Should use of indigenous languages be banned in public offices?

Posted by on 20th June 2011

Categories:   Motions MP Participation

By Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)

A few weeks ago the media covered an audit report conducted by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission on ethnicity in the civil service.  The NCIC report showed despite the existence of the 48 communities in Kenya 80% of public services is occupied by only 6 communities – ethnicity continues to be an ongoing conversation not just on the street but in parliament as well.

However , unless you watch parliamentary sessions on TV or were actually at parliament on the 8th June 2011 you probably missed this..on 8th June 2011 Maragwa MP Elias Mbau stated that he was: “Concerned that the use of indigenous languages in public offices and national institutions is a major contributor to disharmony, suspicion and discomfort in public offices in the country>”

He then urged the Government to: “Ban the use of indigenous languages in all public offices, except by Government Field Officers at the level of locations and sub-locations in public barazas, where it is expected that nearly all of the audience understand the local language used.”

He stated the motion aimed: “to ban the use of vernacular languages in public offices as it causes disharmony and discomfort to those who may not understand a particular vernacular language and might stir ethnic hatred.”

He used as his main point of reference Article 7(2) of the Constitution that recognizes Kiswahili and English as the official languages of the Republic of Kenya. While the MP recognized that the article 7 (3) provides for the protection and promotion of diversity of the language of the people of Kenya, and the importance that language as tool of communication, as tool of culture and identity. He argued ethnicity had a negative aspect declaring “we have a good proportion of ethnic chauvinists both in this House and outside this House – who are inclined to see only the members of their tribe as people and also denigrate all others as something less.” He went on state that in the workplace and particular in the aftermath of the 2007/2008 post election violence language has been used a way that is exclusionary, discriminatory that fosters conflict.

Work place diversity is a complex issue when you consider issues of the gender, age, education, background, ethnic group, language adds another layer to the complexity.  What has your experience of use of indigenous languages in the workplace been, positive or negative?  Do you agree with the motion put forward by MP Elias Mbau to ban the use of indigenous language in the workplace? And would it have the intended effect of reducing discrimination and promoting social cohesion?

3 Comments

  • by Billy Goat on 21st June 2011

    There is nothing wrong in speaking in your mother tongue. Most people who have been brought speaking in vernucular express themselves best in the language as opposed to english or kiswahili.This explains why vernacular stations have more listeners than English and Kiswahili stations. Colonialists bastardised our mother tongues and those who could not speak in english were considered uncivilised or illiterate. The generation of parents who worked with the whites discouraged their children to learn or speak any other language apart from english.Now their children are in their 50's and have grand children who cannot communicate effectively in any language since their parents cannot speak in kiswahili or vernacular.(Jonathan Moi, Jimmy Kibaki, Fidel Odinga et al) That generation has a very rough time in village setting as its difficult to learn a language in later life and therefore cant hold an intelligent conversation in vernacular. They become socially closed out. As you know the current generation of the youth cant speak english and kiswahili effectively( They are so poor in english that they have to do remedial english at USIU and Uganda Universities). Its a dillemma we are in. South Africans have more than 10 national languages and they are proud to speak them everywhere. We should encourage speaking of all languages including learning each others'. Since alot ofconversations in offices are by phone does it mean that we cant converse in vernacular when speaking to friends, relatives and family members? Indians have more than 800 hundred different languages and many of them have school books written in them. Most Indian schools and colleges use local languages as medium of instruction. This has not stopped India from being a leading commercial,technologicaland democratic country in the world.

  • by Kenya: Should Use of Indigenous Language be Banned in Public Offices? | Sao-Paulo news on 22nd June 2011

    [...] Moreen asks readers if the use of indigenous language should be banned in public offices in Kenya: “Work place diversity is a complex issue when you consider issues of the gender, age, education, background, ethnic group, language adds another layer to the complexity. What has your experience of use of indigenous languages in the workplace been, positive or negative? Do you agree with the motion put forward by MP Elias Mbau to ban the use of indigenous language in the workplace? And would it have the intended effect of reducing discrimination and promoting social cohesion?” [...]

  • by Takayoshi on 23rd May 2012

    Park City Independent Online High School has foreign lgaaunge courses you can take for High School credit. They offer Spanish, French, German, Latin, and Chinese. They have AP classes in Spanish and french.Their foreign lgaaunge courses are web-based and interactive. They are really popular among the student body. PCI is fully accredited, student can take individual classes for high school credit or they can enroll full-time and graduate through Park City Independent.