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Language and Identity in Africa - Essay Example

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When a group of people speak a common language, they feel a sense of belonging to a particular community, thus sharing a given heritage. Speaking the same language signifies societal solidarity, whereas speaking different languages indicates cultural differentiation. This means that the language of a given people needs to be guarded if they are to preserve and convey their culture. In African traditional society, children were taught the values and ways of life of their communities by their elders. Through songs, dance and folklore, these children were integrated into the community’s way of life. These children were often grouped according to their age and taught the culture of their community. By so doing, the community ensured that succeeding generations were well aware of their traditions and the preservation of the same. Awolalu (pp.27) argues that, loss of culture occurs when a community can no longer identify themselves through particular values and beliefs. The lack of language to express their heritage affects the society and thus their culture is lost. This has been the case in modern Africa whereby, the youth cannot express themselves in their native language. This has been occasioned by an increase in cultural diversity, in that people with different cultures live in the same area. Human migrations and historical events have been a major contributor in this cultural diversity. The continued existence of these culturally diverse people in the same setting results in cultural assimilations. It becomes increasingly hard for differing communities to maintain their respective languages in these multilingual societies. Consequently, language loss leads to the loss of culture and identity of that particular community. Many Africans have migrated to developed countries in search of work and education opportunities. These Africans in the Diaspora have lost touch with their cultural background and adopted the cultures of these foreign countries. Olatunde (pp. 62) points out that African Americans have found it tough to find a universal language through which to express themselves and still maintain their cultural identities. This is because they lack tribal affiliations and the language they speak is non-tribal. These young people, he says, have progressively lost touch with their African roots and adopted the American way of life. Olatunde also argues that the colonization of Africa in the nineteenth century was the start point of African cultural disintegration. A case in point is the Christian missionaries who urged Africans to adopt Christian names in for them to be accepted by the Christian God. This implies that even the Africans living on the African continent have systematically adopted western culture. The teaching of European languages in African schools exemplifies this phenomenon. Olatunde (pp.66) argues that the African village has totally disintegrated, no longer having elders to guide the people. In traditional African society, it was the duty of the elders to teach the youth the African way of life. Today, however, these elders are at the fore front in popularizing western culture. As a result, many youth especially those living in urban areas have no roots identification. They have been brought up in the western way of life, perceived to be modern. Olatunde (pp.69) quotes a Swahili proverb that says that it takes a village to raise a child. He thus ...Show more
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Name Instructor Date Language and identity in Africa Language forms a core part of any human distinctiveness through which, one can tell the age and origin of a person. In addition, language symbolizes one’s national and cultural identity. Identity here refers to the feeling of belonging to a larger social group by an individual…
Language and Identity in Africa
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