Magazine article New African

Need for African Languages on the Internet: The Glaring Absence of African Languages in Cyberspace Is of Crucial Concern, and as Bamuturaki Musinguzi Reports, If Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Is to Help Promote Development in Africa, Indigenous Languages Should Be Vital Ingredients

Magazine article New African

Need for African Languages on the Internet: The Glaring Absence of African Languages in Cyberspace Is of Crucial Concern, and as Bamuturaki Musinguzi Reports, If Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Is to Help Promote Development in Africa, Indigenous Languages Should Be Vital Ingredients

Article excerpt

Many ICT experts acknowledge that linguistic and cultural diversity are realities of development and, therefore, ensuring that internet content and user interfaces are available in African languages, and adapted to cultural preferences and sensitivities, should merit greater attention from African governments. Adama Samassekou, president of the African Academy of Language (ACALAN), bemoans how "Africa is still dominated by colonial languages, with local languages confined to the oral state".

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He told New African: "If you want to change the world, your mother tongue is the tool, because language is embedded in the way you think, the way you see the world, express your feeling and vision, and interact with others. No community can develop without the use of the mother tongue, especifically in science and technology."

He adds: "Mother tongues should be taught at all stages of education, which is not the case in Africa today. It will take a long time to build, but it should be the perspective."

ACALAN was established under the aegis of the African Union, as a Pan-African scientific institution. Headquartered in the Malian capital, Bamako, its objectives include the promotion of African languages.

Samassekou says: "The Academy acknowledges the link between the mother tongue and education. We will help African countries re-build their education systems through several aspects, like multilingualism. We can't have an impact on ICT if we don't rebuild our education systems. For us it's about access, the means, infrastructure, and the languages spoken by the local people in order for the population to master ICT."

In his book, The African Today, Diedrich Westermann wrote that "... the introduction of students into the full realm of European culture loses all its meaning if it implies a neglect of the Africans own life and language and this isolates him from his own people. This is where modern education is easily inclined to make a fatal mistake ..."

Indeed, as Samassekou observes: "Our education systems are still outdated and still based on the colonial systems. We need to link culture to education. The new information society should empower our people and not take away knowledge. …

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