Documenting Culture and Ethic Languages of Tanzania for Kiswahili Advancement

Author: Dr. Nasra Habibu Ally (The Open University of Tanzania, Tanzania)
Speaker: Dr. Nasra Habibu Ally
Topic: Language Documentation
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Kiswahili language has been the national language and one of the official languages in Tanzania since independence 1961. Tanzania being the multiethnic and multilingual country with more than 120 ethnic language communities, all these communities are united by Kiswahili (Msanjila, 2003; Ström, 2009). Kiswahili is the domain language to the extent ethnic languages seem to demise. Muzale and Rugemalira (2008) declared that for most people Kiswahili is the only language they ever learn to read, they are never taught to read or write their ethnic languages. However, the documentation of ethnic languages in Tanzania had been also the main subject to various scholars (Msanjila, 2003; Muzale and Rugemalira, 2008; Yoneda , 2010; Kutsukake and Yoneda, 2020). Muzale and Rugemalira (2008) pointed out that if there is no documentation of these ethnic languages, vocabulary, grammar, and knowledge perceived in the relevant language may be eclipsed and disappear without trace. Therefore, this paper discusses on the documenting culture and ethnic languages of Tanzania for Kiswahili advancement. The influence of language contact between Kiswahili and ethnic languages constitutes two ways affect where by Kiswahili has also been influenced by these ethnic languages culturally and grammatically in the specific language community. For instance Bena language community from Njombe (Morrison, 2011) speaks their Kiswahili influenced by the Bena language and culture. The growth and expansion of Kiswahili in Tanzania also depends on the nourishment and activeness of Tanzania language communities. The disappearance of these languages and their cultural values endanger the survival of these social cultural communities where Kiswahili is spoken. Language plays a vital role in maintaining culture. Moreover, ethnic languages in Africa are the center for cultural construction (Kihore, 1983; Msanjila, 2003). Therefore maintaining the language is preserving cultural values and language as part of the huge Kiswahili community. The communities that have no language which define their way of life are powerless. Hence for the advancement of Kiswahili the communities that speak Kiswahili have to maintain their languages which express their cultural values. Through document review this paper discuss and explains the documentation of ethnic languages and the influence of preserving the culture and ethnic languages of Tanzania for Kiswahili growth and expansion.

Keywords: ethnic language, culture and language documentation