The world over, language is a means of communication, native to some people, and learned by others who choose to. With about 7,151 languages spoken in the world today, some of these languages have grown not only in number of speakers, but also in geographical spread fueled by trade, conquest, religion, empire, and technology.
As some languages continue to gain more speakers, others die due to a dwindling number of speakers, with some having few speakers alive.
What causes the death of languages? Experts give many reasons for this. Colonization is a major reason why languages die. When the colonized absorb the colonizer’s language as a way of life, they become bilingual, which slips into the next generation, continuing until parents no longer speak their native language to their children. Due to the increasing number of speakers, being a speaker of that language becomes another reason to move up the economic ladder, while shedding some parts of the culture in its wake.
There is an unresolved debate from the camp of linguists about whether a language is superior to another. Some claim no language is superior to another, as they are all equal, while others choose to use the word powerful. This is a subtle way to say that some languages are indeed superior due to their dominance. A good example of this is the English language, and coming second in a hot chase is Mandarin, leaving French as the language of prestige and class.
In all these, where do African languages stand?
Ashes of African Languages
The African continent has had its share of colonialism, which still suffers from its rippling effects; neocolonialism. Colonization brought a wave of cultural drain and the predominance of bilingualism, leading to suffocation and death of native ones. Usually, the second language is the lingua franca of most African countries thriving on the ashes of African languages.
Generations have passed, and the yardstick for measuring literacy is fluency in speaking the lingua franca. Even with the advancement in technology and the knowledge of a language, just with the push of a translation button, African languages do not top the list of desirable languages to learn. Young Africans choose either their second language or learn a third language, even a fourth, to fit in a world powered by economic prowess.
Tourists to Africa learn the language of natives to communicate effectively with them, with hardly any political, economical, or cultural strings attached.
Mandla App: A Learning App for African Languages
It is a new dawn for African languages. At an age when technology is permeating the nook and crannies of the world, and young Africans are redefining the tech space with a firm footing in learning their language, there is hope that African languages could stand and compete with powerful languages in the world.
Seeing the struggles of not being totally native to a second language and the cultural disconnection from their native languages (for language embodies culture), a team of tech-based young Africans led by Wenitte Apiou released a triad of their ingenious inventions under the name MANDLA.
The Mandla App answers whether African languages will be left to the forgetting hands of extinction. It is a learner-friendly and simplified language app developed to teach these African languages to learners who may want to learn them to improve their memories, as well as increase their economic and educational opportunities. The Mandla app teaches languages like Xhosa, Zulu, Igbo, Yoruba, Meroitic, Akan, Moore, Twi, Swahili, Somali, Amharic, and Haitian Creole among others. The Mandla App has garnered 75,000 users across iOS, Android, and the web. Learning these languages is easy here.
The second release from the Mandla App team is the Mandla Keyboard, an indigenous writing tool for African languages using the N’ko script. The N’ko script is a right-to-left direction writing style with letters connected at the base. Solomana Kante developed it in 1949 as a modern writing system for the Mande languages of West Africa. The N’ko scripts can be converted to Latin scripts with just the click of the tab.
The latest of their inventions is the Mandla Dictionary, which contains words from 100 African languages and still gunning for more, has become the first of its kind in the African continent. A feat that sealed its investment with Angel Onuoha. The Mandla dictionary is an audio-visual word translation tool for African languages. Translating in any African language is now easy with Mandla Dictionary.
African Languages’ Journey to the Top
As Mandla continues to gain popularity among learners, experts believe that in no time could bring the world’s attention to learning an African language in no time. Presently, the Mandla team is doing more to revive and preserve the African languages as they continue to make their way to the top.