— [http://goo.gl/rsjeYh] The history and current role of English in Africa: making specific reference to at least two different countries as examples._______________________(Prompt).

:: RT: Essay http://goo.gl/rsjeYh on the history and current role of English in Africa, making specific reference to Zimbabwe and Liberia as examples | #English #Africa #Zimbabwe #Liberia #Essay #StudyNotes #UniversityStudies #GlobalEnglish

Leith (1996) identifies three kinds of English-speaking communities :
In the first type, exemplified by America and Australia, substantial settlement by first-language speakers of English displaced the precolonial population. In the second, typified by Nigeria, sparser colonial settlements maintained the precolonial population in subjection and allowed a proportion of them access to learning English as a second, or additional, language. There is yet a third type, exemplified by the Caribbean islands of Barbados and Jamaica. Here a precolonial population was replaced by a new labour from elsewhere, principally West Africa. ... The long-term effect of the slave trade on the development of the English language is immense. It gave rise not only to black English in the United States and the Caribbean, which has been an important influence on the speech of young English speakers worldwide, but it also provided the extraordinary context of language contact which led to the formation of English pidgins and creoles. (Leith, 1996, pp. 181–2, 206)

Although this short paper focuses on Zimbabwe and Liberia, the claims examplified here would be relevant to other African countries that face identical linguistic problems.

*The term America is used in this paper to mean the United States of America.

Discussing the history and current role of English in Africa; Global English, Benjamin Madeira, PDF ::

Discussing the history and current role of English in Africa, PDF - Official Website - BenjaminMadeira

Discussing the history and current role of English in Africa ::

English has been utilized to an ever-increasing degree since the 1930s (Kachru 180) and today it carries the status of being the largest language in the world due to “its unrivalled position as a means of international communication” (Svartvik and Leech 1, 5). Most scholars agree that it is used by at least 750 million people spread on all continents. However, there exist also estimates putting that figure closer to 1 billion (Graddol et al. 11). Over 320 million people of all who use English in all contexts, speak it as their native language, or 400 million if pidgins and creoles are categorized as first language (Crystal 67). The reasons for the diffusion of English on African soil are complex. Furthermore, the current status of English in modern Africa differ from context to context. Thus, when delineating its historical and current role in Africa, I am not pursuing the complicated story of the English penetration of Africa but rather delineating in the background the beginning of the English language in Africa and its current role in Southern and West African English.

Former British colonies and US settlements ::

It is apparent that African countries are characterized by their multilingualism. There exist many indigenous languages throughout the African continent. However, this phenomenon appears mostly in spoken form since the written word is generally expressed using the dominant languages, in this case, African English. ‘African English’ can either refer to all forms of English, including pidgins and creoles, used in West Africa since the seventeenth century or it may also refer to the forms of English spoken and written by educated black Africans in former British colonies and US settlements, which dates from the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth century.

Colonizers or newcomers ::

Undoubtedly, the English language is stained with slaves’ blood and disseminated on oppressed black shoulders on African soil. The arrival of Europeans, first as transatlantic slave traders and later as colonizers, missionaries and explorers paved the way to the introduction of the English language to Africa (Svartvik and Leech 110-111; McDonald Beckles 34-43, 48, 52, 54). As colonizers or newcomers settled in different regions of the vast African continent, the English language was imposed on speakers of different indigenous languages. It is argued that as a consequence, English is often stigmatized as the language of imperialism or oppression because of its association with colonialism (Phillipson 1992, 160-161). Nevertheless, despite the departure of Europeans after the various African countries attained independence, the English language remained in the continent and is currently used both as a first-language and as an additional-language (Dahl, lesson 4). In general, English is employed in many African countries either in all spheres of public life or in specific domains, such as a medium of instruction, from primary school up to higher education, or in law and administration, the media and entertainment.

Liberia ::

The oldest republic in Africa, Liberia has historical ties to the US (Olukoju 8). It was established as an outpost of repatriation of freed US slaves in 1822 by American missionaries (Olukoju 10-11). Thus, English is not considered to be a colonial language (Crystal 52). It is Liberia’s official language although it is only used by approximately twenty percent of its population (Breitborde 15-16). Olukoju posits that "Liberia has as many as twenty discrete [not officially recognized] indigenous languages in use" (4) which have domesticated the English language resulting in pidgin and creole (Crystal 11). The outcome of this domestication is very similar to that of the African American Vernacular English (Crystal 52). Despite the coup d’etat in 1980 overthrowing the old governmental dominance, the English language as spoken and written by the well-educated elite continued to hold its prestigious position. Today, English functions as the language of government (Liberia, art. 41), law, business and commerce, education and mass media.

Rhodesia ::

Southern Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe presents a sociolinguistic complexity. Rhodesia –which morphed into Zambia and Zimbabwe– was a former British crown colony, named after a visionary financier and empire builder, namely Cecil Rhodes (Innes 72; McArthur 19), a ‘genuinely first-rate man,’ ‘wholly civilized,’ ‘luckily born an Englishman’ as he labeled himself (Rhodes 293; Miall 6). The vast majority of Zimbabwe’s population learns first an indigenous language as their mother tongue and then English as a second language (Nziramasanga 165-167). One could place Zimbabwe in the Outer circle modeled by Braj Kachru (179-182) since English competes alongside other 15 officially recognized languages. In fact, when Kachru published his interlanguage theory in 1986 he placed Zimbabwe in the Expanding circle (179). However, one can argue that modern Zimbabwe belongs to the Outer circle, where the English language of the Inner and the Outer Circle meet in one country (Svartvik and Leech 2, 4, 116; Dahl, lesson 1; Crystal 60-71).

Zimbabwe ::

In Zimbabwe, English has been the main language and a minority language ever since the first British settled in Southern Rhodesia in 1890. In contrast, in today’s Zimbabwe there are fourteen indigenous languages officially recognized by the government competing alongside sign language, on one hand (Nziramasanga 159-160) and the English language on the other (Zimbabwe Constitution 17, 31). This official recognition, however, does not entail that the indigenous languages carry the same status as the ex-colonial language. English still retains a dominant position as it is the most commonly used language in government, education and commerce (McArthur 20).

Conclusion ::

The continued use of English in various African countries is largely seen by the dominant elite as an advantage in terms of the economic, social and political advantages it brings. Nevertheless, indigenous people are demanding that the promoters of the ex-colonial language embrace their various languages that carries their identity or otherwise these could erode. For Phillipson, the English language has been, and continues to be, propelled by the deliberate manipulation of economic, political, intellectual and social forces in order to “legitimate, effectuate and reproduce an unequal division of power and resources ... between groups which are defined on the basis of language” (Phillipson, 1992, 47) and create a culture of what Phillipson calls, linguistic imperialism (Dahl, lesson 11). Nziramasanga agrees by stating that "the colonial master may have left the country ... but continues to dominate Zimbabweans through the English language" (167).


• [1] Breitborde, Lawrence B. ‎"The persistence of English in Liberia: sociolinguistic factors." World Englishes, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 15-23, 1988. Pergamon Press Publications. Print.

• [2] Crystal, David. English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (1997) 2003. Print.

• [3] Dahl, Anne. "Lesson 1: Global English." ENG6023 Course Website, Spring 2015. Take Credit, Trondheim: NTNU. Web. Retrieved on January 2015 from https://goo.gl/xWK7X7

______. "Lesson 4: English goes international." ENG6023 Course Website, Spring 2015. Take Credit, Trondheim: NTNU. Web. Retrieved on February 2015 from https://goo.gl/WAfY0M

______. "Lesson 10: Linguistic Imperialism?" ENG6023 Course Website, Spring 2015. Take Credit, Trondheim: NTNU. Web. Retrieved on March 2015 from https://goo.gl/OZiNFG

• [4] “Education Act,” Parliament of Zimbabwe, Acts 5/1987 (amended in 1990), Chapter 25. Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/EuyIJo

• [5] Graddol, David. The Future of English. London: The British Council. 1997(2000). Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/qSBulQ

• [6] Innes, C. Lyn. The Cambridge Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print. ISBN: 978-0-521-83340-0

• [7] Kachru, Braj B. "World Englishes and Applied Linguistics." World Englishes, 1991, pp. 177-205. Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/fM8f4k

• [8] Leith, Dick. English – colonial to postcolonial. In D. Graddol, D. Leith and J. Swann (eds) English: history, diversity and change. 1996 London: Routledge. Print.

• [9] “Liberia, Constitution of the Republic of.” National Legislative Bodies. 1986. Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/EIUr5U

• [10] McArthur, Tom (ed.). The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1992. Print.

• [11] McDonald Beckles, Hilary. “Slave Voyages: The Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans.” University of the West Indies (UWI). (n/d). Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/ua0stC

• [12] Miall, Antony, and David Milsted. The Xenophobe’s Guide to The English. London: Ravette Books. 2008. Print and EPUB Edition. ISBN: 9781906042295 • [13] Nziramasanga, Caiphas T. et al. Zimbabwe Government. ‘Report: Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training’. Government Printers, Harare. 1999. Print and Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/yFp2kJ

• [14] Olukoju, Ayodeji. Culture and Customs of Liberia. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print. ISBN 0–313–33291–6

• [15] Phillipson, Robert. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1992. Print.

• [16] Phillipson, Robert. “Linguistic imperialism: African perspectives”. 1996. ELT Journal 50(2), 160-167. Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from

• [17] Rhodes, Cecil (1853-1902) (ed. Basil Williams). Makers of the Nineteenth Century. New York, H. Holt & Company, 1921. Print and Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from https://goo.gl/V9agqC

• [18] Svartvik, Jan and Geoffrey Leech. English: One tongue, many voices. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire [England: Palgrave Macmillan], 2006. Print. ISBN-13:978–1–4039–1829–1

• [19] Zimbabwe Constitution, The New. “Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment” (No. 20) Act, signed by President Mugabe at State House on the morning of Wednesday 22nd May 2013. Print and Web. Retrieved on June 2015 from http://goo.gl/oN3je0


Africa is the continent with the highest percentage of children with AIDS, orphans, forced to work nine hours a day for seven days a week in prostitution or suffering from various types of slavery ::

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Great Zimbabwe - a ruined city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe. When first discovered by Europeans, the ruins caused great controversy in the archaeological world which refused to believe it was construction by African black people. Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government ::

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This film provides a glimpse into the daily struggles and triumphs of the Liberian people, following decades of civil war, a complete breakdown of basic services, infrastructure and political turmoil ::

Fuente: Youtube, Servicios de Internet | Source: Youtube, Video hosting service

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