Pat Hall's questions for Pam McLean open up a whole range of issues
regarding the intersection of sociolinguistics, and language and
education policies with ICT policy that are pertinent to the discussion
but probably need to be explored in depth elsewhere. I'll let Pam reply
on the particular case of Yoruba with which she is more familar than I,
but the general situation in African educational systems has been to
favor the official languages inherited from colonization even though
these are no one's maternal languages. Many countries where English is
used have policies for some African language instruction at lower grades
shifting to English later, though I've heard that application is uneven
at best, while the general rule where French is the official language
has long been a French-only (from day one) approach. Although a few
people manage to excel under (or despite?) these type of systems, many
others end up with limited skills in their maternal language (e.g.,
can't write it, don't have as wide a range of expression as they might)
and limited skills in the official language (in which, at least in the
typical Francophone model, learning is by rote).

One wonders if this isn't an underappreciated dimension to the
development struggles of the continent: the means haven't been there or
allocated to developing and applying effective bilingual education,
hence the majority of school leavers don't end up with an optimal set of
language skills and all that would go with that.

On the ICT side, one of the reasons for pushing for multilingual
capacities on computer systems and African language content on Internet
for the continent, is to open up the possibility for use of and
expression in - and indeed learning of/in - the mother tongues and
vehicular languages, whatever does or doesn't happen in the educational
systems (regarding the latter, there are some hopeful developments in
some places like in Mali). But because even literate people may not be
multiliterate, and also because of the importance of oral tradition,
innovation - regarding audio especially, as many of us are saying -
would seem to be an essential part of the strategy ... As well as a way
to avoid having someone translate Yoruba to English to write in a
letter/e-mail and perhaps someone else translate English to Yoruba on
the receiving end.

Don Osborn

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