Diescho’s Dictum – Towards an Afrikan National Language for Namibia (continued) [column]

The conversation about a language is and can never be an easy one as it calls for serious consideration about what is in the interests of the nation, not now but in the future. It is not about political point scoring. It is about true nation building. At the heart of this proposition is that recognition that we as Namibians, as much as we have survived with and in English, shall never compete effectively as products of Shakespeare English, no matter how hard we try and even proclaim.

We shall remain second rate English men and women who rely on borrowing and aping others who can only make us feel even more insecure and inferior when we try to be creative and imaginative in a language that we do not, and maybe, cannot interpret most of our (childhood) dreams. We will never become an English speaking country no matter how hard we try. The route to self-actualization is very long in the English language and it may be shorter if we develop an indigenous language that is closer to the realities of the majority of the citizens to develop organic relationships with one another better and will cause the ordinary citizens to share in the dreams of the leaderships in all strata, a reality that does not exist at the moment. This is so because the use of the English language as the official language, understandable though it is, creates a formidable and impenetrable barrier to access to information and knowledge to a great majority of Namibian citizens whose home languages are ostracized and in the process leave them disengaged in the environment of education, business and general planning.

It would be foolhardy and disrespectful to those who went before us in this country to pretend that we do not have what it takes to create the new world. The foundations of our nation are solid, thanks to the founders of our nation from all corners of the land and from all political persuasions. Towering above these pioneers is the Herero Chief’s Council – that body of senior Namibians with the wisdom and foresight to identify – as if to prepare him for the onerous role of Founding President – Tate Samuel Nujoma and who smuggled him out of the country to champion our struggle for liberation. The rest is conjecture!

One immediate implication is that the Otjiherero first language speakers will also lose something in the process of extending the use of the language to all the corners of the land. In order for the language to be taught in all schools in the country, the orthography (rules of spelling) will have to be brought into harmony with the rest of the language family. For instance, the current spellings of Otjinene changes to Oshinene in harmony with the pronunciation, ozombuze becomes odhombudhe, okuria ovikuria becomes okurya ovikurya okunua becomes okunwa mondji jorisa becomes mondji yoritha and mokora ovizeze becomes mokora ovidhedhe.

This NEW OSHIHERERO would be taught in all Namibian schools as a compulsory language for all Namibian school-going persons from very early so that in 15-20 years, most Namibians are fluent in at least three languages, their home language, Oshiherero and English. In the final analysis, the conversation about language ought to happen so that in the end, even if it is not Otjiherero, we can agree and determine the manner in which we wish to speak about ourselves in the new world wherein Namibia must have a space to be.

Language matters. Language narrates the road already travelled and illuminates the distance yet to be traversed. Language uplifts the spirit of oneness of the people. Language reposes memory. Language comforts. Language admonishes. Language moulds character and confers beauty. Language instructs in discipline. Language reminds of glory. Language recognizes dignity. Language bestows authority and power. Language navigates the way forward. Language allows a community of people to speak in and with confidence with and about themselves in a manner that gives them privacy and freedom to be – even to be different from others while they feel protected.

Language serves as the glue in building trust. Language constitutes a symphony of a people as they celebrate their past and sing in concert about their dreams and aspirations, including their fears. Namibia needs one of such a medium of communication for those times when we can speak as Namibians. The nation needs a uniting medium in the form of a language, a kind language, which the deaf will hear and the blind will see.

In the context of our history of race and tribal divisive relations, one common Afrikan language that is for all could just give us that leap into what we wish to become: a people at peace with ourselves, a people at peace with our neighbours and a people at peace with the rest of the world.

Source : New Era