We must work hard for black lan­guages to reign supreme

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

LAST Fri­day I was bashed and ac­cused of be­ing ob­sessed with the English lan­guage and be­ing “less African” by callers I was en­gag­ing with dur­ing a ra­dio in­ter­view.

I was la­belled a “white man trapped in a black skin”. This was for sim­ply high­light­ing the ur­gent need for the Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment to get the English of ru­ral pupils on par.

This got me think­ing. As blacks we are quick to raise our voices about the pro­mo­tion of our in­dige­nous lan­guages, but we lack in­sight and prac­ti­cal­ity. We are in no po­si­tion to im­pose our in­dige­nous lan­guages on the world, I dare use the word im­pose. How­ever I re­alised some­thing even more dis­heart­en­ing; we have lit­tle know-how about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the econ­omy and lan­guage(s).

We have lit­tle knowl­edge of how the world works. We have been badly mis­in­formed. Those who told us we had to be proud of our cul­tures and tra­di­tions which in­clude em­brac­ing our lan­guages for­got to tell us this all- im­por­tant fact: those who run the econ­omy de­cide which lan­guage will be used glob­ally, and it is usu­ally their lan­guage that will be im­posed on ev­ery­one else.

The lessons and ad­dresses of Her­itage Month (Septem­ber) should go deeper than talk­ing about lan­guage and at­tire.

It should ed­u­cate the pub­lic about how their lan­guages can be global, per­haps then we will start work­ing on get­ting our lan­guages to con­trol the econ­omy.

Un­for­tu­nately, it is not the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple from a spe­cific eth­nic group that dic­tate which lan­guage is to be used.

It is those who run the econ­omy who de­ter­mine the lan­guage. When we got our po­lit­i­cal free­dom we should have pon­dered how we would at­tain eco­nomic free­dom at that time be­cause lan­guage and the econ­omy are in­ter­twined.

The Man­de­las and the Sisu­lus used the English lan­guage to break free from the Afrikan­ers. They used the very same lan­guage to get global sup­port for their cause. It is a lan­guage that rules the world, be­cause it is the lan­guage that be­longs to those that run the world or the global econ­omy.

Again we have to un­der­stand this, es­pe­cially those blacks who live in ur­ban areas; many of you have en­rolled your chil­dren for Man­darin lessons or your chil­dren are study­ing this Chi­nese lan­guage as a se­condary lan­guage at their re­spec­tive schools. The Chi­nese can im­pose their lan­guages on the world be­cause their own econ­omy in­flu­ences global mar­kets, es­pe­cially South Africa.

Please show me a Venda, Tsonga or Sotho vil­lage that is con­tribut­ing im­mensely to the global econ­omy.

Name just one huge com­pany owned by Zu­lus or Tswanas that is glob­ally recog­nised and its pro­duc­tion is recog­nised world­wide or by sig­nif­i­cant role play­ers in the global econ­omy.Hence they are not im­por­tant to the global vil­lage. The Afrikan­ers can have space to de­mand that their lan­guage be em­braced at com­pa­nies and in places of learn­ing be­cause they own more than 55% of our coun­try’s econ­omy.

Those are sad facts of our re­al­ity and we are sit­ting here wor­ried about be­ing proud of our lan­guages and pro­mot­ing them. The only way they are go­ing to be pro­moted is if we in­deed fight for rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

Fur­ther­more, recog­nis­ing that the English lan­guage runs the world and will do so for gen­er­a­tions to come re­quires us to be well in­formed of global pol­i­tics and eco­nomics.

Un­til we own our econ­omy and the means of pro­duc­tion in our coun­try, we can­not talk about us­ing in­dige­nous lan­guages as medi­ums of in­struc­tion at school, at work places, and so on.

We speak and em­brace the lan­guage that runs the econ­omy.

The world speaks the lan­guage of the strong­est cur­rency. As it stands, that lan­guage is English. Let us em­brace it. Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala is the founder of the Young Men Move­ment (YMM). Email ad­dress, ka­be­lo03cha­bal­ala@gmail.com; Twit­ter, @ Ka­be­loJay; Face­book, Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala

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