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How African Indigenous Languages Combat Oppression in Zimbabwe

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Did you know that African Indigenous Languages are used as a tool for protests and airing out grievances? This is exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe where the President; Emmerson Mnangagwa has more than doubled fuel prices as a solution to the shortages that have seen Zimbabweans queue with their cars waiting for their turn of this liquid gold!

A Glimpse at History

A little history here is that President Mnangagwa was seen by many as a political savior from the infamous Robert Mugabe who was the country’s president for more than 3 decades and once held the position of the longest serving president from 1987 to 2017 and was also seen by many internationally as a dictator. Under his reign, the country’s economy spiraled down. As a result the Zimbabwean dollar inflated and lost its value.

This has seen Zimbabweans in thousands take on the streets of Harare and other major cities to protest the fuel hike in their various mother tongues while burning tires, blocking roads and closing up businesses as a sign of disapproval. In fact, opposition leaders and pressure groups have called out the government for its alleged lack of empathy for the country’s poor.

African Indigenous Languages of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe stands out in Africa as that country with so many indigenous languages included as official and national languages. Yes, the country registers 11 official languages and with the draft constitution allegedly suggesting 16 official languages. It should be noted that most African countries have languages adopted from their colonial masters as official or national languages while their own African Indigenous Languages are not officially recognized. In fact many have a colonial language as an official language and an indigenous one for a national language.

It is these Zimbabwe African Indigenous Languages that the people are using on the streets to protest against what they deem an unfair decision by the government to hike fuel prices.

Communication is more effective when the language used as the vehicle for the message is the one most understood by that particular people and in this case the protests are mainly carried out in the languages the people understand best. English comes in mainly for the purpose of spreading the message internationally thus the world getting to know what is happening in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s scenario of having multiple indigenous languages with official status makes sense because Africa alone has over 2000 languages with many individual countries on the continent having more than 50 languages. For example, Nigeria alone is reported to have more than 500 languages, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo come next with over 200 languages and last but definitely not least Sudan and Tanzania with over 100 languages each!

The list of Zimbabwe’s national languages includes;

  • Shona
  • Ndebele
  • Tswana
  • Xhosa
  • Venda
  • Tsonga
  • Tonga
  • Chewa
  • Southern Sotho English
Languages to consider for translation in African include;

African indigenous languages are vital and part of Africa’s identity therefore, preserving them should be a priority. However, there are situations where Professional Translation Services are required for purpose of communication internationally.

By Angela Kyolaba

For more information click here.

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