Bilingualism-Biculturalism and the Utilization of African Languages for the Development of African Nations

Adegbite, Wale (2004)

Book chapter

The slow rate of development of African nations vis-a-vis their counterparts all over the world has been a major concern throughout the 21st c. As we enter the century, it behoves African scholars and intellectuals and other non-Africans who have some goodwill for Africa to rise up and challenge this ugly situation. This paper argues that the lack of development of African nations can be mainly linked to the lack of recognition and underutilization of African languages and cultures. It has consistently escaped the attention of African policy-makers planners that language has the greatest potentials and capacity to enhance the development of human beings, as individuals or societies, hence their consistent neglect and silence about language when discussing matters of development. Using Nigeria as a point of reference, the study observes the patterns of social and language policies in Africa. It then examines the basis of government policies in order to identify the sources of socio-linguistic problems militating against national development. Lastly, it suggests the application of a bilingual-bicultural policy towards tackling the problems facing the nations of Africa. The key principles of bilingualism-biculturalism, viz (i) the conception of societal bilingualism-biculturalism, (ii) appropriate integration of tradition and modernity, and (iii) adequate utilization of mother-tongue and second language resources are explained and related to three key areas of national development -- politics, language choice and development, and education. The paper concludes by suggesting that new comprehensive language policies be formulated in African nations which will incorporate all features pertaining to the principles of bilingualism-biculturalism stated above.