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Language usage in everyday life and in education: current attitudes towards English in Tanzania: English is still preferred as medium of instruction in Tanzania despite frequent usage of Kiswahili in everyday life

  • Susanne Mohr and Dunlop Ochieng

Tanzania is, like most countries in East Africa, extremely culturally and linguistically diverse. Language counts range from 125 (Lewis, Simons & Fennig, 2016) to 164 living languages mentioned by the ‘Languages of Tanzania project’ (2009). Given this extreme multilingualism, institutional languages had to be chosen on a national level after independence. Kiswahili is the proclaimed national language and lingua franca of the East African region, also spoken in Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, and is used as medium of instruction (MoI) in primary education. English, the former colonial language, is the de facto national working language and medium of instruction in secondary and higher education. However, English remains a minority language, spoken by approximately 5% of the population, most of whom are members of a higher social class (Tibategeza, 2010). This leads to English being an international rather than a second language as in other former British colonies (Schmied, 1990, 1991). Rubanza (2002: 45) goes so far as to argue that ‘the society Tanzanians work and live in does not demand the use of English’. That is why it has been claimed that English will never replace the African languages in Tanzania but remain an additional language in certain spheres (Schmied, 1991).

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English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
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