By Ibrahim Mkamba
ONE Tanzanian of moderate fame who had lived abroad for less than three years was interviewed live in a certain Kiswahili local radio station when she was here in Tanzania.She was asked in Kiswahili,"hebu tueleze ni nini unachofanya huko unakoishi kwa sasa?".Her response was more in English than what it was supposed to be! "em, em, em un'jua kuli ziidi nin'shughlika na beauty pageant,as you know that is the work to which I am highly experienced ne kwe kweli I'm doing it well given that people there are more interested in that artistic work than the people here" She did that in English accent whenever she was uttering few Kiswahili words here and there in what was supposed to be a total Kiswahili interview!
Due to that,her host in that programme had to carry a burden of making translations for Kiswahili listeners who could not grasp much of what the artist was saying."yaani unajishughulisha na shughuli za urembo ulizo na uzoefu nazo na umesema kwamba kule unapata mafanikio kutokana na watu wengi wa huko kuipenda fani hii kuliko wa hapa.Unafikiri kwa nini fani hii hapa iko chini?" The host would translate tactifully and pose a question to the artist.
"Yeh,I think it is all because tradition and custom of these two communities differ....." She would respond a Kiswahili question completely in English! The drama went on like that up till when the host could stand that no more and asked the artist an embarrassing question; "Ina maana siku hizi Kiswahili hukiwezi kabisa?"
"Aaam no, not at all because Kiswahili is my language,siwezi kus'hau lugh'yangu but these days I find it difficult to speak Kiswahili continuously..." Again,more English than Kiswahili even in answering a question as to whether she was no longer capable of speaking Kiswahili!
This is just an example of many Tanzanians who pretend to be better in speaking English than Kiswahili,upon living out of our country in countries of English speaking citizens for a very short time,say,three years or less.This childish act and ushamba is quite nauseating.For example,that Kiswahili radio programme was a sheer nauseating as it was informally transformed into English one for stupidity of one Tanzanian in an endeavour to show her fellow Tanzanians that she was then more mzungu than African of Tanzania origin!
Those Tanzanians of calibre of the above written about artist have something wrong in their upstairs.Most of them have not lived in such countries as United Kingdom (UK)or United States of America (USA) longer than what has been done by a famous Tanzanian intellectual Professor of Communications and Public Policy, Nicholls Boas,of the University of Maryland,USA who has been there for some decades,lecturing the English speaking people and socially interacting with the English speaking people throughout that long period of time.
Even thus, not only is he fluent in Kiswahili but also his accent of that language is a Dar es Salaam one.He never mixes up Kiswahili with English when speaking the former languge.When giving lecture to Swahili people in English, he uses pronounciations which are understandable to them but when he imitates the Americans in giving some examples in his lectures,he speaks completely the way they do.I happen to know all those qualities of that Professor, who is a regular analyst in international Kiswahili radio programmes, such as the BBC London and Radio Deutch Welle Kiswahili Services, because I was once one of his students in a certain short course.
There are some more Tanzanians who live abroad for a number of years but have not pretended to have lost their fluency in Kiswahili because they are intelligent and wise.Also,I have an example of three people I came into contact with at the University of Dar es Salaam and one of them from Mzumbe High School,Morogoro.Those are Lawyers Anthony Charles Rutabanzibwa whom I knew from Mzumbe,Holo Hussein Makwaiya and Minister of Home Affairs,Lawrence (Law)Kego Masha.All those three lawyers were living abroad from their infancy and got their Primary and part or all of Secondary School education there but when coming to Tanzania,already grown ups,they started speaking good Kiswahili of which they have now had mastery as proved by good Kiswahili speeches of Honourable Masha.
How come then a person who is born here,gets all of his or her upbringings here,gets the whole of his or her education here in our primary schools of Kiswahili Medium of Instructions to banish Kiswahili after living abroad for only three years?Ujinga kabisa huu.
It is quite surprising to see some of the Waswahili treading on their language, the fame of which is going up and up worldwide as time goes by!Look here,such celebrated African personalities like the former President of Mozambique,Joachim Chissano,the former President of Zambia,Frederick Chiluba, the President of Uganda,Yoweri Museveni and the President of DRC,Joseph Kabila are very proud of being fluent in Kiswahili because they know that the language is the only African language which cuts across the whole of the continent.Also those big people and other wise Africans know that Kiswahili is now one of the biggest languages of the world.
Yes,the language cuts across the whole of Africa continent as now you will hardly find no person capable of speaking Kiswahili wherever you go in Africa.During this year's Africa Cup of Nations tournaments in Angola,BBC Swahili Service was interviewing in Kiswahili many African traders based in Angola,coming from different countries far from East Africa,such as Mali.
I remember a friend of mine Mr.Mancoba Qubecca (I am sorry,I may have miss-spelt his names the way most of us fail to pronounce them correctly due to the unique pronounciations of the same!),a South African whom I met at Tanzania School of Journalism (TSJ) in Dar es Salaam in 1987.That man who is the ANC spokesman was recently interviewed by BBC Kiswahili Service and he spoke Kiswahili very fluently,mixing up few English words only when he had no option other than doing that.He left Tanzania about 20 years ago but he has never pretended to have forgotten Kiswahili,the language he learned while he had already been an adult person.
It is very interesting that an Englishman,Sir Edward Twinning,the last but one British Governor to Tanganyika, when bidding farewell to the Tanganyikans before he left in mid 1950's he delivered a very good Kiswahili speech of farewell just like what was done by his wife in the same ocassion.They respected Kiswahili but some of us banish it.If they did not respect it,they would deliver their respective speeches in English with Kiswahili interpretation.
Few years ago,father of the English pressman captured in Iraqi warfield spoke through the BBC Kiswahili Service on how he was highly delighted after life of his son was spared.He did that right from London where he was living but in a very fluent Kiswahili which he said he learned when he was living in Tanzania from colonial era up to early 1970's.He has not lost his fluency of the language, his being far from Waswahili for a long time notwithstanding.
One of the pillars of the defunct Empire Bakuba of the late Pepe Kalle,one Dilu Dilumona,a vocalist and a composer,is very fluent in Kiswahili which he learned when he was here in Tanzania for a short time with Bana Ngenge Music Band in 1970's but our fellow Waswahili pretend to lose capability of speaking the language after very short stay out of Tanzania!
It is quite ridiculous that we made a big mockery to our fellow Tanzanian,famous local film star for failing to speak fluent English abroad while we laud and see her to be very special person the Tanzanian artist who says she is no longer fluent in Kiswahili! Tuache ujinga kwani siamini kabisa kwamba kuna Mtanzania anaweza kupoteza uwezo wake wa kuzungumza Kiswahili baada ya kuishi nje akiwa mkubwa na tayari akiwa ameshaijua lugha hiyo kubwa ya dunia.