The Choice of Language for African Creative Writers

Edadi Ilem Ukam


Language issue has been considered as a major problem to Africa. The continent has so many distinct languages as well as distinct ethnic groups. It is the introduction of the colonial languages that enable Africans to communicate with each other intelligibly: otherwise, Africa has no one central language. Among the colonial languages are English, French, Arabic and Portuguese which today serve as lingua franca in the mix of multiple African languages. Based on that, there is a serious argument among African critics about which language(s) would be authentic in writing African literature: colonial languages which serve as lingua franca, or the native indigenous languages. While some postcolonial African creative writers like Ngugi have argued for the authenticity and a return in writing in indigenous African languages, avoiding imperialism and subjugation of the colonisers, others like Achebe are in the opinion that the issue of language should not be the main reason in defining African literature: any languagecan be adopted to portray the lifestyles and peculiarities of Africans. The paper is therefore, designed to address the language debate among African creative writers. It concludes that although it is authentic to write in one’s native language so as to meet the target audience, yet many Africans receive their higher education in one of the colonial and/or European languages; and as such, majority do not know how to write in their native languages. Rather, they write in the imposed colonial languages in order tomeet a wider audience. Not until one or two major African languages are standardised, taught in schools, acquired by more than 80 per cent of Africans and used as common languages, the colonial languages would forever continue to have a greater influence in writing African literature. The paper recommendes that Africans should have one or two major African languages standardised, serving as common languages; also African literature should be written in both colonialand African languages in order to avoid the language debate by creative African writers. 

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English Linguistics Research
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