what’s in a language? . . . what’d you say?

Language is a beautiful thing. The exciting flow of espanol, the beauty of french, the hard sound of german, the elegance of italian, the omnipresence of english. . . but wait those are all European languages, what is so great about them? This is a question that crosses my mind when I think of my dreams to live and work in Africa. I need to know English (got that down) to communicate in former British colonies. For example the national language of Uganda is English, but there are over 50 local languages. I will need to know French, which I am currently taking, to communicate in most West African, former French colonies, and Portuguese and German for some areas. I can’t say that I am too thrilled by that except that I love to learn languages. This year at University I am taking my first year of French and my second year of Swahili.

I won’t even begin to delve into the extremely impactful consequences of colonization, but I will say that I hope if you plan to travel for an extended period in Africa that you learn an African language. Before I graduate and move on from my undergraduate studies I plan on knowing Swahili, Arabic, French, some Hausa and some Zulu. I am prepared to be able to immerse myself into the culture of the people who I will meet and to communicate with those people in their native tongue.

The other day in my French class, the student from Zambia was having trouble pronouncing the difficult french words where you don’t pronounce half the word and the teacher was giving her quite a hard time about it. It is my first year taking French as well and I can understand the difficulty, but our teacher seemed to be overly harsh. She is a native French-speaker and I assume quite picky about how her language is articulated. The first thing that flashed to mt mind was the colonization of Africa and the colonizers forcing their language on the native-African people. Zambia was not colonized by the French, but the image is no less disturbing. How can someone even come to think that they have the greater knowledge on how to live and work than another? How can one person believe that they have the claim to walk all over someone else because they are not from the same area or background? This I don’t know, but it happens still today. Don’t be that person. Learn a greeting in a new language today!

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