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| | |-+  Zimbabwe: Killing Our Languages Slowly (Excerpt)
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Author Topic: Zimbabwe: Killing Our Languages Slowly (Excerpt)  (Read 9553 times)
Posts: 435

« on: June 11, 2012, 09:54:30 PM »

Zimbabwe: Killing Our Languages Slowly

By Sekai Nzenza, 30 May 2012

Full article: http://allafrica.com/stories/201205300459.html


...At school, we teased those who could not speak English by calling them Zuze or Chemutengure. We did not realise that Zuze did not actually exist. Years later, we now know that Zuze was just a caricature, a stereotype created to show the cultural superiority of the white man's command of the English language and the written word. It was an intelligent but very racist way of denigrating village people and oral modes of communication. Such stories were carefully created to take a place within our young minds and make us feel inferior. Up to this day, memories of the Zuze and Chemutengure songs have stayed in our minds.

Independence opened many doors for us and speaking English well helped us to go to university and mix with other English speaking people here and overseas. When we became parents, we naturally wanted our children to go to the former whites only schools, where they would learn to speak English quickly. Without thinking, we looked down upon the village and ignored the role Mbuya and all the elders played in teaching us language. We thought the village was full of Zuze and friends. Children born after independence had nothing to do with the language or the culture of the relatives back there.

We wanted our children to speak English only and speak it like white boys and girls. We looked up to our former colonial rulers for better English skills and copied their lifestyles. Speaking English with a village accent often revealed that you went to a rural boarding school, like I did. I had to prove that I was not related to Zuze, so I worked hard to change my accent. At one stage, I also wanted to belong somewhere in the social hierarchy, often determined by money and a good English accent.

While we were busy telling each other that our children were not vana Zuze, the children were busy mimicking and masquerading as English boys and girls waiting for a time when they will leave the country and go overseas to speak more English to the English. When those children got to London or any of the big cities, their English, American and Australian friends asked them what indigenous language they spoke back home in Africa. They looked around with embarrassment and said, "None."

Over there in the Diaspora, the children regretted that they did not understand much about their mother tongue and the culture embedded within the language. They also discovered that the ability to speak Shona, Ndebele or another Zimbabwean language gave them pride and a sense of shared identity. They were able to exclude others in conversations and share jokes not easily translated into English.

Back here in the city, when Mbuya visits us, our job as translators is redundant because the children do not have time to talk to her. They lock themselves in their rooms talking to friends on Facebook and WhatsApp, or they are surfing the Internet, playing video games, watching television, texting or simply listening to music. We also do not have time to talk to Mbuya because we are too busy working to make more money.

But we make Mbuya comfortable in front of the big flat screen television where she will sit day after day watching Hollywood movies or Africa Magic without understanding any of the English spoken in the movies. She will sit there, bemoaning the slow death of language and culture we have created. When she has seen enough kissing and fake love making on television, she packs her bags and returns to her fields and chickens back in the village.

As the gap between the village and the city continues to widen, we will stop being translators for our children because our parents would have departed this earth and moved on to join the ancestors. Our children will come back to the village as tourists, taking pictures of what remains of the village huts and their grandparents' graves to show on Face book. In those graves, lie the death of language and communal memory.

This is not to say the English language is not important. No. English is a valuable medium of communication to negotiate our way in the global world of commerce.

Full article: http://allafrica.com/stories/201205300459.html
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