LANGUAGE POLICY IN MALAWI: A STUDY OF ITS CONTEXTS, FACTORS FOR ITS DEVELOPMENT AND CONSEQUENCES

Michael M Kretzer, Joshua Isaac Kumwenda

Abstract


The article examines the different factors and contexts which have influenced language policy in Malawi from the time of early missionaries to the present, and highlights the implications and consequences of the language policy—both politically, educationally and socially. However, given the conceptual framework of language policy and the historical, linguistic and cultural disposition of the Malawian society which emphasize education, the article has its main focus on the education system. In addition to intensive literature review and document analysis, semi-structured interviews, mainly with secondary school teachers, were conducted in Mzimba District in July 2014. The study ascertains that current language practices were founded on the framework and philosophies of various missionary groups which have highly influenced and affected the development of both indigenous and foreign languages in Malawi. It further discovered that the long-standing leadership of Hastings Kamuzu Banda has had a huge impact on language attitude, practices and the overall language policy. However, since the election of Bakili Muluzi and the new multi-party democracy, the policy has generally been characterised by linguistic pluralism although not much has been done to make it more favourable to vernacular languages due to lack of resources and improper implementation. The paper concludes that the implementation of language policy in Malawi, like in many other African countries, faces many challenges and is riddled with contradictions whether implicit or explicit.

 

Keywords: Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT), linguistic justice, vertical communication, language attitude, language policy, linguistic pluralism


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