Autor: Jim Harries
Category: Asociación, Desarrollo del Liderazgo, Medios y Comunicación
That many African people (and those from the global ‘south’ in general) love to use European languages should not surprise us in the slightest. Many do not see the problems with (say) using English in their countries, but rather many advantages that it generates through international links. Many have spent years and years and a lot of money learning those languages. But let us not forget the problems inherent in such a situation that was forced onto the continent.
Those Southerners who become aware of the under-the-surface ‘intercultural issues’ related to language use are often those who have lived over long periods vulnerably exposed to Western cultures. Then they realise how European languages like English work hand in glove with the way of life of the people in the West. Then they realise that the reason English ‘works for’ its native speakers, is because it is ‘hand in glove’ with their way of life, and then they realise that for a language to be able to work for a people it must be ‘hand in glove’ with their way of life. This English in Africa is definitely not, which is why it often ‘works’ as a ‘conduit’ bringing things from the West, while gradually eroding indigenous sensibilities. That is; it is dependence generating.
A renowned writer who has realised this is the Kenyan Kikuyu Ngugi wa Thiong’o – who has in recent decades refused to write in English – I think for very good reasons.
We must perceive that people live at depth, as well as at the ‘surface’. There are massive deep differences between the operations of African (for example) as against Western-European societies. In order to make sense of the way of life of a people, language must function in a way that is cognisant of such differences / depths. If they are ignored in discourse, unfortunately the differences do not go away … rather they may cause disasters in the long term …
Even if discussions on missiology occur in other languages, it is hard to see how they will carry much ‘weight’. Yet the church leaders of the South will be frustrated to see their agendas over-ridden by dominant native-English speaking people. Let’s not under-estimate that frustration! If the English used is pleasing to many Westerners, it is likely to grate with those in parts of the South. This will not be doing justice to what should be a global movement.
An exception could be in the area of ‘money’. The 1974 conference stated that “socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty”. This seems to give ‘licence’ for social and humanitarian projects in the poor world to be considered a type of ‘mission work’ or ‘evangelism’. This particular arrangement is conducive to agreement by many as 1. the West gets to relieve its conscience, spend their aid money and try out their ideas 2. the ‘South’ gets resources and all kinds of projects. But it would be sad if such an agenda gets some kind of singular acceptability, because spiritual issues are more complex. It would be sad for ‘mission’ to be reduced to being ‘exchanges of money’.
I believe that some weaknesses in the status quo are increasingly being seen. But also, in the meantime, degrees of dependency of the South on the North have grown in leaps and bounds since 1974. Can this issue be addressed squarely, or will people pass it over and continue to see the church in the South as, in effect, an arm of the generous West, a means to pass on surplus material from the West to the rest, and a place for expansion of Western languages and market agendas? How can the West ‘hear’ the South expressing themselves in their own terms?
 Alexander, Neville, 1999. ’English Unassailable but Unattainable: the dilemma of language policy in South African Education.’ Paper presented at the Biennial Conference of the International Federation for the Teaching of English (University of Warwick, England, UK, July 7-10, 1999). http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED444151 (accessed 28.08.08)
 I find Dewi Hughes paper ‘Peace to the Nations’, an ‘advance paper’ for the Lausanne conference to be intriguing in relation to this issue. He states in relation to the predominant use of European languages in Africa that “The possibility of building a state on the basis of mutual respect between ethne does not seem to have been considered” (p5). See http://conversation.lausanne.org/conversations/detail/10339#article_page_1
 Thiong’o, Ngugi wa, 1981. Decolonising the Mind: the politics of language in African literature. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers Ltd.