The English language tragedy


IT is quite obvious that after reading this article many will ask why The Patriot didn’t publish it in Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Venda, Nambya, Kalanga, Ndau or any of our country’s indigenous languages.
However, it was necessary to show the tragedy we face as a Nation in pursuing and ‘trying to master’ a language that was never ours in the first place, while unwittingly ignoring our languages at our own peril.
Parents and guardians must take heed.
Nowadays, in order to ‘catch them young’ in an effort to Anglicise, parents and guardians take pride in enrolling their children at pre-schools, primary and secondary schools that do not just teach English, but the English culture too.
The children have to exclusively speak in English and are encouraged to do so even at home.
Parents, guardians and ‘handy people’ (so-called ‘nannies’ and ‘boys’ in Rhodesia) are supposed to speak to the children in English.
Visitors, never mind who they are and where they are from, must also speak to the children in English.
And of course relatives and friends; they have to speak in English too.
But what is so special about this language and how do we identify with it as black people?
Could it be Africans, and Zimbabweans in particular, have drowned in the Queen’s language such that they now render their own languages archaic and useless?
Before white intruders came, were Madzimbahwe a ‘languageless’ people?
Remember the whiteman officially colonised Zimbabwe on September 12 1890 and the country gained independence on April 18 1980.
The 90 years of colonisation were therefore not just brutal, but costly to the black man.
No doubt, black people were brainwashed and Christianity played an influential role.
The mission schools dotted around the country and former mission stations like Inyati and Chishawasha come to mind.
Remember when Sekuru Kaguvi and Mbuya Nehanda were executed on April 27 1898 in the then Salisbury District (Harare)?
Although Mbuya Nehanda refused to be baptised, Sekuru Kaguvi succumbed and was christened ‘Dismas’ (the good thief) by Roman Catholic priest Father Richartz, moments before he was hanged.
So yes, the whiteman, just before committing murder, stripped Sekuru Kaguvi of his identity, all in the name of Christianity.
He died with an English name – Dismas.
In the village, there was no more ‘Goremusandu’, ‘Tongoona’, ‘Rungano’ and ‘Sarudzayi’ because they had been converted, baptised and christened ‘Daniel’, ‘Job’, ‘Mark’ and Ruth respectively.
Fast forward to 2016, we now have the ‘Latishas’, ‘Xpoferens’, ‘Kayles’ ‘Latoyas’ ‘Baileys’ ‘Rihannas’ and ‘Drakes’, among others.
Besides being in English and the ‘swag’ as they say, what do these names mean?
Could it be wrong to say 36 years after independence, many Zimbabweans have been colonised to the bone as they try in vain to become ‘little British people’.
Be it in homes, schools, churches, workplaces as well as gatherings like weddings and funerals, English is the ‘in-thing’.
The pastor from Chitungwiza, preaching to an all-black congregation does so in English.
The Shona or Ndebele teacher is lecturing to pupils in English.
In urban areas, funerals have been transformed into ‘classy fashion shows’ that must be complemented by ‘jawbreakers’.
Never mind the folks from kumusha/ekhaya who won’t understand what is being said.
Yes, these are some of the so-called born-frees who speak through the nose?
The same born-frees, with the support of their parents/guardians, dropped indigenous languages in high school because ‘they are not necessary’ in future.
The situation is even worse for some Zimbos in the Diaspora.
The parents, although fluent in Shona or Ndebele, have children who cannot even say a word in Shona, Ndebele or any other indigenous language from Zimbabwe.
Is this not a tragedy when we have a situation whereby Zimbabweans are trying to become more British than the British?
Will these children not become nonentities of their identities, especially when they come back home?
At the end of the day, are parents not grooming the likes of Lucifer in Charles Mungoshi’s Waiting for the Rain?
Yes, children who will end up wishing they were never born black and in Africa, children who adore everything white and when given the opportunity to study overseas, vow never to return to Africa, to the village in particular, because it is a ‘dark continent’.
Perhaps an overhaul of our education curriculum was long overdue.
But someone once said, as long as we are not using our indigenous languages, we are doomed.
A look at some developed countries is essential.
China, Japan, Germany, Britain, US, India and Korea, among others, use their indigenous languages to their advantage and English might as well be said to be just another language.
However, Zimbabwe presents an awkward situation.
It is said about 80 percent of the people in the country speak Shona and out of the 16 official languages in the country, in most cases, in order to be recognised at a tertiary institution, one needs a pass in English, especially at ‘O’-Level.
Indigenous languages are simply that – indigenous, yet it takes a few to realise that without our languages we are a lost generation.
To value English more than our very own languages is tantamount to treason because there are many white people who speak Shona or Ndebele, but they will never castigate their own language.
Early missionaries like Robert Moffat were fluent in Zulu.
Hunter Frederick Selous was eloquent in Ndebele.
Roy ‘Muzezuru’ Bennett took a leaf, learnt Shona and even abused it during the war, tormenting vanamukoma.
Remember the Selous Scouts ‘Pamwechete’ motto?
Today you would think the new Zimbabwe Cricket coach, Heath Streak is Ndebele if you hear him on radio.
Joshua ‘mukwasha’ Sacco speaks Shona too.
In fact the list is endless, but the bottom-line is, unlike black people, whites will never abandon their very own English because it represents and defines who they are.
Therefore as black people, the question is: Do we know who we are or have we become a lost generation by continuously rejecting our own indigenous languages?


  1. I once met a guy when I had gone for a job interview and he was one of the candidates. So we struck up a conversation (in shona) and exchanged our qualifications and work experience which of he latter non of us had but what this guys had was a relevant degree and crazy academic achievements. So there i am questioning why I had even spoken to this guy whom I was obviously not a threat to but low and behold I got the job and not him, why? Simple, COMMUNICATION. Life is competitive and we have bread and butter issues that come first. If my daughter has a slim chance of getting employed because of her accent, dammit Im gonna coach her in the queens language unless YOU Teya are going to promise her employment at the Patriot then fair and fine. Black employers are the ones shunning vasingagone kutaura chirungu chacho coz how will you communicate ne maclients, chicertificate chako hachitaure on your behalf. Let the National arts Council do their job and let us concentrate on what puts food in our stomachs.

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