The question of why African countries cannot use their native language as the official language is an intriguing one.
In some African countries, their official language is a lingua franca (a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different)
Africa is one of the most diverse continents in the world but one thing the countries have in common is their colonial past.
Colonialism in Africa changed various things inclusive of dressing, food and most especially language.
Of all languages, colonialism brought English, French and Portuguese as major languages to Africa. For example, in Sierra Leone and Liberia English is the lingua franca and in Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Cameroon etc., have French as their official language.
However, it would make sense that in the quest for nationalism, African countries ought to neglect every form of external influence, particularly one as important as language.
Importance of Language
Worldwide, language is important for many reasons: communication, establishing and building relationships, creating a sense of community.
In African countries, language brings people together under one umbrella. Being able to communicate with one another in their native dialect instantly alleviates major fears, preconceived notions and skepticism of one another.
It reduces tension and creates a more relaxed atmosphere, particularly when meeting beyond the borders of Africa. It brings with it a sense of calmness and oneness.
If language in Africa is this important, the question remains, why aren’t most African countries using their native language as their lingua franca?
Why Most African Countries Can’t use their native language as the official language
- Multiplicity of Languages
African countries have more than one native language. Take South Africa for example, they have about 11 native and official languages although there are about 35 languages indigenous to the people. This becomes an issue when choosing just one native language as the official language.
- Language diversity
Although countries have many languages that are common amongst their people, it’s evident that not everyone would speak that language. For example, in Nigeria, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa are the most popular languages but that doesn’t negate the fact that not everyone can communicate in these languages. This poses an issue with picking the native language as the official language
- Law implementation
For a language to become an official language, it doesn’t just happen overnight. It doesn’t become the official language just because it’s popular. There are certain legislations that need to be passed to make a language official. Going through this process is tedious and time consuming
- Influence of Colonial Masters
In almost all African countries, the impact colonial masters cannot be denied. Their influence runs from customs to food and even language. Most African countries that were colonised now speak and communicate with the language of their colonial masters.
Preservation of African Native Languages
Although people believe that with time most native African languages will be extinct this isn’t true. Nonetheless, since most countries cannot use their native language as the official language, there’s a way it can be preserved from generation to generation.
- Keep native languages recorded in books and audios. There are many dictionaries worldwide in different languages. Create an accurate dictionary and audio file in your native language that will aid people in learning the language accurately and with ease. These books and audios should also be easily accessible
- Preserve formats in libraries, museums etc. Museums and libraries are quite popular with holding items that are hundreds of years old. By storing properties of your native language there, it’s a decent guarantee that your language won’t fade in a few years.
- Use native languages as often as you can. Implement it in your business by offering customer services and chatbox features in different languages.
An easy way to do this is by hiring trusted native speakers writing the language. You can get them at iVoiceAfrica by simply giving us a call at +234 (0) 7026276411 or sending a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org