Page 85 - Discover Botswana 2022 ONLINE
P. 85

- A Linguistic Melting Pot
On arriving in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, you would be forgiven for believing that the people of Botswana speak only English and Setswana. These are the languages you will hear at the airport, on the streets, on Botswana radio stations and television. The billboards and newspapers are written in English, Setswana, or sometimes both. There are
many other tribal languages spoken regionally throughout the country, but one language is clearly dominant, and that is English.
English was introduced to Botswana by the British missionaries and explorers. To serve European economic and political interests, colonial education was established in English, since the pupils did not all speak the same home language. By independence in 1966, English had become the principal language of instruction in schools and at institutions of higher learning.
In post-colonial Africa, Botswana, like many African countries, has ironically retained English as an official language, used in law, commerce, education, science, technology and religion. English is viewed as a neutral means of communication, not belonging to any tribe, and therefore unifying a people. However, this assumed sense of neutrality is flawed, since English is not just a colonial language which represents the cultures and values of its natives, it comes packaged with class, and a sense of “educatedness.” It is perceived as a language of literacy and wealth, while local languages are seen as principally oral and much more typically used by less educated people.
This self deprecation is demonstrated in official government documents such as The Report of the National Commission on Education (RNPE) which points out that “The Setswana language is not viewed as an important factor in the contemporary economic and cultural life of the country, and it is not seen as a medium for higher education.” It is evident that Botswana’s political independence has not led to educational and linguistic independence, despite the fact that English is spoken by no more than 2.8% of Botswana’s population as a first language. 85

   83   84   85   86   87