In the September Bulletin there was a lively discussion of the Teaching of English in Tanzania. But unfortunately there was a good deal of over-simplification and even downright confusion about aims and objects.
Firstly, there is no doubt whatever that when a nation first becomes independent it needs to stress its own language for both social and cultural reasons. Anything less does not satisfy the aspirations of nationhood and the important sense of belonging to a country. But Tanzania has gone through that period many years ago. Secondly, a sound knowledge of English is much more important in the world today than it was even twenty years ago. There are many commercial and cultural avenues which are blocked if the nationals of a country – any country – do not have a fair knowledge of English. Thirdly it is not necessary to have Shakespeare ‘rammed down the throats of pupils’ in order to encourage them to appreciate him, not as an English dramatist, but as quite simply, the greatest dramatist the world has ever known – a title acknowledged everywhere as true.
In a word, Tanzanian educators and University personnel need to forget about English as the language of their former colonial bosses, and face the fact of English as an increasingly valuable asset – the most important of all the world languages.
I was recently speaking with some Tanzanian students in Birmingham, and they wished very much that before coming to England to further their studies, they had learnt a great deal more English as a means to a finer education and a better future. But they were all intensely proud of their own language. That surely is the point.
Noel K. Thomas