Mall Talk: Local and foreign languages are important

18 April 2019
Author   Ismael K and Eliakim NS
The Windhoek Observer sent its intern reporters to Grove Mall in Windhoek to conduct an interview on the importance of preserving/learning local and foreign languages.  Most people we interviewed understood the high value of language as not only a form of communication, but as a reflection of who a person is at their core.
Human beings use language to communicate with others, to establish relationships and a sense of self, and to express who we are; it is an integral part of being alive and a part of the world.
Some with whom we talked felt that the use of local languages seems to be diminishing as more ‘foreign’ languages are being taught in Namibian schools.  Others did not seem to realize that English is the official language of the country and they still see it as a foreign language.
Still there were others who use Afrikaans bi-lingual with the tongue of their grandmothers, and they see German as a foreign language.  Most who speak ethnic mother tongues in their homes see Afrikaans as the language of apartheid and racism.  Others bemoan the fact that English is so dominant that many home languages are neglected.  According to a few of the people we spoke with, there is an imbalance in the usage of traditionally local languages in general.
Above all, the subject of language evokes passion and emotions.  People feel deeply about the language with which they identify and resist any action to denigrate or downplay it. 
Arlen Joseph believes that it is better to learn local and foreign languages. “Languages regardless local or foreign, are means for humans to communicate with each other. People of the similar community or tribe used to live in clusters and spoke the same language”. If they were to travel out of their boundary for trade and encounter another tribes, knowing only their own language does not serve them well.
“This is one reason why people should learn other languages. On the question of preserving local languages, I believe the successful preservation of local language is very much dependent on the number of users and their wish to have their language in books, tv shows, movies, advertisements and everyday life.  Use of a language keeps it alive. 
Gian Carlo and Marian said that, preserving and learning local/foreign languages should be a must, Languages are the spoken reflection of a certain culture. “Even though I am Afrikaans speaking as my mother tongue, I have learned other languages such as Oshiwambo and Damara, and this has helped me communicate with different people.  I think learning other languages is a unique opportunity to delve into other cultures and develop further feelings for it,” they added.
Victoria Mathew stated that learning other languages is important. “I learned English, so even though today my pronunciation and choice of words are clearly more in English, I have fonder feelings towards my home language of Afrikaans. So yes it's definitely important to learn another language besides a local one; it is a good way to pick up aspects of a new culture and exchange ideas.”
Meisie Uiras, was neutral on the matter.  If learning another language is making your living easier than learn it. “Learning and gaining knowledge in other languages is always a mark of wisdom”.
Justin, Janre and Liaminy said learning a language other than your own could be of great advantage. “I believe that learning various languages is only the best way of communication. If you’re proficient in your mother tongue then you can learn any other language. There are plenty of reasons to learn second language in our daily life. The major reasons to learn new languages are, for instance if you are a student and considers studying abroad than you will be definitely required to learn that language.
“Also, learning another language is a pathway to dwell or to learn about other people’s cultures and ideas and this will allow the channel of communication to flow among people of different cultures or backgrounds. Preserving starts from home if you don’t promote or speak your home language than this might make it hard to preserve it.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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