Role of Malawian languages in attainment of socio-economic development and MGDS
This paper argues that language can either hinder or accelerate development process of a poor country like Malawi, which ranks among the 10 most impoverished countries worldwide despite implementing many development programmes and policies since gaining political autonomy in 1964. The persisting under-development is often blamed on many factors such as deteriorating and unfair trade, corruption and poor economic governance. However, recent studies indicate that lack of people’s participation in development projects that affect them and communication-related inadequacies could be the root cause of underdevelopment and persisting poverty in Malawi. While demonstrating that no meaningful participation at any development stage can be achieved if the language used by development experts is alien to the project beneficiaries, this paper argues that language has been a major barrier to Malawi’s development. The use of foreign languages, such as English, stalls proper implementation of development projects because, despite possessing vast indigenous ideas, knowledge, experience and values different from those of development experts, the majority of ordinary people are not literate in these languages and, therefore, cannot and don’t make meaningful negotiations and contributions pertaining to the nature of development they need. Use of English as a mode of communication in Malawi’s parliament is an example of how a foreign language can limit the participation of the MPs in national development and law-making debates. Ironically, most development workers in Malawi also lack core local language skills to understand and involve the people development processes and projects.
Key Words: Local languages, development, participation, Theatre for Development, MGDS, MDGs