Good morning folks! We are here at the inaugural TedxDar. A full day of presentations and speeches ahead on a range of subjects. And I will be blogging about it here with summaries and impressions of events. And we are off!
Well, we have to pause. It is raining quite heavily and apparently our water-proof tents are struggling a little. But the organisers are showing some nimbleness and are being creative in keeping the water out.
Anyway, we are back in business. The first speaker Prof. Peter Muhunzi is speaking about the ‘Need For Equal Bilingualism’, an apt topic considering that this is one of the most contentious cultural challenges facing Tanzania at the moment: English V Kiswahili.
He says how much he is an advocate of Kiswahili and credits the language for improving his understanding of music.
His suggests that encouraging bilingualism rather that putting english on a pedestal and dissing Kiswahili. In the culture at the moment, the latter is a formal language, a language of function. On the other hand, Swahili is a language of pop culture, a source of slang, the language of romance. The attitude seems to be the english language elevates speaker in the world of ideas. Romantic language is Swahili or what I think is more apt is that it is the language of seduction.
But is he is creating a false dichotomy?
No, he posits the notion of code-mixing, employing two languages simultaneously. Looking at things from Mwananchi’s point of view, a student learning English he has to accept the context from which the language has come to be defined, a language of industrialisation and technology. But does it articulate his own particular cultural context?
But one way to answer this question is to code-mix. Prof. Mhunzi says, when he moved to TZ, he conversed with his house keepers in Kiswahili. But the language of chores was English. As a result making Kiswahili the intellectual language and English as a subservient one. The resultant code was flipped.
His is a fascinating way to think about the debate we’ve been having in this country about which of the two of our national languages we can elevate. A provocative start.