It is a much needed life line
There has been a lot of drama lately following the introduction of changes on how to write Kinyarwanda with writers of the language giving two years to comply. Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC) is the implementing body and has also been on the receiving end of the backlash.
But looking at the situation without bias, language like most aspects of culture and society are highly dynamic, they are ever changing, as society changes. Truth be told, the Kinyarwanda spoken 30 years ago is not the same one spoken today. No language in the world has not changed as years go by, some languages lose originality, and others disappear altogether.
The Kinyarwanda spoken today is mostly a blend of French, bits of English and a touch of Luganda here and there. Most young people have a hard time writing the language hence the need to simplify how it is written.
For all intents and purposes, the new changes are intended to make it much easier for young learners, as well as for facilitating foreigners interested in learning the language.
Prior to making the changes, the academy of language held consultations with scholars, writers of the language and other people with intentions of preserving the language and saw it best to have a few changes made.
Going through the history of development of nations and societies, you will notice that as a country develops and becomes cosmopolitan, attracting people of all walks of life and different languages, the native language is usually a threat. Few young people speak it correctly let alone write it. It is because of such trends that the academy saw it fit to make some changes here and there to protect and ensure the continuity of one of the country’s unifying factors.
Language is what Rwandans of all walks of life share, therefore simplifying it and making it more user friendly is one of the few ways to give it a much needed life line.
Rather than being skeptical about the changes, let’s look at them like that needed lifeline to protect the language.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
And so, the debate is still going on about the changes introduced in Kinyarwanda language by the Rwanda Academy of Languages and Culture (RALC). The reasons given for changing the language, among others, were so that it becomes easier for foreigners to learn. Anyone shocked? Yes, indeed I am! Now, I have never seen any country that would want to change its language or culture for the sake of accommodating foreigners.
Most of today’s youth grew up outside Rwanda and over the years; they have grappled with learning even the simple basics of the language but no sooner had that happened than RALC introduced changes that are going to leave them more confused than a homeless person on house arrest. If I may ask the honorable members of the academy, what impact do they expect from changing the language?
At the look of things, none! The clumsy excuse of simplifying the language for young learners is beyond human understanding. Maybe they should have approached the Ministry of Education and asked them to revise teaching methods.
And there’s another issue of saying that the pronunciation won’t change, just the writing. Imagine having words that are written differently and pronounced differently yet mean the same thing! Talk about speaking in tongues.
To add salt to the injury, our honorable members of the academy decided that it is better to gather, according to the academy’s executive secretary, “university lecturers, Kinyarwanda primary and secondary school teachers, journalists, members of the civil society and 15 academicians from RALC for consultations.” To him, these seasoned scholars are the guarantors and custodians who look at the identity of Banyarwanda, including the language as well. So, what percentage of the population do they represent? Whatever happened to countrywide consultations with the local folks?
But then, consultations for what? What is wrong with our language? Why do we seek to change our language as if we are ashamed of it? I hate to say it but most people I’ve interacted with didn’t know that the academy exists or even what it does; if that was their way of making their presence felt, it backfired.
I would rather advise the academy to devise ways of promoting our culture and language. They can publish books that contain Kinyarwanda proverbs, folk stories, traditional poetry (with cattle as the main theme). They can also conduct holiday camps for secondary school students to teach them about the origin of our culture, language, morals and values. This would be more significant than try to destroy our culture and national identity through unjustified changes.