Sunday, September 28, 2014

Speaking English in rural Africa

A recent tweet by @WorldVisionUN offered this opinion about development communication in Africa:
This is a good attention getter, as I think it is a common assumption that in what are known as "English-speaking" African countries, people speak ... English. In fact, however, the linguistic situations in countries where English is the de facto or de jure official language, are more complicated than either the common assumption or @WorldVisionUN's tweet would imply.

My experience in rural Africa - which includes a number of years in "Francophone" countries - has been that when you speak French or English you may actually be speaking to someone who has enough language skills to interpret. And therein lies other problems, including first of all, the quality of such ad hoc translation.

The bottom line, though, is that sole reliance on Europhone languages for communication, education, and extension in rural Africa will always have sub-optimal results. I believe this is in line with the point @WorldVisionUN is trying to make.

In some earlier posts, I've explored some aspects of this in the context of agricultural development. For instance:


GoMario said...

Yes, I agree with what you are saying. In East Africa is exactly the same. Mind you, after independence, the English has gone downhill :-( Knowing at least the basics of the local language is imperative!

@WorldVisionUN said...

Great blog post - which is certainly more thoughtful on the complexities of this topic than I could have hoped to managed in 140 characters. I'll be sure to share it online.

Don said...

Thank you for the comments.

@WorldVision - I appreciate the limits of Twitter, but also am glad that you posted as you did.