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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Lots of languages!

I've always been amazed how so many supposedly illiterate people I've met in different countries in Africa speak, as a matter of course, three quite different languages. In Kenya, for example, many people speak English, Swahili and their local language.

The politics and complexities of individual relationships, of local, national and international governance are multiplied with every language that we speak on a day-to-day basis. How those politics and complexities are taken for granted by the people who live them! And how they are so invisible to those people who don't.
It's equally amazing to me that in our supposedly increasingly globalised world, so many English speaking people speak only one language, as a matter of course.

I recently joined two Yahoo Discussion groups, which I'll be following up here in my own language quest. African languages: "A forum for African Language reading and writing. (It) aims to explore and exploit the power that the language is, while tapping and nurturing the richness and the breadth of the African culture." and Multilingual Literacy: "The goal of Multilingual_Literacy is to serve as a forum for discussion & exchange of information about literacy theory, practice, & policy in multilingual contexts worldwide during the Decade (United Nations Literacy Decade)"

I'm also intrigued to see how the Bisharat initiative develops: a language, technology and development initiative, concerned with " the importance of maternal languages in sustainable development and the enormous potential of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to benefit efforts in the area of language and development."


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