English is a language, not a sign of intelligence ANELE MNGADI

2016-04-20 06:00
byline pic: ANELE MNGADI

byline pic: ANELE MNGADI

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THE issue of languages has always been a hotly contested topic­ especially in post-colonial countries.

South Africa is no exception with 11 official languages an imbalance in the use of these languages can easily be expected.

The problem comes when propaganda and the miseducation of the masses is used to make them believe that one language is superior to the others, and thus symbolises a certain level of intelligence.

According to Census 2011 only 9.6% of South African citizens are English­ home-language speakers. This is a very small number for English to be used as the main mode of communication. These are legacies of colonisation­ and apartheid on the black man.

This is an issue of psychological dependency, although we have gained physical liberation our brains are still chained by colonised. We somehow still seek the approval of the white man, we still see them as our musters, we want to become white, we still believe that greatness lies in whiteness. So what we do is hide the black skin under white tendencies and by doing this we begin to feel like “real human beings”.

In the words of Mark Twain, “When a country enslaves a people, the first necessary job is to make the world feel that the people to be enslaved are sub-human. The next job is to make his fellow-countrymen believe that man is inferior­ and then the unkindest cut of all is to make that man believe himself inferior.”

The educated black man has no confidence of his language because he thinks of it as being backwards.

The reality is there is a hierarchy of languages - South Africa with English at the apex and all other languages at base level. It is disturbing to see this double-standard mentality when a white person speaks a native language we are amused, but the natives are taught English from Grade 2 and that is normal.

Now we are fighting language policies, challenging universities to accommodate the African child, but the problem is deeper than that. We don’t use enough native languages - it is almost as though we are outsourcing the love of our culture and language to others. We want people to love and respect our languages. We need to work together to make being African cool again. The aim of this piece is not to turn over the hierarchy of languages to reverse the order, but rather to dismantle the existence of this hierarchy and decolonise the mind.

“Never be ashamed of being an African­.” - Thomas Sankara.

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