How Did Colonialism Influence African Spoken Languages?

did-colonialism-influence-african-spoken-languages Credit: Rod Waddington/CC-BY-SA 2.0

Colonialism influenced African spoken languages by introducing a number of Indo-European languages as the official languages of the colonized countries. In some African countries, colonization meant that all official matters were handled in the colonial language, that colonized people were educated in colonial languages and local languages were suppressed.

The European colonization and partition of Africa into states took place during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. In most cases, political colonization was tied to religious as well as economic motives, leading to the establishment of missions and mission schools, the goal of which was to mold African men and women to be more like Europeans. Political and religious institutions aimed to enforce European culture as the dominant way of life. In missions, European missionaries were involved in African cultures through daily interaction and used African languages whenever colonial administrations allowed them to do so.

After the decolonization of Africa, the legacy of colonial languages remained in the newly independent government institutions. In many countries, English or French remained the national language despite not being the language that most people in those countries spoke. In some cases, colonial languages have mingled or merged with African languages. The products of this linguistic mingling were called pidgin or creole, but some, such as Jamaican patois, evolved enough to be considered independent languages.