This paper is the abridged text of a conference presentation in March 2004 in the City of Birmingham, England.
The conference explored the status and current usage of Caribbean languages in British schools and in social interactions and the conduct of business in the wider community.
The paper considers three main themes:
1. Caribbean languages in schooling and education;
2. Caribbean languages in the identity formation of British born children of African heritage and the relevance of that for learning and self development;
3. Caribbean languages as the first language of adults in their interface with social institutions and with other language groups in the society;
I begin with a quotation from two eminent writers in this field. The first is by Niyi Osundare, a long time Professor of English at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria:
When two languages meet, they kiss and quarrel. They achieve a tacit understanding on the common grounds of similarity and convergence, then negotiate, often through strident rivalry and self-preserving altercations, their areas of dissimilarity and divergence… Yoruba and English. I do not only write in these two languages. I also live in them. I am close enough to hear their amorous chuckles and bitter bickerings. Poetry comes more naturally to me in Yoruba: the words dance to the drum of the heart; the lines pluck their beat from the rhythm of the mind. Mediating all this in English is a problem which has long become a challenge. Read the rest of this entry →