Shh… Wewe ni katika Tanzania ‘You are in Tanzania’
English has become the most prominent language that has established root and firmness in many countries. It is has created its own space, taking the position of a language of medium of communication across borders. Without doubt, it has enhanced communication and global understanding among many different people. However, in Tanzania we experienced it differently. The essence of understanding among people is connected by the strongest cable of their own language, Swahili.
According to Masebo & Nyangwine in a book titled Nadharia ya lugha Kiswahili there are two official languages, that is English and Swahili. According to the official national linguistic policy announced in 1984, Swahili is the language of the social and political sphere as well as primary and adult education, whereas English is the language of secondary education, universities, technology, and higher courts. The government announced in 2015 that it would discontinue the use of English as a language of education as part of an overhaul of the Tanzanian schools system.
Language connects people and in Tanzania that is exactly what we experienced. The welcome from people was flattering which made our experience absolutely amazing. Swahili is the source of cohesion and bring a sense of understanding among the people. Those who say know your history as it roadmaps your path to the future refer to common good, which cannot be achieved without common understanding and in the context of Mwanza that is Swahili.
The language is even sensed through the music which brings people together, that sense of love and humanity which is mutual to everybody. The song ‘I love you Tanzania, my country…We welcome you to Tanzania…’ that was sung to us in one of the Primary School we visited was touching. The song communicated a sense of responsibility and nurtures the understanding of value of humanity and dignity of people. But Swahili proved to be the key or a seed to fruit bearing trees that we now enjoy through other people in Tanzania. The fruits we are referring to is the love we received, care, respect and welcome which we are forever grateful as it enhances our own appreciation of other people.
We come from South Africa, the rainbow nation because of the diversity that we have. We have different races, 11 official languages and different tribes. Although we value this cocktail, the differences sometimes create a gap of domination amongst ourselves. Many find it shameful for someone not to know English. But many people are able to communicate in English and bring that understanding among people, locally and globally.
The dominant language of Tanzania was experienced even through art which enhances trust in return minimises crime. The high percentage of homogeneity in Mwanza enhances a sense of helpfulness and respect for one another.
The exciting challenge for us was to communicate with the people in the communities. The domination of Swahili limited our communication. Many people in the community do not understand English. Though we enjoyed this experience because it encouraged us to learn a little bit of Swahili language. The exciting part was that we would burst in laughter when we did not understand and the people would also laugh at us and simply say karibu (welcome).
We are though concerned about the fact that many people do not know English. It concerns us about the interdisciplinary education across borders? Global interconnectedness? International understanding and discussions? English as a global communication language may open doors for people that can communicate using it but what about others? We feel that even the uneducated ones should be equipped with English foundation as to enhance the global engagement and communication.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed every moment of Swahili and every situation of confusion but most importantly is the learning of Swahili.