Do more to promote use of Kiswahili, VP tells experts

20Jan 2021
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
Do more to promote use of Kiswahili, VP tells experts

VICE President Samia Suluhu Hassan has challenged experts in Kiswahili to do more to promote the language locally, regionally and internationally for Tanzania to cement its position as the birthplace of the language.

Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan pictured in Dodoma city yesterday launching books endorsed for use in teaching Kiswahili internationally. The event was part of the commemoration of Kiswahili Day. Left is Information, Culture, Arts and Sports deputy minister Abdallah Ulega. Photo: Correspondent Ibrahim Joseph

Officiating at the launch of a two- day event to mark Kiswahili Day here yesterday, the VP expressed concerns that while the language is gaining momentum as a major international language little effort is done nationally to promote it.

 “As we mark the 2021 Kiswahili Day, kindly look into development challenges facing the language as it increasingly gains global recognition” she told the gathering.

As Tanzania has gained recognition as the birth place of Kiswahili, stakeholders in various institutions and organizations preoccupied with the growth of the language need to come up with strategies for teaching the language to interest people in other countries, she said.

The development of the language was affected by the paucity of books to teach foreigners the language, despite strides made in Kenya and Tanzania having many writers in the language and experience in teaching Kiswahili nationally and regionally.

 There aren’t enough books to teach foreigners, school text books and a language teaching system designed to make it easy to learn when Kiswahili is taught to foreigners, she said.

Similarly there aren’t enough experts to teach Kiswahili to foreigners, as most of those who teach pupils the language do not have expertise in handling it for non.-speakers of the language, she asserted.

Research has shown that those who teach Swahili in countries like the United States are not experts and do not have professional knowledge on how to teach the language, she further noted.

The VP said there is no specific budgetary allocation for the development of the language, as it is handled under the culture department, in which case relevant institutions need to make sure there is a specific budget for the advancement of the language.

She set out policy directives where the Union and Zanzibar governments constitute a team of experts to conduct research on challenges facing the development of Kiswahili and how to solve them.

As it is rapidly becoming a globally used language product, stakeholders need to come up with programmes to teach the language outside Tanzania, as this will send a message that foreigners who want to learn the language would do best to come to Tanzania.

She challenged the ministry to seek out language experts who can provide translation services in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and other regional organisations.

Language development organizations like the National Kiswahili Council (BAKITA) on the Mainland and its Zanzibar counterpart, BAKIZA need to be financially empowered and work closely with publishers, the VP underlined.

Similarly, as Africa oscillates around the worldwide fourth industrial revolution, Swahili language experts should focus on moving alongside increased digitalisation, she pointed out.

 “It is high time experts think on how to cope with development brought about by digital technology, especially how to create Swahili command words in digital platforms,” she elaborated.

VP Samia however took issue with private sector players, saying most of them still consider English as the language for communication, treating lightly the fact that they serve the biggest population that only knows Swahili as a unifying language.

She expressed the government’s commitment to help nurture the language as a national symbol, also challenged experts to seriously look into formalization of new vocabularies, as there are many words being used that are not actually Swahili in character.

Abdallah Ulega, the deputy minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports had earlier noted that Swahili is spreading like a bush fire with technology growth, shaping up the urge for other countries to learn the language.

He said various international media outlets are struggling to learn the language, noting that Tanzania has a big role to spread the language as it is the home of Swahili.

 “We currently have 1308 Swahili language experts in the ministry’s data base and I call upon those who are yet to register to do so in order tp have experts who can be sent whenever opportunities arise,” he told the gathering.

Dr Method Samuel, the chairman of the BAKITA Board of Directors, in his introductory remarks thanked the VP and the Union government generally for support to help develop the language. Read More...

Top Stories