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Language and Education



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


This research, conducted at a major university in Tanzania, investigated the personal experiences of multilingual students vis-à-vis the government's language policy requiring Swahili as the language of instruction (LoI) at the primary level and English at the secondary level. The participants, who spoke 25 different languages as their L1, were placed into 49 different language groups and asked to write what they remembered about the language policy where they attended school. The data show that Gramsci's cultural hegemony is occurring in Tanzania. The 'common sense' is that people truly believe English is symbolic of prestige and power–even though few people know it or use it. The parents insist that their children be taught in English (consensus), and the schools strictly enforce the language policy (coercion). As subalterns, the students in this research reported that they did acquire Swahili, but they also wrote about knowing the LoI when they began school; undergoing inordinate physical and psychological punishment; feeling their L1s were stigmatized; and learning little English–or any other subject. Thus, the elites of the country have been trying to impose a European language on the citizens–in lieu of an educated, multilingual, African nation.