10/15/2008

Rwanda bids adieu to French language


In the news.scotsman.com:

RWANDA, after blaming France for the 1994 genocide, has decided that French is off the agenda and that all education will be in English.
The wholesale adoption of English is the latest deliberate kick in the teeth to France, following such decisions as that by Paul Kagame, the president, to make Rwanda adopt cricket as the national sport.

For many decades, Rwanda was one of nearly 30 Francophone countries where the language of business, power and civilisation was French. The elite saw their ties to Paris as an essential link to the civilised world. Top bureaucrats and scientists graduated from France's top universities and often served terms as functionaries in the French government. All that began to change after the 1994 100-day genocide, when Rwanda's then ruling Hutu majority massacred some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Mr Kagame, who headed the Tutsi-dominated Rwandese Patriotic Front guerrilla army which invaded to end the genocide, accused France of collaboration with the Hutu killers.

Rwanda is also adopting English because it has applied to join the Commonwealth and recently joined the five-member English-speaking East African Community.

The French embassy has closed, as have the French international school and cultural centre, and the offices of French companies in Kigali, the capital, despite efforts by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, to mend relations.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

With English's dominance as a global language and Spanish's slightly larger number of native speakers and smaller but still large geographic extent, an effort to introduce a standard list of common Spanish words into English usage and another standard list of common English words into Spanish (via entertainment programing, news and educational efforts) might be worth considering. The familiar key words could make learning each other's language faster and result in a merging of the two - maybe within a couple of generations, though English would likely be the larger source of content for the new language. The number of native speakers of the combined language would set it at top spot and if the merger was smooth enough for non-native English speakers to keep pace, there would be a single planetary language much faster than if English were to continue to increase in influence by itself.

Something similar has begun with the concept of "Globish" where a smaller, standardized list of simple English words is taught to people of various languages as sort of an "English with training wheels". It lets non-native speakers from different nations begin using English to communicate in business and other endeavors. But unlike Globish, introducing cross linguistic words would assist anyone in each language who tries to learn the other, especially by exposure to TV and other cultural content.

Unfrench said...

Your idea would make sense if you could combine two languages just by merging their vocabularies. Yet, as it is, pronunciations and grammars would have to be merged too, and I, for one, would be stumped as to how to do it in a way that would be satisfactory to most Spanish and English speakers.
Concerted attempts to create a new global language to rival English have all failed. Neither Esperanto nor Nerrière's Globish will ever spread beyond small circles of aficionados. No broad enough consensus can form behind any such creation for making it the global language and dedicating appropriate resources to its teaching on a global scale. Human languages have their own way of merging, appearing, disappearing, evolving, spreading and dying. A language doesn't spread because it is easy to learn but because it is useful to learn. If it is useful, it is used, and it is through use that a language is learned. Because English is increasingly useful or needed, more and more people use it around the globe, no matter how reluctant or uneasy learners they might be. It is estimated that up to 1.5 billions may have some command of English globally. That would mean up to a quarter of the world's population. No matter what the exact figures are, there does not seem to be a point in trying to create a language that is better suited as a global lingua franca than is English when English is already accepted everywhere as just that language. English is not spoken everywhere by everybody, but it is the language that you need if you're going to go global. In this sense, it already is THE global language, and even if one may wish it were easier to learn, there is a global consensus for English right now, one that is evidenced by the fact that English is taught as the foreign or second language of choice in secondary education in virtually every country on earth, even in those nations where English proficiency is rare among ordinary people. Now, it is true that most Spanish speakers in South America have very little English, but this has a lot to do with the fact that Latin America is a region whose societies have yet to fully go global, which in turn is because they or their leaders do not wish them to. My point is that in most countries there is no point for someone to learn English unless they really want to partake in global society. When Latin America wants to be a global player, its people will start learning and using English. English is much more difficult to learn for the Chinese than for South Americans, yet a great many Chinese are studying it right now. They are driven by ambitions that seem to be lacking in Latin America right now. How long that region will be allowed to stay out of it is anybody's guess. Whatever the case, it is safe to say that there is universal consensus for regarding English as the global language, but there is still no worldwide consensus for accepting globalization itself, and this fact might emerge as the last barrier to hold off the spread of English proficiency to the whole of mankind.