Globalization: Social & Geographic Perspectives

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Is Globalization taking away local languages in post colonial settings?

October 8th, 2010 · 1 Comment
Creolization Essay - Assignment # 1

After independence, Most developing countries that were once colonies adopted the language of the colonizers. For instance, when Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, the official language of the new born republic was Portuguese. One may understandably wonder why a free nation that has disrobed the garments of colonial rule choose to adopt the language of the oppressor. It is rather easy to build simplifications and criticize such a case sitting in a Queens College classroom in 2010. With this reasoning, it is crucial to bear in mind that looking at Mozambique in 1975 from our eyes is absolutely different from living the realities of Mozambique as a leader in 1975.

According to the national census of 1997, the ten provinces of Mozambique listed 20 different languages, namely: Kimwani, Shimakonde, Ciayo, Emákhuwa, Elomwe, Echuwabo, Malolo, Ekoti, Cingoni, Cinyanja, Cinyungwè, Cisena, Cindau, Cimanyika, Cishona, Citewe, Cicopi, Gitonga, Xichangana, Xironga and Xitshwa (II Recenseamento Geral da População e Habitação 1997). The aforementioned languages existed before, during and after the Portuguese colonial rule. Before the existence of Portuguese as a language in that part Africa, the people of Mozambique, communicated and understood each other. Nonetheless, these languages have been countlessly referred to as vernacular, dialects, indigenous, creoles and many other demeaning names conveniently verbalized by colonial powers to diminish African languages. In fact, they are still undervalued and not recognized internationally. If they were recognized, then the spell check function of my 2009 MacBook Pro made by Apple would not underline them in red.

Despite the existing languages, the first government of the Republic of Mozambique, which consisted of individuals from all 10 provinces, needed to adopt one language that would unify the whole nation. Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique was from the Gaza Province, where Xishangana is spoken. If he, as a leader, chose to make Xishangana the official language of the nation, the people from the other provinces would feel discriminated and perhaps rebel for the sake of linguistic representation. Furthermore, if Xishangana was the official language, then perhaps, President Armando Guebuza, who was elected in 2005, would change the official language to Xironga. This would ultimately create a vicious cycle of conflicts over language. Therefore, after independence, Portuguese was chosen as the unifying language of the Republic of Mozambique. Even so, the other languages are still spoken, especially in the rural areas. This is where the problem lies.

In Mozambique, the education system is in Portuguese at all levels, from kindergarten to Universities. Currently, in Mozambican urban settings, particularly for the younger generations, speaking Portuguese well with an accent from Portugal creates the perception that one is superior in social status. Even worse, in my opinion, the people who speak the native languages are often considered unsophisticated and poorly educated. Being from Mozambique, some of my grandparents do not speak Portuguese, yet they raised my parents to an extent that allowed me to be here in the United States writing this paper in English. Nevertheless, a significant portion of the urban youth in Mozambique, and in many cases, middle aged men and women consider the native languages low and unrefined. With the age of the internet, in urban settings, English and French are currently being more valued than the native languages. Some grandchildren are not even able to communicate with their own grandparents. The Mozambican youth enjoys MTV, VH1, Cartoon Network and many other globally consumed television brands, where they hear their favorite artists and characters singing, being interviewed and interacting in English. The youth has been so affected that some may say two English words in a sentence in Portuguese because it’s the cool thing to do. Now, English and French are taught in Mozambican schools, and I have no doubt that soon, Mandarin and/or Cantonese from China will be part of our curriculums as it is in parts of Ethiopia. The native languages are not taught in schools. There are very few books written in the local languages.

Speaking a native language was once a common practice everywhere in Mozambique; however, this culture is eroding, especially in the main cities. Our first languages were turned into second languages for the purpose of unity. However, they are now being turned into third, fourth, or non-existing languages for the purpose of sophistication and social affirmation, which can be equated to creolization, a process of globalization.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1    nataliedurack // Oct 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Although creolization has brought different cultures together and allowed them to form a blended culture, after reading this essay one is able to see the negative affects that creolization could possible have on a culture, as in Mozambique. The most alarming affect that creolization could possibly have, is that a whole culture could ultimately be lost, as losing a language can mean losing the entire history and knowledge of a country, especially if no written record was kept.

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