Tuesday, June 30, 2009

African Spelling

Here's a piece I posted on a forum (that I belong to) not too long ago in '06. It's about the African spelling of place-names and the general rendering of spelling using African phonetics, I still believe strongly in what I wrote three years ago. After all, the Japanese do not call their country "Japan", nor do the Germans call their country "Germany".

My point is that, "Germany" and "Japan" are what outsiders render those two countries. The natives of both Germany and Japan(as well as Ireland, Greece, Holland, and a host of other nations) all use their own phonetics and spelling to render their place-names, as well as place-names that fall outside their own language areas. We Africans should do the same.

I just wanted to put this out in the open. Should we as Africans still insist on European spelling conventions in 2006? (it's now 2009). It's almost 50 years since Ghana achieved independence and yet we Africans still insist on religiously following European spelling conventions when writing. Why is this so? What's wrong with using phonetic African spelling? After all, AREN'T WE AFRICANS?

In my native language, Shona, "London" should be rendered "Randani" and "Britain" should be rendered "Bhiriteni". Shona has no "L" in its alphabet, and a hard "B" is always followed by an "H". The same rule applies for a "V"; a hard "V" is always followed by an "H". Would I be considered an uneducated fool by my African peers if I started writing "Furansi" instead of "France" and "Muputukese" instead of "Portuguese". The thought tickles my mind.

The Europeans themselves ALWAYS insist on following THEIR OWN SPELLING CONVENTIONS as a rule. This they apply to both family names and place names.
The Senegalese family name, "Njie", is spelt "N'diaye" by the French. "Jobe" is rendered "Diop", "Juuf" is rendered as "Diouf", and the place-name Wagadugu is rendered "Ouagadougou". The Portuguese are just as bad! The Shona-speaking province of "Manyika", in Mozambique, is rendered as "Manica" and "Chikwalakwala" is rendered as "Chicuala-cuala". The great Shona empire-builder from the middle ages, "Munhumutapa" is commonly (and wrongly) known as "Monomotapa".

Can't we as Africans just follow our own phonetic conventions when rendering place names and family names? Why do we use "Mozambique" when describing "Msumbuji". And why do we Africans insist on calling the country of "Mzansi" (or Azania) as "South Africa". Let others call that country, "South Africa". As for place names, doesn't "Burkina Faso" sound better than "Upper Volta", and isn't "Zimbabwe" more appropriate than "Southern Rhodesia"? And finally, who came up with the name, Central African Republic? I'll offer a 6-pack of beer to anyone who comes up with a better name for that African country


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