Language in Education: Appeals for Local Tongues and Local Contexts.

Author: Jim Harries, Church of God missionary in Kenya.


Negative outcomes arising from the use of European languages by African people in African contexts are perhaps the least visible to the Europeans themselves. To them, all seems well; their languages are a boon to Africa, and because they are the ones paying the bills, things continue as they are. The power of international languages grows – but what damage is being done in the process? To what extent are language policies making it impossible for people to take responsibility for their own lives?
This article raises logical questions as to the desirability, practicality, morality and sustainability of such use of European languages in Sub-Saharan Africa. What are the implications for the African Continent of continuing to (supposedly) self govern on the basis of that which is not locally rooted? What is actually happening when cultures and legal systems are transported en-masse from point X and dumped wholesale onto country Y?
Short as it is, this article can only survey the issues. But the author’s message is clear – the current rate of linguistic globalisation, added to the colonial foundation on which African nations are already based, is handicapping the building of stable productive African societies. Urgent action is advocated to transfer genuine self-responsibility to African governance, to churches, to NGOs and to the public sphere as a whole.

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