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Tag Archives: Kiswahili

The Power of the National Language, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 21st July 2017

Kiswahili

Kenya gained independence in 1963 and the young country is learning to cope with its challenges. From the upcoming General Elections to the everyday living of school, work and life there is a lot to look forward too.

The Kenyan history has been rich with historical figures from Tom Mboya, Makhan Singh, the Mau Mau Movement and much more. Subsequently it is important to keep it on the mind and especially so for the younger ones who will go on and becoming earning and voting citizens of the Nation.

Kenyans hail from the Bantu peoples who come from the African Great Lakes region and today we know them as for example Kikuyu. When it comes to the languages, while the Southern Bantu speak Zulu, the Eastern Bantu or the Swahili people speak Swahili. Swahili comes from the Arabic word Sawahil meaning coasts and it quickly took form in the Coastal region of the Indian Ocean. Around 1700 there is evidence of Swahili letters and it was not until June 1928 that an inter-territorial conference took place in Mombasa. This included representatives from Kenya, Tangayika, Uganda and Zanzibar to formalize Swahili for those areas.

In 2016 Kenyan Government made Kiswahili mandatory for all Kenyan schools and in a recent move the former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced that it would also become part of the curriculum of all the international schools from September onwards after the August General Elections. They must also include Kenyan history as part of their learning subjects.

In almost all countries the national language is part of the national education curriculum. For example in India students learn in the Hindi medium and neighbouring Tanzania adopted Swahili at all its levels of education as the language of education from March 2015. However this move seems drastic especially in the times of increasing globalization. Having Kiswahili as part of the curriculum for all Kenyan schools is smart, since it is the main language of communication. But to try and shut out from the world which is speaking hundreds of languages and trading mostly in English, French and Chinese. According to one list, the top ten most spoken languages are (in order of first to last):

Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Punjabi.

Bringing national history across all schools is also an important move especially because it will make the younger ones and in some cases parents aware of what has transpired in the Nation. A good national lesson in history is always useful. International schools may argue that they do not have allegiance to any nation, but if you are based in a particular country then that country is hosting you. Thus, it is important to respect their culture and history too.

There might be a school of thought that why should be keep the adopted language of the colonial nation? Well, English being the 3rd most spoken language is necessary to get work done, education earned and relationships built. A complete isolation will only leave the population behind in every way.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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It Keeps Getting Shorter, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 8th April 2016

It Keeps Getting Shorter

SMS Courtesy Tagga

SMS Courtesy Tagga

Language has its own beauty and has been developing for over a thousand years, from the hieroglyaphics to the recent SMS or text messages we have evolved into. The main concern is however does communication still achieve its objective, which is to pass on the message?

Fast forward to this current era and our means of communication are endless, for example who would have thought that speaking to your family via a mobile phone and live video would ever be possible. Yet some still rely on the old ways, if not letters, then e-letters and continue to share millions of updates and stories. The latest is the very famous “WhatsApp” which allows a short message in writing, many photos and throw in a video or two even while a wedding is going on, so that those who didn’t make it are completely involved via this communication.

But what is the quality of this kind of communication. When the SMS, or short messaging service kicked in about 20 years ago for us to use from the mobile phones, it was exciting, naturally anything new is either interesting or fearful. Due to the high cost of making the call we all resorted to using the SMS service and since it was limited to a number of characters, we immediately starting creating “Twitter” type messages and telling the other person what we wanted. Thus, a long sentence or word started to shrink. Then came the famous Emoticons when the iPhone revolution changed the average Nokia phone into a smart phone technology. Currently we are now chatting and not sending messages, these are instant, short, creative, colorful, with stickers, emoticons, videos, photos and whatever else people write or communicate with.

To say that language has suffered completely is not fair, I would consider this an evolution in communication and language is again finding its own way. For example in the space type future, who knows how we will really communicate. Slang language has definitely taken over but even though the Collins Dictionary likes will argue that language is losing its autheniticity, think about this how you are now writing your messages says a lot about your personality. If English and Kiswahili are our National languages, if we are losing the grammar, so what, as long as the message is going to the other side. Remember this is an informal setting for communication, so for example how I would send a message to my best friend would be completely different from my parents or a polite reminder to my colleague at work. it really depends on who you are communicating with and your relationship with that person. There are some who would not tolerate a simple “hi” and prefer “hello Aunty”, but that’s what interesting about this current mode of messaging, it can be whatever you want. You can even send a hug or smile through the emoticons. It is all about expression and it is personal, it is bringing people together in a very unusual way or maybe creating divorces, fights and misunderstandings. But hey, don’t you have an issue even if you talked on the phone or better yet face to face. Have you ever been in a situation when someone has said something to you in person and you really haven’t understood what they are saying? Imagine if it were in writing and even if it was in the proper grammar, would it make any difference?

Language is fun, let it take us to new places. Yes it has deep roots in identity, for example a Gujarati speaker gives you an indication where he or she comes from, that way we can also tell which country you are from, however accent and pronunciation has more significance than the language. You could speak English from Kenya and have an American accent and someone can think you are from there and vice versa. In writing there is no accent and there is not much grammar difference from country to country except American English and UK English so how can you tell country? But only I believe Kenyans are famous for saying “Me I did this and that or We Us are going here” yes that is one of our style of speaking, hardly though used in writing.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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