THE STATUS OF ENGLISH IN THE WORLD AND IN TANZANIA

English has different status in different places of the world. In some places it is used as the first language (L1), in others as the second language (L2) while in others as the national language.

ENGLISH AS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

  • English is an international language
  • What are the criteria for a language to be international?
  • The following are the factors that make a language  international;
  • Number of speakers that a language has. This means that it must be spoken or known by many people in the world. Such speakers include both native and non-native speakers.
  • For example English has got more than 600 million speakers in the world.
  • The extent to which the language is geographically dispersed. Here we look at the number of continents in which the language is used or needed. English for example is used in almost all parts of the world. It is used as the world’s lingual franca.
  • The economic and political status of its native speakers. For instance the Americans and the British who speak English as native speakers are politically and economically worthwhile. So these people have influence over other countries as they control the world economy and politics.
  • To what extent is a medium for science, literature and important areas. This is referred to as the language vehicular load. That is, the language of science, technology as well as scholarship.

FACTORS FOR A LANGAUGE TO BECOME A NATIONAL LANGUAGE

  1. It must be spoken by the majority in the society. It must have a big number of native speakers.
  2. Due to presence of tribalism some countries have opted for foreign languages to be their national language.
  3. It must be well documented language or variety. It must be put in written form, well researched to meet the needs of that particular nation.
  4. Must be declared by the government in its language policy. A bill must be passed on language use limits.
  5. It must unite people against tribalism. In most cases countries choose a language which will bring national unity.

LANGUAGE POLICY IN TANZANIA AND THE USE OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE

  1. Language policy refers to government decision on what should be the status of a certain language in the country.
  2. It is the policy that clearly shows different roles different languages have to play.
  3. For example in Tanzania, Kiswahili and English are accepted to be the official languages.
  4. However in practice the status of English in Tanzania is somewhat confusing.
  5. There are people who regard English as a second language to Kiswahili while others regard it as as a foreign language.
  6. Those who regard it as the second language argue that English has many domains of uses.

For instance;

  • English is used in jobs advertisements
  • Official letters (including application letters)
  • Job interviews
  • Hospital prescriptions
  • Legal documentation
  • News papers and TV programmes.

Those who regard it as a foreign language argue that the domains of English are now very limited. For instance it is rare to hear English in public places such as in buses, market places, political meetings and in other social gatherings.The only place where English is heard is school. Even there English co-exist with Kiswahili.

ENGLISH IN SCHOOLS/KISWAHILI

  • English is used as a medium of instruction in secondary schools and higher learning institutions.
  • Kiswahili is used as medium of instruction in primary schools(except in English medium schools)

There is a debate as to whether English should continue with the status it has or be replaced by Kiswahili.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN FAVOUR OF ENGLISH ARGUE THAT;

  1. English is an international communication medium which enables us to have access to science and technology.
  2. English is well researched and documented as compared to Kiswahili.
  3. Kiswahili lacks necessary words in terminologies; e.g. law books, science  books etc
  4. There is no enough capital to meet  the cost of transition i.e. from English to Kiswahili.
  5. Employment of foreign teachers would be easier without training them in Kiswahili.
  6. English is every one’s property today. It is no longer a colonial language.
  7. It is spoken in different parts of the world. So there is no justification for equating English with colonialism.  

THOSE WHO ARE IN FAVOUR OF KISWAHILI ARGUE THAT:-

  • English is a foreign language. Making student learn through a foreign language is like colonising their minds.
  • Students learn better when they use the language they know well. making them continue learning through English which they do not know well, endangers education in Tanzania.
  • Kiswahili is a language for African Identity. So we should teach using it to cherish our heritage.
  • No language is endowed with scientific knowledge. Any language including Kiswahili can be the language of science and technology.
  • Already teachers teach using code-switching. In   Tanzania many teachers speak a lot of Kiswahili in the classrooms. So, we need to formalise the use of Kiswahili.

CODE-MIXING AND CODE SWITCHING.

  • Code-mixing. Refers to mixing of codes (Languages) within the same sentences or utterance. Eg (i) Usiniforce tafadhali – Nikifika I will inform you.
  • Code switching. Refers to shifting from one language to another. Eg.(i) sitaki kuongea maneno mengi. I mean I’m very tired. Usichelewe kurudi. Don’t come late please.

REASONS FOR CODE SWITCHING AND CODE MIXING.

  • For emphatic  reasons. E.g. Usinisogelee. I say go away!
  • To explain something. For example in many secondary schools students discuss their subjects in Kiswahili and write in English.
  • Prestige – to show off that you know other languages which are more prestigious.
  • Lack of proficiency in one language.
  • Laxity of a speaker/ competence. I.e. where both languages are known.
  • To avoid offensive words or language.
  • To exclude others from conversation.

SITUATIONAL CODE-SWITCHING

Refers to switching from one language to another due to change of topic or participants. For example two people conduct conversation in Kihaya and later another person who does not understand Kihaya joins in. They will obvious switch to Kiswahili which is understood by all.



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