A Kenyan perspective on limited bilingualism
- The following excerpt from an article in the Kenyan press makes the
point I've brought up re people who, mainly because of deficient
education systems, master neither their mother tongue nor another
tongue. This includes lack of literacy in the two (or more)
languages, as well as limited oral skills (the article brings up a
coined term, "inorate," to describe the latter condition).
The bad news is that building "pluriliterate" skills on an "inorate"
base would seem daunting at best - attention to a lot of educational
issues would be necessary.
--- In email@example.com, Joe Kihara Munugu <jmunugu@y...>
English as a spear against the enemy
By PHILIP OCHIENG, Nation Media, Publication Date: 08/29/2004
[ . . . ]
In The African Condition, Ali Mazrui calls it "the crisis of
political habitation". Ngugi [wa Thiong'o]- like the two poles - also
had an unusual aptitude for language, a gift which privileged
colonial education enabled him to exploit fully in the best
institutions, including in England. This is, indeed, why I envy him.
Although his whole intellectual and moral education was imparted by
means of European paradigms, he can still think and write equally
effectively in the mother tongue. He proves that it is not
But it is not easy. Even if I wanted to restrict my audience to the
speakers of my mother tongue, I couldn't write this column
effectively in Dholuo.
Like Bronowski, I was uprooted from my tribal crucible at a very
early age to train me for a slot into my career pigeonhole. All my
ethico-intellectual make-up has been moulded since then by European
syllogisms, allegory and idiom. In this way, Ngugi and I are
privileged because we studied English up to the tertiary level.
Most educated Kenyans, because they were also removed from their
roots at a young age, never really mastered their mother tongues. But
they never mastered English either.
The whole of our "dot-com generation" is functionally illiterate in
both languages. Our children claim to know English and usually
communicate only in it but it is appallingly bad English.
As a newspaper editor, I never cease to be dismayed by the kind of
English I get even from PhD holders. Yet members of the urban "dot-
com generation" do not really know their mother tongues either. There
is a word for them - alalia.
The speech equivalent of 'illiterate' Austin Bukenya, a Ugandan
teacher of English, once described our educated class as "inorate", a
word coined from oralis (Latin for lip or mouth). "Inorate" is the
speech equivalent of "illiterate".
That is why, it makes no difference which language Ngugi writes in.
For our teachers and potential readers cannot understand or deploy
both Kikuyu and English effectively.
[ . . . ]
--- End forwarded message ---
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