Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Teaching Science and Technology: The Employment of Indigenous African Languages

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Teaching Science and Technology: The Employment of Indigenous African Languages

Article excerpt


Our preoccupation in this paper is how African languages could be used effectively with dominant European languages in the African polity such as English in achieving the seemingly herculean task of African techno-scientific development. First, we examined various researches conducted in education, communication and psychology on the role of indigenous languages in knowledge acquisition, in enhancing cognitive understanding and in removing pedagogical barriers in learning. Next, we evaluated the precarious state of indigenous languages in African states' educational language policies. Last, we suggest how best to achieve an African Languages Scientific Manual using what we called the Pragmatic Approximating Process.

Keyword: Indigenous languages, Science, Technology, Development, Bilingualism, Africa.


The state of development in Africa today is such that there is hardly any African who does not crave for a better Africa: an Africa that will be free of the 'third world' genre; an Africa that will not be dumping ground for sub-standard goods and whose citizens will not be guinea pigs for testing new scientific products and above all; an Africa where there will not be dearth of all that make humans truly human. A lot of factors are adducible for the precarious condition of living in Africa.

While scholars such as Walter Rodney (1983), Chiwenzu (1987), Theresa Hayter (1986) among others chose to blame the west, most especially colonialism, neocolonialism and even Globalization; others such as Frantz Fanon (1967), Kwasi Wiredu (1980), Nguigi wa Thiongo (1986), among others believe that what we need is not crying over spilled milk for even after colonialism, Africans are yet to completely breakaway from their 'slavers', a very good essay in this direction is David Tam West (1997) "How Africans Underdeveloped Africa".

While we see holistic approach to conceptualizing development as a commendable exercise, we choose in this work to focus specifically on techno-scientific development. This is undoubtedly essentially because Africa's backwardness in modern science and technology is having a farreaching effect on all facets, most especially in the face of globalization that is making rich countries richer, and poor, technologically backward, countries poorer. Diverse angles are capable of being explored towards this end. But, our concern here shall be on how indigenous African languages could be effectively used with the present education media of instruction, e.g. English, in advancing knowledge that would promote the growth of science and technology in Africa. Our position is that since the use of indigenous languages enhances cognition and removes pedagogical barriers in learning, it should also be allowed equal substantial right in the African education space medium and also be employed as a medium of instruction in higher primary, secondary as well as adult basic schools all over Africa in teaching science-based subjects.

On Language and Knowledge

Language is central to the sustenance of a group of people for it is the vehicle through which other constituents of cultures are communicated. In fact, it is the primary vehicle through which human culture is acquired, shared and transmitted (Hammound 1975: 398). Without language, there is bound to be problem in the society for thoughts, ideas, information, etc would be incommunicado. Hence, Richard Schaefer (2000: 52) sees language as the foundation of every culture. To him, it is "an abstract system of word, meaning and symbols for all aspects of culture which includes speech, written characters, numerals, symbols, and gestures and expressions of non-verbal communication". Lugraham (1975) identified four ways by which language is used in the society, namely, as a means of expression, for the purposes of record, to set matter in motion and as an instrument of thinking. Based on these functions that it performs, some scholars are of the view that language, a mean of communication, is as vital to human socialization and existence just as blood is vital to the human body. …

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