Expanding the sociolinguistic space for the emergence of hybrid mother tongues in Africa: The case of Kenya
This paper examines the key factors to consider when selecting the language(s) that would be most appropriate as media of instruction in schools within a multi-cultural and multilingual setting - in this case Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The emergence and growth of urban codes in African urban spaces is a socio-linguistically significant phenomenon because it represents some recognition of these urban codes and places them into a „hybrid third space‟ where mixed languages and mixed identities are accommodated. Moreover, urban youth from different ethnic backgrounds can challenge the traditional linguistic and cultural identities of earlier generations that tend to categorize communities into rigid ethnic identities and cultural frameworks. The growth and spread of urban codes in urban settings even as mother tongue languages is a dynamic process that continues to grow despite deliberate efforts by educationists, language policy makers and other „language gatekeepers‟ to demonize and discourage their use, supposedly because they are to blame for the poor performance of students during national examinations, particularly those that test competence and performance in English and Kiswahili – Kenya‟s official languages (the latter having the added accolade of being the national language). The argument in this paper is that this blanket condemnation and prohibition of urban children and youth to use familiar urban codes as their preferred forms of communication, which serves as a mother tongue for some, violates the linguistic and cultural rights of children, particularly in Nairobi.
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