Marang: Journal of Language and Literature

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The Ever-Increasing Demand For (And Reliance On) French And English In Post-Independence Sub-Saharan Africa

JM Lubinda


In the years immediately following the attainment of independence, in the early 1960s for the most part, African countries south of the Sahara firmly entrenched English and French (the ex-colonial languages) as the main official languages of government, business, the judiciary, the legislature, trade and commerce, formal education and other high-status functions. These languages have continued to have a grip on the African peoples and to enjoy elevated and prestigious status while, in most cases, mere lip service has been paid to the practical promotion of indigenous African languages. The present article takes a fresh objective look at the situation of French and English in contemporary Africa and the relative power relations between them. It further examines how some African countries have tried to implement English/French strategic bilingualism and the role they have assigned to African languages in these countries. It ends with a few suggestions/recommendations on how the functional status of African languages could be enhanced through interventionist policy decisions and practical implementation of these decisions on the ground. It also demonstrates the mutual complementarity of African languages and global languages inherited from the colonial era, in a symbiotic relationship and partnership for development.

Keywords: dominant/minority language, linguistic hegemony, high-status function, de jure/de facto official language

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