Does it worry you that you can’t express yourself fluently in your native African language? Does it bother you that some of your affluent cousins, nephews and nieces are doing far worse? That expressing oneself exclusively in English or be it via emasculated Swahili discourse at the expense of the local dialect regardless of the circumstances is perceived as intellectualism. Does it shock you that actually our grandparents struggle to have a Swahili conversation with our grand-kids at the expense of the local dialect?
Who will take care of the local dialect and to whose interest, anyway! It’s rather sad that we chose the Western way to form identities of our heritage be it in the name of citing the world as a global village. That advocating for native African languages is a narrowed approach to modern reality. We converse with our kids chiefly in English in the name of keeping up with uptown manners and shedding off our Africanness. We are simply black wazungus and that is catastrophic. We are in total denial of our cultures and medium of expressions and have been connived for dominance purposes by elements which have watered down our cultural pillars. If you take away a man’s language, you’ve taken away all that he has.
The fact that we are unashamedly watching and negating our cultural language dry up and go up with the winds courtesy of modernity is the most fundamental flaw of losing one’s human identity. Posterity will judge us rather harshly.
Allow me to put matters into perspective;
Anytime one writes on topics that touch matters tribe, they are bombarded with all the retrogressive adjectives the world has got. But why waste that energy hurling insults and pushing down a voice that resists the urge of hiding its head in the sand and expecting better days ahead. Africans have deserted their rich heritage and nobody is available to teach the young ones native proverbs, riddles, poems, folk songs and tales. This is classified next to inferiority complex and considered unbecoming.
Amongst the few who have chosen to pursue the blink road of liberating Africans from themselves is one Ngugi wa Thiong’o – a shrewd activist on nurturing, conservation and protection of the African languages. (Check out his book on Decolonising the Mind). In his book, he complains and seems worried of the education system in Africa which have always toyed with the idea of wholly embrace foreign ideologies be it language and culture. He terms it a generation destruction.
That aside, no research has proven that embracing Swahili and English languages fully at the expense of our native languages has a way of eliminating tribalism not even to the slightest of magnitudes. And embracing one’s heritage has nothing to do with backwardness and being tribal. In fact, social media which is mostly dominated by English conversations and broken Swahili/Sheng dialects has proven to be the worst hotbed of manufacturing tribalism in Kenya.
By the way, without sounding tribal, if you took a keen look at tribes associated with the Muslim faith, Asians and the like, they are very proud of their native languages and will not allow not even their scions to be trapped by the aura and syndrome of portending to appear urbanite by solely speaking English/Swahili exclusively at the expense of their background. Again, nobody has scientifically proven that kids who speak at least three languages be it their native language, Swahili and English record poor grades in school. In fact, the reverse is true. I’m amazed by the Kenyan born Australian Senator who has never lost her accent for the 19 years and counting, she has lived in Australia. I watched one of her many TV interviews where she shared an experience of how she once sat next to a UK woman in a plane who still maintained her English accent 40 years living in Australia.
Interestingly, what we are passing on to our kids is not healthy Swahili language but a ragtag analogy of a language that has no lungs nor the spine to uphold any cultural heritage. Degrading our native tongues and wholly embracing western ideologies is to me far worse than any other contemporary calamities.