Rwandans shouldn't be worried about English as the country's new language. Why? Er...just because.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Location of Rwanda in Africa. French is spoken as an official language in most countries to the west, English to the east and south. IMO Rwanda should just pull a Switzerland and have more than one official language.

Take a look here from for an example of some pretty convoluted and mostly unreferenced writing on why English as the new official language (instead of French) is good for Rwanda. It might be good for the country, but the article certainly doesn't do anything to aid that view.

(and by the way, George Boeree is referenced in the article by the way. No mention of Lingua Franca Nova though! Reminds me of Jespersen. I found a huge book with almost all his works translated into Korean the other day, and there were about two sentences in total on Novial. Same thing happens with Peano too. Weird how people pick and choose what they believe to be important from a person's works)

Let's take a look at the article:
Any Rwandan who is grappling with the recent executive decision that obliges English to become the language of instruction in schools and communication in government offices should not despair.

English is not just a language from England. It is a world full of new possibilities. For starters, today the only thing that English shares with its supposed motherland is its name.

Even the so-called Queen's English is fast becoming a relic preserved for the Queen addresses to the British parliament, almost going the way of Latin.

Then it diverges into a different topic:

In 2003, the researchers traced the origin of the English language to a group of Turkish farmers 9,000 years ago.

Research however, has conclusively found that English was one of the Germanic languages, which include many other European languages: like German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Gothic, Afrikaans and Frisian.

Phew, good thing we've concluded that English was a Germanic language.

Now for a conclusion in the middle of the article on the language's status:

Other European languages have left culturally specific words. Boeree continues that the American Indian languages, Australian Aborigine languages, and the languages of Africa and India gave English many hundreds of words, especially for the innumerable species of plants and animals of the world.

Therefore, English as a language had already claimed the world even before the world could claim to own it.

Well, not exactly. That happens to pretty much any language that doesn't have a tradition of linguistic purism. Take a look at Japanese for a language that loves loanwords just as much as English.

In a world where news travels around the world within less than a second, the domination for English language perpetuates itself, through the internet, cable news networks, short message service on mobile phones etc, it is hard to keep away a language.

Sure, that's what English does, and so do other languages. None of the media mentioned above are specific to English alone.

After a bit more on some interesting words in English drawn from other languages, the article suddenly draws the following conclusion:

While you might be agonising about how best to fast track your journey to proficiency in English, you might find solace in any enjoyable English literature that will make the burden of learning less troublesome.

And while you are at it, you will never know how quickly you become a citizen of the free English speaking world...English is clearly on the march.
There you go! Rwandans rejoice, English is the correct choice to make because...because it has interesting loan words, doesn't sound like Queen's English anymore and you can find it on the internet and cell phones!

While I appreciate the debate, it's best to back up the assertion with facts. Why is switching to English good for a country located where Rwanda is? How long will it take? Will those that prefer French be able to continue to use it in education, and if that is allowed will the country become like Vanuatu but without a unifying language like Bislama? An article that amounts to little more than "English is cool, let's do it!" doesn't really help.

As written above, I see no reason why a country like Rwanda shouldn't just use both as many countries do, such as Switzerland and Luxembourg. Certain areas in Nigeria for example are considering making French compulsory due to being on the border of a French-speaking country, and lots of people in Senegal close to Guinea-Bissau learn Portuguese. It's painfully obvious that languages are more strongly affected by local influences than international ones, and a country should be able to take advantage of the area in which it's located.


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