English Language and African native language
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Language is a great power which forms a huge part of people culture and identity, it’s also enabling them to express themselves and keep their history. In colonized regions the issue of colonial and native language became the subject of discussion between critics. In relation Chinua Achebe “The African writer and the English Language” and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o “The Language of the African Literature” essays; I will discuss what do these two writers have in common and in what way they are different.
As we all know; Colonizing power is trying to control their colonies by cutting out their native languages and replace them with their own, so the colonizers realize the power of language, each language is heavily embodied with specific culture, religion, identity and history, so when these things are cutting off within the language, it will be easy for the colonizer to re-form the colony in any way they want.
At that time critics start to question “in what Language African Literature should be produced?” For Chinua Achebe replacing the native Language is not a problem “The African writer should aim to use English in away that brings out his message best without altering the Language to the extent that it’s value. As a medium of international exchange will be lost , he should aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience” (Chinua Achebe 433 ). Achebe believes that Language can be considered as a barrier between two cultures; in addition English is a universal Language which gives African writers more chance to spread their own ideas and culture to most parts of the world.
Achebe uses the English Language for the aim of universality. He wrote his novel “Things fall a part” in English to convey the Igbo experience in addition to his use of local idioms, proverbs and imagery of his own culture; by this Achebe is able to communicate with the colonizer (the new land governor) and spread his culture and local customs to most people.
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has different attitude toward using English Language in writing African Literature, he says “Imposing a foreign Language and suppressing the native Languages as a spoken and written were already breaking the harmony previously existing between the African child and the three aspects of Language. Since the new Language as a means of communication was a product of and was reflecting “The real Language of life” else where.” ( Ngugi 442) What Ngugi meant to say is that each Language is a product of the society they were produced in, so using other people products to reflect African culture, local customs, their history and their own identity is a bad attempt for African people toward losing their identity and self confidence; He also says “This Language and Literature were taking us further and further from ourselves to other selves, from our world to other world” (Ngugi 439) this quote shows that Ngugi realizes the colonizer attempt to disconnect African people from their own heritage , this will limit African people sense of their history “past” with a lack of identity .
Chinua chebe aggress with Ngugi that colonialism is destroying their own culture and subject people in different ways and it was often cruel and repressive that he says “colonialism may indeed be a very complex affair”; On the other hand he believes that “It gave them a Language with which to talk to one another” ( Achebe 450 ) . For Achebe , the use of English Language will help African people to unify their land and give them a chance to unite their effort and raise the standard of African literature. As every body knows Africa has more than one Language, sometimes African people are disable to understand each other or even to communicate, so having a common Language between them will be something perfect.
Some people see colonization to be evil package that we should get rid off as soon as possible, but Achebe has a different pint of view “Those of us who inherited the English Language may not be in a position to appreciate the value of the inheritance, or we may go on resenting it because it came as part of package deal […….] but let us not in rejecting the evil throw out of good evil” (Chinua Achebe 431) He believes that African people should take the good part of colonialism and not to reject these good things just because they came along with colonization .
Ngugi still stands on his position that African people should write in African Language because for him “Language is this inseparable from ourselves as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world” (Ngugi 441) this quote indicate Ngugi argument on the issue of Language in relation to matters of identity and culture as inseparable parts, so African native Language can not be replaced because it links to their own soul and identity.
Both of these two writers agree on the ugliness of colonialism and see Language as a tool of communication and a culture barrier, but they take different attitude when it comes to the use of Language, especially the colonial Language.