The beauty of Africa
Africa is a continent whose beauty lies in its diverse cultures and people. Africa is home to millions and defines the identities of its inhabitants by way of cultural belief, religion, geography, and languages.
Here in Africa, there are thousands of cultures and in order to identify with a culture, one is usually expected to at least have a name that’s drawn from the culture. These names carry weight as they have powerful meanings that tell a lot about the person’s circumstances, events, and background
The existence of a common language enriches a culture and gives it extra validation. It encourages close relationship amongst its people and gives them a sense of belonging to their family and tribe at large.
Beginning of language endangerment in Africa
Africa had more tribes and languages before the advent of colonialism and westernization. Colonialism made certain tribes abandon partially or totally their way of life and languages and take on those of their colonialists. On the other hand, westernization made tribes gradually take on cultures and languages that were originally not theirs. That way, they are empowered to relate to other parts of the world and engage in international affairs.
The foregoing has had adverse effects with more and more African languages becoming either endangered, dead or extinct. A language is said to be endangered if it suffers
A language is said to be endangered if it suffers risk of becoming exchanged for a prestigious one. A language is said to be dead if there are no more native speakers while an extinct language is one that has not been documented and it’s original speakers have no knowledge about it.
However, certain African tribes have managed to keep their own language partially or totally alive with strong resistance to colonialism and westernization. This has been possible for some tribes but it remains extremely difficult because no tribe can successfully exist on its own without minimal or maximum interferences from outside.
The Maa language as case study
The Maa language is an Eastern Nilotic language spoken in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania by the Maasai people.
The Maasai are one of those tribes determined to protect their way of life and language although it was easy for them because they inhabited desert areas.
One major disadvantage of their resistance to westernisation and colonisation is that their means of communication and exchange revolved primarily around trade done within their tribe.
The endangerment of the Maa language
As stated earlier, it is not entirely possible for a tribe to exist without external interference. The endangerment of the Maa language began as a result of close contact with other tribes in East Africa through inter-tribal marriage as the Maasai men took wives from neighbouring tribes.
The former president of Tanzania, president Nyerere then encouraged the adoption of Swahili as an official language in a bid to unite the diverse groups in Tanzania. Besides Swahili, the use of English language was also adopted to enable healthy interaction with other countries on a global scale.
Despite the survival of the Maa language amidst the mass influx of English and Swahili education systems and economic plans to mention a few; the Maasai people and Maa language remain an under-represented minority.
With their language being endangered and their cultural integrity threatened, fewer groups of the Maasai continue to be nomadic in the region as they choose to settle in closely knit communities in their struggle to keep their language and culture alive.
How long this will last remains to be seen.