Describe the impact of language policy and planning on Namibia.

Do you believe that it has been a success or a failure? Please explain.
Nick Aston

The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that ³the limits of my language mean the limits of my world´. It is therefore the aim of this paper to argue that the use of English as Namibia¶s national language has created both opportunities and challenges for its citizens. Whilst universal languages such as English can create opportunities for economic growth, for example, these opportunities are limited by an individual¶s proficiency in these languages. One such challenge can be seen in the difficulties in defining µlanguage policy¶ and µlanguage planning¶. Cooper¶s view of language planning as ³deliberate efforts to influence the behaviour of others´ (1989: 45) for example does not tell us who makes these attempts, nor who the µothers¶ are. Fishman (1979: 11) meanwhile suggests a Marxist view of those in power making structured, organised decisions to solve communication problems, with the strategies then implemented and enforced upon the country. In Namibia, SWAPO¶s decision to choose English as the national language of Namibia can be thought of as one which has created a number of problems for the country. As Maho (1998: 185) discusses, SWAPO aimed to use a language which was not that of its colonisers, namely Germany and South Africa. In gaining independence for Namibia, SWAPO desired to create an identity for both Namibia as a country and for its citizens. Since English had not been enforced upon Namibia, SWAPO chose this language as Namibia¶s national language. One can suggest that SWAPO chose English as a means to enable Namibia¶s cultural groups to communicate with one another. As Namibia has a number of indigenous tribes and consequentially a wide variety of languages, one could say that ³English may have a role in providing a neutral means of communication between its different ethnic groups as it does, for example in India´ (Jenkins, 2003: 35). Yet at the same time, the Ministry of Education and

Describe the impact of language policy and planning on Namibia. Do you believe that it has been a success or a failure? Please explain.
Nick Aston

Culture (1993: 63) acknowledges that English in Namibia is not yet a lingua franca. As English is neither a first or second language for many Namibians, and is therefore a foreign language, one could ask: to what extent did SWAPO consider this problem in establishing its language policy? Furthermore, should English language teaching in schools be considered as a foreign language, rather than the official language of instruction? Whatever the extent of the government¶s planning, LPP has become one of Namibia¶s greatest challenges. In 2010, almost half of Namibia¶s 33,570 full-time Grade 10 students failed to progress to the next grade (http://www.namibian.com.na/news-articles/national/fullstory/archive/2011/january/article/nantu-calls-for-grade-10-supplementary-exam). Whilst there are disagreements as to the reasons for these results, it could be suggested that if a teacher¶s proficiency in English is low, how can we expect our students to achieve a high proficiency in English? If the Namibian government is to create ³unfettered capitalism´ (Kibbee 2003: 47) for its citizens through the utilization of a global language, it will need firstly to address the qualifications and training of teachers. In recognising Namibia¶s indigenous languages, such as Oshiwambo, as official languages, the government has aimed to create both a national identity for all, whilst respecting the individual heritage and cultures that form part of the country¶s history. Where LPP has at best struggled, and at worst failed, however, appears to be in creating higher job prospects for its citizens. We may be living in a ³global village´ (McLuhan, 1967: 63), yet if Namibians are unable to communicate in the national language effectively, how does this improve job prospects and wealth creation in a country with a high unemployment rate? (http://www.indexmundi.com/namibia/unemployment_rate.html) It is this author¶s belief therefore

Describe the impact of language policy and planning on Namibia. Do you believe that it has been a success or a failure? Please explain.
Nick Aston

that the Namibian government prioritised a non-colonial identity for the country and its citizens, rather than the proper implementation and consideration of a language policy.

REFERENCES: Cooper, R. L. (1989). Language Planning and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fishman, J. (1979). Bilingual education, language planning and English. English Worldwide Jenkins, J. (2003). World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students. London: Routledge Ministry of Education and Culture Namibia (1993). Toward Education For All: A Development Brief for Education, Culture and Training. Windhoek: Macmillan Education Namibia Kibbee (in Maurais and Morris, eds) (2003). Languages in a Globalising World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Maho, J. F. (1998). Few People, Many Tongues: The Languages of Namibia. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers McLuhan, M. and Fiore (1967). The Medium is the Message http://thinkexist.com/quotations/language/

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