Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 14, No 3 (2020)

English, national and local linguae francae in the language ecologies of Uganda and Tanzania

Susanne Mohr, Steffen Lorenz, Dunlop Ochieng
Issued Date: 16 Dec 2020

Abstract


With regard to eastern Africa, English is usually discussed as a language of urban metropolises, connected to global capital and high education. However, globalisation has created pockets away from these urban centres, where English is an important part of local linguistic practices, coexisting with rather local linguae francae. This study presents two examples of such places from Uganda and Tanzania, discusses the role English and local languages have there, and the attitudes people hold towards them. The Ugandan data stem from Gulu, a medium-sized city, and show English as an essential element of everyday interaction not only in interethnic communication or business encounters, but also in interactions among ethnic Acholi. This importance is reflected in the attitudes held towards English. The Tanzanian data were collected in Arusha, another medium-sized city. They show an equally favourable attitude towards English instrumentally, despite Kiswahili being more frequently used in everyday communication. It is especially this use of Kiswahili that divides these two language ecologies and questions the notion of the ‘heartland’ of East Africa based on sociolinguistic similarities. The examples show the importance of recognising the dynamics of language locally (Pennycook, 2010) in its concrete ecologies when assessing the role of languages in Africa.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.38800

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