Indigenous African Languages

By Rohan Kamicheril

Tolu Ogunlesi talks about indigenous African languages over at the Sun News online. The piece looks at the contentious topic of how African a work of literature can claim to be when it is written in the language of its former colonizers. It also addresses the problems that come into play when discussing the future of indigenous African languages. Ogunlesi has a wonderful quote from Chinua Achebe that helps us put the argument into perspective:

"It doesn't matter what language you write in, as long as what you write is good…Language is a weapon, and we use it…There's no point in fighting a language."

There's also a very interesting section on the formation of "Union Igbo," the patchwork chimera of the various forms of Igbo that early missionaries compiled into a language. Igbo is the language spoken in many of Achebe's novels, but remains one of the languages into which his work has, notably, not been translated:

Achebe would not consent to have his novel translated into this "linguistic travesty" Union Igbo. "Consequently, one of the world's great novels, which has been translated into more than 30 languages, is unable to appear in the language of the very culture that it celebrates and mourns."

via the Literary Saloon of the Complete Review.


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