When the French man can’t speak English, the African respect him. When the Spanish or Italian man can’t speak English, the Africans respect them, but when an African can’t speak English, he is considered a joke, unintelligent and backward by his people.
Europeans have a vibrant tradition of embracing their language and culture. They have so much pride in it that whenever you visit their territory, you have no other choice than to learn their language — the same as Asians and Arabs. Unfortunately, in Africa, we developed this strange culture of judging each other’s intelligence based on one’s knowledge of colonial languages. Some parts of Africa hold so much pride in French (those colonized by France), English (those colonized by the British), Portuguese (those colonized by Portugal) and Spanish (those having Spanish influence). We have let our indigenous languages become alien to us. The colonial words have been used to decide whether you are intelligent or not according to how fluent you are in these foreign languages. The most important criteria for getting a job in English colonized African countries is you need to have a good idea of the English language. The same with the French and former Portuguese colonies.
We praise the Europeans for their culture . But an African never gets any praise once he speaks his indigenous language; instead, he or she is regarded as an illiterate. The Europeans do not need to learn our language when they come here, they simply visit their former colonies because we speak what they know of. But when African heads over to Europe, he has no other choice than to learn the language of the country he visits. I begin to wonder, when will we get rid of this foreign language mentality? We have been conditioned to defend this foreign languages. It has influenced our sense of reasoning; this is why we use it against each other negatively. If a Nigerian cannot speak fluent English, then we label them unintelligent, but the same Nigerians invented Pidgin English, which others will call Creole, which is very similar to Patois of Jamaica. When Nigerians speak Pidgin English (broken English) they label them unintelligent; parents in Nigeria even ban their kids from speaking this pidgin English, citing it as “bad English”. When a Kenyan is so good in Swahili but has little knowledge of the English language, they call them illiterate.
Some years ago, there was a Twitter war between Kenyans and Tanzanians and I realized that the reason why they were engaging in a war of words was because of the colonial language supremacy. The Kenyans on Twitter argued that they are better English speakers than Tanzanians, this war of words went on for days, and I can only imagine if we use this same energy on uplifting others, we would be far ahead. What happened to our culture, which we had before the colonizers came? I know we were forced to learn their language, but is it not time that we break that mental slavery mindset and instead enforce our language and culture as it were before? If we spend all our energy learning foreign languages unknown to our culture, we can as well as dedicate our time to teaching our younger ones our culture so we can break this chain of inferiority. I advocate one language for the continent of Africa; I love how the Swahili language is spoken and maintained in Kenya and some parts of East Africa. Why don’t we advocate that Swahili becomes the primary language of the African people alongside our indigenous languages? Instead of English, French and Portuguese, why not Swahili? It is the most spoken African language. Africans will then have a new identity, which we lack at the moment. We have a copied personality forced on us illegally.
The time has come for us to adopt an indigenous identity, one which will make us stand tall as a people, and I believe Swahili is the answer. Let’s use our language and culture to judge our intelligence instead of copied learning. As always, it’s my opinion.