Achebe on Loss of Language

The Henry Akubuiro, Daily Sun, interview of Chinua Achebe says it again:

One of the most important questions is about the influence of this book in terms of maintaining our culture and our language. Do you find that, as Africans, we are losing our touch with our language and culture?

Yes, obviously this is one of the major—maybe the top—problems that colonial rule has left for us. So, you have to learn somebody else’s language, and if you wanted to be educated then that was the language you were educated in. That story we know very well. There is no point in going over it now, or in fact weeping over it. I think we should just go to work, find a way to curtail some of the harm that has been done to us, and move on, as Americans would say.

It is abundantly clear to me that it is impossible, in an American context, to overstate the importance of knowing only English is a fundamental problem for people of African descent. To be blunt, I trust no one who takes their native English consciousness for granted. English—like any imperial language—is not designed for “spiritual enlightenment” but it is “great” for every thing else.

Once you somehow manage to accept what English is built for, then you have to deal with contaminated “native” languages. This subject was introduced to me in “Dr. Ernest N. Emenyonu: Achebe and the Problematics of Writing in Indigenous Languages” here in the kinté space.


anon, 2008-04-25 16:47:54

great interview.