Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 15 (2018)

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Attenuate English, for the sake of the African poor - by Jim Harries

Jim Harries - Alliance for Vulnerable Mission;


Using examples such as "love," "health," "democracy," "witches," and "miracles," the author shows the disastrous results of speaking "English" out of context, that is, trying to use English as the language of education and power in the vastly different cultural contexts of Africa. Dominant use of English in Africa is shown to be proscribing the development of a community of contextually relevant scholars in Africa, especially in the area of theology. The weaknesses of Western people's efforts at stretching their language uses inter-culturally are identified. A pincer mechanism squeezes out serious efforts at implementation of even those cultural differences that are recognised. Ways in which African people's writing in English is made captive to gross inaccuracy are illustrated. All the above point to an immorality inherent in subsidy of the use of Western languages amongst non-native speakers, especially if English is to be used to displace indigenous languages in governance, church, education, and other formal functions. A few suggestions are made as to what a counterfactual to English might look like.