Language is about culture, meaning and understanding

Editor, Reference is made to the letter, “Let’s preserve our languages” (The New Times, March 27). The major problem of Africa is certainly not about languages. Linguistic sphere is linked to the most essential problem: the balance between individual rights and community interests.

Editor,

Reference is made to the letter, “Let’s preserve our languages” (The New Times, March 27).

The major problem of Africa is certainly not about languages. Linguistic sphere is linked to the most essential problem: the balance between individual rights and community interests.

The most horrible legacy of colonialism comes from the destruction of African community without creating the basis necessary to create an individual sphere. In Africa, languages have much to do with community, its interests and its memory. The fact that you have lots of different communities living in harmony in many parts of Africa is an invaluable asset likely to equip Africans with multilingual skills.

The colonial languages, such as English, French, Portuguese and Arabic are further trump cards for African people under the condition that they find a balance between individuals and communities adapted to the African environment.

Multilingualism shall be promoted in so far that communication in an exclusive language could be avoided. Any linguistic imperialism is dangerous because it insinuates the exclusive use of one language. English, in particular, can be a wonderful medium of communication, and as the most important code of the capitalistic system it is likely to supplant any other tongue.

Trusts and international countries like advertising in English in order to spend less money, as economists analyzed in the 1970s. By this we may forget that languages are also about culture, meaning and understanding. There can be no world culture in the sense that we are at a point to come to a universal understanding of the matter. We have to learn to be interpreters, because everything that concerns meaning has to be interpreted and reinterpreted.

If we all spoke a single language, the Tower of Babel would not have collapsed in the first place.

Rwanda should not lose its French because there are a lot of French meanings that have to be reinterpreted. We Europeans have much to learn from Africa, from Rwanda.

Kian-Harald Karimi

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