21 November 2017

Namibia: Lack of Access, Interest Threatens Minority Languages

THE lack of access, interest and teachers for indigenous languages such as Khoisan and Khoekhoegowab is threatening their sustainability, experts in the field say.

Speaking to Nampa on Friday, Valery Isaacks, a Khoekhoegowab (or Damara/Nama) translator at the Bible Society of Namibia, said the interest of Damara-speaking Namibians in the language is on the wane.

"Although the language is being taught up to university level, interest from young people to study the language is very low, which triggers the fear in many of us with a love for the language that it may die," she noted.

Isaacks attributed this development to the English education system, which is forcing parents to communicate with their children in English, while they (parents) communicate in their indigenous languages. Echoing similar sentiments, Dorothy Jonas of the !Ha Radio at Tsumkwe said if nothing is done to revive the San language, it may die too.

"We are trying our best to keep the language alive through broadcasting, but our broadcasting is limited to the Tsumkwe area only," explained Jonas, which she said is limiting their initiative to motivate San-speaking Namibians on the importance of their language.

Members of the San community are scattered all over Namibia, and most of them are speaking the languages of other tribes among whom they live, instead of their own. Director of education in Omaheke, Pecka Semba told Nampa that they are aware of the problem, but said a shortage of San language teachers is the root of the problem.

Acknowledging that the education policy dictates that a child should be taught in his or her mother tongue in primary school, Semba said there are about 200 San-speaking pupils in Otjinene schools, but there are no San-speaking teachers to implement this policy. These pupils are, therefore, taught in Otjiherero instead.

-Nampa

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