South African Journal of African Languages

Log in or Register to get access to full text downloads.

Remember me or Register

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT Open Access  DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT Subscription or Fee Access

The language factor in the development of Africa: A case for the compilation of specialised dictionaries in indigenous African languages

Emmanuel Chabata


The pace at which African countries are developing has been in the spotlight for a long time, with many in agreement that it is generally slow as mirrored by rampant hunger, unemployment, disease and poverty. Many reasons, ranging from economic, political, educational, historical, and others have been cited as key explanations for this sluggish rate. In all this, the language question rarely features as a crucial development factor. When it comes to key processes of national development, indigenous African languages continue to be ignored in favour of foreign and former colonial languages such as English, French and Portuguese. In this article, an argument is made that development in Africa will remain unachievable unless indigenous African languages are used for all key socio-economic and political transactions in African communities. This argument is premised on the fact that mother tongue communication is at the centre of any kind of development, be it personal or communal. However, for it to be effective as a communicative tool, a language has to be developed or empowered. This article thus develops further by proposing the compilation of specialised dictionaries in African languages as one sure way of empowering the languages so that they become usable in all domains of life, including those that are highly technical.

South African Journal of African Languages 2013, 33(1): 51–58
AJOL African Journals Online