Death of African Languages: What Africans Could Learn From Europe!

Currently a small organization like the EU has 24 official and working languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish.

Some of those languages are spoken only by half a million people. In average, most of those languages are spoken by less than 5 millions people.

Regardless of those facts, Each european citizen is entitled to use its mother language in the european parliament, the european commission, in their public speech and correspondence with their public administration.

Except Ethiopia, and the arabic countries, all african countries are using european colonial languages as the only official languages for public administration.

You can’t write a letter in Yoruba, Ibo, Haoussa to the Nigerian public administration and receive an answer in the same language.

Europe is a very small continent. 3 times smaller than Africa, 4 times smaller than America. The combined sized of all EU countries is smaller than the US or China, and the whole European continent is just the size of the African Sahara area. Madagascar is more than 2 times bigger than the UK, and Congo is 5 times the size of France.

If the small EU can manage 24 working languages, how can’t the Big Nigeria manage at least 3 to 5 working languages in their parliament or public administration.

If Europeans were lazy and ignorant like Africans, they would simply say “It’s too complicated. Too many languages. These maltese are not even 500.000 people! Who care about small languages like Lithuanian, Latvian or Slovak. Let’s be realistic and pragmatic and adopt a unique language.”

Europe is also the most fragmented continent. Every 200km you have a new country corresponding almost to an ethnic group. Multiethnic states have been very difficult to achieve in Europe, because each ethnic group wanted to have state for themselves.

Regardless of the numerous ethnic wars and the two biggest civil wars in human history (European civil war I, and European civil war II, also known, wrongly, as world war I and World war II) Europeans have finally found a way to create an Union (European Union) to stop their internal fight and bring to their people longer period of peace. Will that work!? No one knows!

What you need to keep in mind is that each ethnic group in Europe is made of fierce fighters, warriors, proud of their language, wary to defend their land, and ready to attack their neighbors when it’s in their best interest.

“No friend, only interests” is the best way to define european overall cultural operating system.

Why am I saying all those stuff?

My point is if on a tiny continent like Europe, every small ethnic group like the French, the Germans or the Dutch keeps their language, and are entitled to use it as a working language, why on earth on a continent like Africa we won’t use our own language?

Currently, the African Union is using only European languages as official languages, isn’t that stupid?

All in the opposite, the European Union has created a comprehensive framework to help all europeans to have the right to speak their mother language in public administration, regardless of the number of people speaking that language.

If you take one of the smallest european country like Lithuania, they are so proud of their language and they do everything to preserve it, in a country of less than 3 millions people.

With their own lithuanian language, a small country like Lithuania graduates over 2000 medical doctors in a year, and another several thousands of engineers. Those students are not taught in English or French! NO. They receive their medical, laser and nanotechnology courses in their native language: Lietuva.

A small language or diversity of languages have never been a barrier to people understanding or trade.

The biggest trade partners in the world are China and USA, but visit China and try to speak english and you’ll see. Germany and France are the biggest trade partners in Europe, now visit France and try to speak in German, or Vice versa!

We African are just lazy, and so well brainwashed to believe that our education and political system should be in european languages to be modern. Plain stupidness!

As my friend Personna Newell put it “I feel that using English as an official language only confirms for westerners that western languages are superior. If an entire country can learn a foreign language, they can learn one of their own languages (maybe the one spoken by the majority).

As it stands now, I’m in the process of trying to learn French so that I can connect with AFRICAN people. It says a lot that when people want to connect with African people, it’s not important for them to know any African language. And we wonder how long the cultures will stand with your not needing to know it, and even people wanting to connect to you not needing to know it.


I can speak only English and French and never have to mention even the word Yoruba or Wolof to any children I will have and communicate with Africans. How much longer do you think your languages will survive?”

Another friend of mine Kobla Victor Etogbenya wrote “I guarantee 4 out of 5 africains Would say ” ohhhhh we have million languages in my country”, but each African country would have one or two languages that more than 30 or 50% of each country speaks…

For example Ghana have twui, Kenya have Swahili , both Congo and some other countries have lingala etc….Africa please stop repeating what the oppressor want you to said. India has many languages but Hindi is the official language; China has many languages but Mandarin or Cantonese are both 2 national languages they use in administration.

Maybe we are just lazy, stupid and big followers in Africa”

Few years ago, I use to tease people this question “Give me the name of one country which developed to a powerful nation using a foreign colonial language as official language?”.

Aftet thinking hard on the question, most will give up, because there is none! It’s a malediction to force a foreign colonial language on an entire nation.

9 years ago, when my son was born in Paris, I’ve firmly made up my mind to speak to him only in my native language: Ewe. He would learn French at school, but at home our conversation language would be our mother languages.

On Christmas, there were always a gift party for the kids of the employees of the organization where I was working. Majority of the employees were Africans from almost 20 countries. When they will see me and my son speaking in my mother language, I have to say, most would feel embarrassed, but would wrap their emotion into a forced smile, and would just mumble few words like “good, very good!”, and then would quickly step away not to be seen with such a pariah like me and my son!

Unfortunately, 100% of my african colleagues don’t speak their language to their kids. When I’ve suggested to my colleagues from Togo to start an informal school teaching their kids Ewe language for free, I’ve received zero request.

One weekend in spring 2008, while I was in my favorite senegalese teranga tea shop in the 17th area of paris, I met a Togolese who was living longer than me in France. He saw me speaking Ewe to my son, approached us, and after few words exchanged he bluntly told me “Why are you speaking that monkey language to your son?”. I was so embarrassed because my son could understand him both in French and Ewe. I smiled and went away!

We don’t have to be ashamed of our languages. We received them from our ancestors. We have the duty to cherish them and preserve them by transmitting them with passion and love to future generations!

I want my kids like the french and british kids to be educated in their mother languages, not a foreign language from age 3.

Here is my call to all Africans who want to fight the colonial languages in our education and public administration.

1. Let’s starting forcing our governments to use our languages in public administration.

2. If for convenience only your government included any native language in your country official languages, start sending letters, and requests to government in that language.
3. If you go to public administration refuse to be served in colonial language, and speak in any of the other official languages which are local.

4. If the government or the public administration refuse to serve you in an official language, bring them into court, and have them condemned for refusing to serve citizen in an official language of the country.

5. If you have a company start using your native language in your invoices, orders and receipts, and slowly upgrade to make your local language the conversation language inside your company. Don’t hire people who can’t speak in their local language properly. Slowly upgrade to writing.

6. Create a network of like-minded to lobby for the african languages usage in public administration and politics. Raise fund and hire lawyers to support more citizens who would sue the government for refusing to serve people in their mother language.

7. Ask for help from other groups around the world who fight for saving dying languages and preserve multilingualism.

As Marimba Ani put it “Your culture is your immune system”, once it’s taken away from you, you become defenseless, vulnerable. That’s the reason why the enemies of Africa are investing so much in destroying its immune system.

source: Silicon Africa


Written by PH

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