Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ethiopia: English a working language

Ethiopia: English a working language

Ethiopia is a diverse country without an official national language, where Amharic has been the country’s federal working language and regional states have been left to make their own choices.

The formal use of local languages burgeoned with the implementation of federalism during the rule of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). However, considering the number of indigenous languages, accommodating every demand for federal language status is unrealistic and economically infeasible. Similarly, promoting some local languages to federal status would pose major challenges for non-speakers.

Furthermore, given the strong national competition, attempting to pick only one local language as Ethiopia’s official language would be so contentious it could endanger stability. For example, given its historical imposition on speakers of other languages, adopting Amharic would be objected to by those who suffered in the past and by those who aspire for official language status for their native tongue.

Yet, if done equitably, having an official language would be in the national interest and encourage unity. Given this, it is of great urgency to refine the policy on federal working languages, which could mean upgrading English.

New policy

In addition to being the working language of the Amhara region, Amharic plays the role of a common language, especially in Addis Ababa and other urban centers. It should also be noted that, compared to other indigenous languages, it has historically been a beneficiary of privileged policies and had the role of a national language under previous regimes. However, a new language policy has been ratified to include the Oromo, Tigrayan, Somali and Afar languages as federal working languages.

The timeliness of this policy cannot be overstated, as these languages are some of the most widely spoken ones in the country as well as the wider region. For example, Afaan Oromo has the greatest number of native speakers and also a considerable number in Kenya. Similarly, Tigrigna is also the lingua franca and de facto working language of Eritrea. Somali is spoken in both Somaliland and Djibouti, as is Afar in the latter.

However, this recognition means that the federal government will grant these languages the same official role as Amharic, which will be costly. Unfortunately, considering the sheer number of languages spoken in Ethiopia and other implementation challenges, adopting this policy could be problematic. On the contrary, not revoking the privileged status of Amharic and refraining from elevating other languages will not provide a lasting resolution.

Language dilemma

In a nutshell, the language dilemma is between granting more federal working status, with the respective economic challenges, or setting just one federal working language, and suffering unfavorable political repercussions.

Hence, one way to balance these interests would be to introduce one language to play the role of a federal working language. Under such a setup, communication between a particular region and the federal government would be facilitated by the use of this language, alongside the option of translating the message to the region’s working language.

Today, institutions and citizens in different countries use international languages in order to have better access to information and opportunities. As such, for strategic, historic or religious reasons, it is common for major global languages like English, or French, to assume de jure or de facto status of working language either solely or alongside other local languages.

English is used as a medium of communication in many international organizations, is taught as a compulsory language and continues to serve as a Medium of Instruction (MoI) in middle school, high school and higher-level educational institutions. This use of English as a MoI goes back to Emperor Haile Selassie I, and was replaced by Amharic in primary schools during the Derg regime.

It was only in 1994 that the Ethiopian Education and Training Policy mandated the use of ‘mother tongues’ in primary education, approving the use of English as the MoI in only secondary and higher education. Furthermore, given that higher education materials are readily available in English, applying English as the MoI at the different tiers of education would be pragmatic, so long as it does not contradict the pedagogical recommendation of using native languages during primary education.

Looking forward

Moreover, considering how the national literacy rate is increasing, and combining this with the fact that the 70 percent of Ethiopia’s population is under 30,  the general population is projected to double by 2050 and with the increasing national internet penetration, we can expect English to be ubiquitous in a few years’ time.

As such, making English a compulsory federal working language would be a forward-looking strategy as it is increasingly popular among the youth and is perceived to be neutral for all our ethnic groups, making it a federal working language could also counter the weakened sense of unity in the country.

In time, this approach will be significant in re-framing perceived inequalities among local languages. However, upgrading English would pose a challenge for those who lack a good command of it. But this can be mitigated by improved teaching and offering plenty of platforms where local languages are used instead.

Given the current volatile situation, it should be clear to all actors that the political and economic stakes are far more consequential than concerns over adopting English as our federal language. Hence, all stakeholders should consider this proposal in order to try and achieve a stable, envy-free and well-coordinated relationship between different regions and ethnic groups.

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Maxaysatada Siyaasadda Soomaalilaan. Ujeeddo badan.

October 20, 2020 | Published by: yaska Madaxdii dowladda waxaa isha ku haya dhalinyaro wax basaasa oo u dhigma xisaabiyaha idman oo aan libiqsanayn, waa sidii xukuumaddii kacaanka, madaxdu way la sii jeestaan marka ay xanjo afka gelinayaan. Inamadu waxba ma maqlaan, kursiga kama kacaan iyaga oo wax qooraansanaya mooyee, waxaa lagu xantaa ‘ yaryarka dalbaha leh.’ Odaygan magiciisu waa jab Libaax, xisbigii uu ka tirsanaa wuxuu kala daatay, markii lagaga adkaaday doorashadii ugu dambeysey ee uu xil qabtay. Meesha wuxuu u joogaa in uu hor fadhiyo xisbiga ay beeshiisa iyo isaga laftiisu taageero ku filan guusha madaxtooyada u waayeen doorashadii u dambeysey. Hore wuxuu u lug gooyey xisbigii uu kula shuraakoobey laandheerenimada iyo danahiisa shakhsi. Inkasta oo ay jiraan faq iyo balan hoose oo uu naftiisa la galay, hadana Odayga wataa, weli ma Indho darayn, wuxuuna si foojigan u il baadinayaa dhaqdhaqaaqiisa iyo dhuumashooyinkiisaba. Is aaminku wuxuu noqday sheeko iyo beri. Waxaa jirta warqad cinwaan looga dhigo “Madaxweynaha oo diyaarinaya isku shaandhayn golaha xukuummadda” waxay soo baxdaa dhowrkii biloodba mar, waxayna soo toosisaa asxaabta godka ee rajo dhigtay, waxayse ku dambaysaa in dhowr ma quuste sawirka lagu buuxsado dabadeedna la fasaxo. Ujeeddada loo kala wado Maxamed iyo Maxamuud, waa sidii loo kala irdhayn lahaa is ogosha labada bahood ee ay wadajirkooda wax ku noqon lahaayeen, mid waxaa loo qoondeeyey sidii loo bari lahaa badhaq nugeyl aan suurto gal ahayn, iyadoo loo soo marayo hogaanka Socdaalka iyo Sirdoonka qaranka, kan kalena waxay bishu hortiisa iman, marka hoggaamiyihiisu cid u codaysaba waayo. Dadweynuhu way ka daaleen maamul aan hal abuur lahayn, oo hoggaan ciidan leh, kolkii horeba waxaa lagu liqay arrin dhaqan iyo balan la fulinayey. Badheedhaha shacabku wuxuu soo afjari doonaa, taariikhda Soomaalilaan shantii sanaddood ee abid Askari xukumo. Ninkan Inanta dhulka ku haysta, ee marka guddi xaqiiqo raadin ah la soo diraba, guriga kale ee waddada soo galay tusaya, waa nin Diinta la isku sawiro iyo khiyaanada ku cirraystay, Shiikh Khaliil baa la dhacay Muslimnimada ka muuqata, kaaga daranne macangegnimo, shan nin waddada ugama kaco, waaba kii oo gardarada garab u helay. Waanu iska aamusi lahayn, haddii uu magaalada noogu samayn lahaa calaamad qudha oo badhtamaha Burco ama waddada Howdka ishaaraysa ama hadduu tobonaanka haldoor ee reer Togdheer uu si uun u weyneyn lahaa, inay halkani tahay magaaladoodii, si ay dhalinyarada hamigooda u koriso. Tolow miyaanay arkayn hebelada iyaga oo aan filayn, diyaarna ahayn, ka hoydey adduunka, iyaga oo aan cidina u sii digin. Gafanuhu himiladiisa ma ku gaadhayaa kala guridda Maxamed iyo Muuse? Ma ku guulaysan karaa isagoo raacaya qaaciidada macalinkiisu u soo dhiibey? Maya. Labadii Xisbi mucaarad oo midba kan kale ka xigsanayo xukuumadda, si murashaxoodu ugu xigo xilka madaxtinimadda ama aan xisbigoodu ugu soo bixi waayin Ururada haddii la furo. Waxba kama ay korodhsan, kal hore iyo farsamooyinkii Kulmiyihii hore. Mucaarad kulul ayaa guuleysta, la isma baryo, axsaanna ma jiro Siyaasadda. Waxaan amaanayaa siyaasiyiinta C Geeljire, Xirsi Cali iyo C Daamur. Waddada Oodweyne waxay ka hir geli weydey koox fahmo yar, munaafaqnimo badan, oo aaminsan, haddii la isku xidho Burco, Oodweyne iyo Hargeysa, in degmada Shiikh iyo inta sii xigta Berbera ay ka lumayso fursado dhaqaale, iyaga oo aqoon gaabni garan la’, in aan Berbera marnaba looga baqayn in ay kobocdo oo barwaaqaysato. Sidee ayay reer Soomaalilaan u aaminayaan wax wada lahaansho? haddii Muwaadinka ka yimaadda Sool ama Sanaag lagu kadeedo safarrada ay ku tegayaan Caasimadda dalka, haddii hay’adaha amnigu ay soo jactediyaan, joogsiga Bari ee magaalada Shiikhna cago jugleyn iyo baadhasho loogu daro, dad wax wada leh tacadigaasi miyuu qabtaa? Hadday wada eexo tahay, hadday dabin aasan tahay, Shil iyo wada eeso tahay, hadday wada aano tahay, Hadday agaraa dam tahay, addoonsigu diin u yahay, Hadday orgobbaysan tahay, iimaanku ka qoomanyahay, Hadday abnawaasad tahay, afduub iyo beeno tahay, Hadday wada aniga tahay, siyaasadi aabe ma leh. Waa mar kale, maansadii Awaal tiris iyo filasoof Hadraawi. . Bashiir Tarabbi Oogle, Caynaba, Soomaalilaan. LA WADAAG ASXAABTAADA