Why Foreign Language in Africa is a Colonial Weapon

For many reasons why foreign language in Africa is a colonial weapon, the colonial masters in Africa have used the foreign languages such as French, English, Dutch, etc. for a quite number of purposes which include suppression of the African language, Trading, Politics, Education, etc. all to their advantages and by implication, as benefit to the African polity.

Language carries culture, and embodies the beliefs, values, thoughts, and oral literature of nations. How a culture perceives the world, and what it values are also reflected in its language through literature, myth, custom, and history. Thus, culture and language are products of each other, and both are so closely tied to the concept of identity that it is hard to study them separately.

It is through language, culture, and identity that we perceive ourselves, and our places in the world. And it is mostly because of the strong relationship between language and identity that colonizers tend to impose their languages on conquered people. Through impacting indigenous languages, colonizers target indigenous/non-Western identities to take over the minds, thoughts, and values of those they colonize. Language is used as a tool to convey values and beliefs— invisibly yet effectively.

Language as communication and as culture is then products of each other and Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world. Language is thus inseparable from us as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific
relationship to the world.

Why Foreign Language in Africa is a Colonial Weapon

Given that language constructs identity, and given the importance of cultural sovereignty, colonizers mostly try to convey their culture in different ways. Let us then look at the reasons why foreign language in Africa is a colonial weapon to the imperialist:

For Identity

As answer to why foreign language in Africa is a colonial weapon, most of the people believe that “language” is the basic tool used to give identity to a national culture. Language relationship with mind, soul, identity and thought of those who speak in their mother tongue, make most of colonialists societies to colonizing other societies focus on language and language identity of those societies.

Read Also: Why English is Important in Africa

For Penetration and Imperialism

Being aware of importance of language and cultural domination, during their colonialism, colonialists try to convey their thought, beliefs and their customs through language as a cultural tool in an invisible and imperceptible way. Using this policy they can complete and strengthen their process of penetration and colonialism on others.

As the result of lingual and cultural weakness, conquered societies submitted to colonialists’ sovereignty and occasionally they have accepted all aspects of their cultural and lingual sovereignty. Conclusively, penetration is another reason why foreign language in Africa is a colonial weapon.

For Domination

This linguistic policy enables colonizers to continue colonization, and strengthen its roots in the colonized lands. In this way, colonizers have come to dominate indigenous people. As a result, indigenous people gradually accept the sovereignty of colonizers, and consider the colonizers’ values superior to their own.

For the Suppression of the African Language

Under the older model of coloniality, colonizers imposed their languages and cultures by forcing non-Western people to learn to speak
a different language. The loss of African and American indigenous languages illustrates this phenomenon well. Colonial governments discouraged and suppressed thousands of years of linguistic diversity and knowledge by forced assimilation and integration policies.

For example, through linguistic policies such as enfranchisement and the residential school system, the Canadian government has left many indigenous languages extinct or endangered.

In the residential school system, indigenous children were punished severely for using their native languages, which then led to a loss of many of these languages. Indigenous parents protected their children by not sharing their languages because they did not want their children to experience the same consequences that they had experienced. As a result, a valuable heritage of knowledge, values, beliefs, and culture slipped away.

Cultural Transmission

Another reason why foreign language in Africa is a colonial weapon is that the colonial masters also use language as a means to transmitting their culture into Africa. A very example of this is the control that France has over Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, etc.

Language plays significant roles in culture, where it can be used to transmit culture, it also shaped by the culture, and it gives a symbol to cultural identity. Language is used to transmit culture. Culture is passed down from one generation to the next and shared from one community to another using language.

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