd. Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture (MBESC). (2003). Language Policy for Schools in Namibia: Discussion Document. Windhoek: Upgrading African Languages Project (AfriLa), Namibia. New Era. (2007, August 17). 'Namlish' Goes Wiki. New Era . Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ptz, M. (Ed.). (1995). Discrimination through Language in Africa?: Perspectives on the Namibian Expiriences . Berlin ; New York: Mouton de Gruyter . Ttemayer, A.-J. (2009, October 30). Namibias language policy and its effect on education. Retrieved November 16, 2009, from http://www.newera.com.na/article.php?articleid=7944 United Nations Institute for Namibia. (1981). Toward a language policy for Namibia. English as the official language: perspectives and strategies. Lusaka: UNIN.

Jeppe B. Rasmussen |Aalborg University |English SIS 1st sem. | Discourse and Society 1

Side 10