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The Great One
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Speaking Swahili for Kwanzaa?

By: John McWhorter
Posted: December 28, 2010 at 12:35 AM

Instead, try learning a tongue that the ancestors of black Americans actually used.


"Jambo" may mean hello in Swahili, but a slave brought to the United States would not have recognized that greeting. There may not have been a single Swahili-speaking African brought to these shores amid the slave trade. If there were any, it was very few.

I get to thinking about this during the holidays as we start hearing about Kwanzaa, which starts the day after Christmas and runs until New Year's Day. Kwanzaa is fine, but it was rooted in a '60s fashion for treating Swahili as black America's "ancestral" language. The choice of Swahili out of the thousands of languages spoken in Africa was innocent, and made a certain sense in that it is a lingua franca across several African nations where hundreds of other languages are spoken.

But the nations where it's spoken are in East Africa. Black Americans' ancestors came mostly from West Africa. And as we all know, Africa is enormous.

The thing is this: To treat Swahili as meaningfully ancestral to black Americans because it's "African" is to lump diverse peoples together in a way that might seem less appropriate if done by whites. Or, imagine someone with roots in Wales cooking borscht and toasting with vodka in salute to their "Europeanness."

If black Americans are to seek an ancestral language, shouldn't it be one that our ancestors actually spoke?

Picking just one is tough, though. No one African language is used as common coin from Senegal all the way down to Angola, and slaves brought to the United States came from places throughout this stretch. In the past, I have suggested Mende of Sierra Leone, the language of the songs that some Gullah speakers in South Carolina still remember in fossilized form. But there aren't that many Mende speakers in the U.S., and there are virtually no books in print for learning it (and not many even out of print in libraries). Nigeria's Yoruba is a tempting alternative, presenting neither of those problems. But its speakers were never a significant proportion of slaves brought to the United States.

If there is one West African language that a great many slaves in America spoke and is also realistically available to us, it is Twi. It's spoken in Ghana and is the lingua franca there for speakers of dozens of smaller local languages. Many slaves brought to the New World by the English, or sold to them, were from Ghana, then known famously as the Gold Coast, where Twi was a dominant local language. Just as important, a great many Ghanaians have relocated to the United States in the past 40 years, and therefore, someone trying to pick up some Twi could have native speakers to practice with.



Twi, unlike Swahili, will not throw you with piles of prefixes and nouns divided into seven different classes (which means that Swahili has seven "genders" instead of the two that are hard enough to deal with in French and Spanish). Twi is a language in which, while words are on the short side, the same one means different things, depending on what tone you say it with. This trait is why many African groups can communicate with drums set to different tones.

Say "fa" with a high tone and it means "festival." Say it in a low tone and it means "take." It gets interesting: Say the word for "my" when it's referring to part of your body, and you say it with a low tone. But if you are saying "my (something else)," like an umbrella or a table, then you say it with a high tone.

Yet the fact is that Rosetta Stone, Living Language, Berlitz and the other grand language-teaching outfits haven't gotten to Twi the way they have to Swahili. One way we could get their attention is to start buying up what education sources there are. If you just want to get your feet wet, Pimsleur has a neat little intro kit. If you really want to get into it, then get this offering and remember to get the audio materials, too, since they're the only way to get the knack of the tones.

Imagine black America reuniting with a language that its ancestors actually used.

For the record, the name "Kwame" and the Anancy spider of folklore are Twi. Let's fill things in from there -- especially because of one other fact: Twi is actually quite similar grammatically to none other than Chinese. Anyone who has even played with Twi a bit will be in a good position to pick up Mandarin, which will be a handier business decision by the year for all Americans.

So, "jambo" means "hello"? Well, in Twi, biakong, abieng, abiesang is "one, two, three." Try that on a Ghanaian you know, and watch someone delighted to see you making the acquaintance of a language that at least one of your ancestors probably spoke.

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The Great One
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Great article that many African Americans need to read, so that they don't fall into the trap "following the fake messiah", who delivers nothing but polished lies.

--------------------
Chairman Mau

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-Just Call Me Jari-
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I have a problem with this article, first off not all slaves were taken from West Africa, quite a few were taken from the East African Coast around Mozambique and Madagascar. Secondly many were taken from the INTERIOR and shipped to the Coastal Posts of West Africa, so the Idea that all slaves were from West Africa has no real merit.

but its a good article none the less.

I honestly never met any blacks who follow Kwanzaa must be a Northern thing in places like N.Y or something.

Most Blacks follow X-mas which is a Northern Euro influenced Holiday from the Mid. East of course, or the Muslims follow Ramadan an Arab Holiday.

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alTakruri
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Swahili was chosen by prominent people in the
Black American liberation movement of the 1970's
because it doesn't promote any one African ethnic
group's language.

It was chosen for the movement not Kwanzaa alone.

See
Haki Madhbuti

From Plan to Planet -- Life Studies: The Need for Afrikan Minds and Institutions

Detroit: Broadside Press, 1973
Chicago: Third World Press, 1992

A people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots.

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lamin
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Another stupid article by a right-wing negro so-called scholar.

His Jewish patrons maintain their borrowed traditions with a smattering of Hebrew here and there--when they celebrate the special Jewish holidays, or when their children do Bar mitzvah. So tell me, what does Hebrew have to do with all those people of Russian and East European origins whose modern language was some kind of pidgen-German called Yiddish.

And all those brain-washed and colonised North Africans who pray, swear and greet in the invader's language. What does Arabic have to do with the indigenous languages of North Africa--according to how languages have been classified?

And the ignorant McWhorter does not know that Swahili is spoken as far West as the Congo in Africa. And that Hausa is a trade language--spoken by trader Hausas--from Southern Libya all the way to the Congo.

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the lioness,
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quote:
Originally posted by lamin:
Another stupid article by a right-wing negro so-called scholar.

His Jewish patrons maintain their borrowed traditions with a smattering of Hebrew here and there--when they celebrate the special Jewish holidays, or when their children do Bar mitzvah. So tell me, what does Hebrew have to do with all those people of Russian and East European origins whose modern language was some kind of pidgen-German called Yiddish.

And all those brain-washed and colonised North Africans who pray, swear and greet in the invader's language. What does Arabic have to do with the indigenous languages of North Africa--according to how languages have been classified?

And the ignorant McWhorter does not know that Swahili is spoken as far West as the Congo in Africa. And that Hausa is a trade language--spoken by trader Hausas--from Southern Libya all the way to the Congo.

I don't understand where you are coming from. The article is suggesting that if African Americans are to learn and African language Twi is a good choice. So what is so wrong with that? Only a small sliver of the DRC actually touches the West Coast anyway so Swahili is in fact not as West African as Akan (twi).
What's wrong with this concept. Who McWhorter, his other writings are besides that point.
All the sudden "negro" is appropriate when it's someone you don't like and then all the irrelevant talk about Jewish patrons and Yiddish-on some racist shyt.
AA's are not going to learn African languages of any kind in the near future so it's a non issue anyway. You must just be biased towards Swahili or something. Deal with the article. Because you think the author is right wing doesn't mean this particular reasonable discussion about African language is right wing. It's not and it makes a good point. It's simple, most AA were indeed from West Africa and Akan would make sense to learn even though nobody' is going to do it.
Or perhaps you think Swahili is better but are not able to make the case.

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lamin
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No you have ignorantly missed the point of my reply. My point is that McWhorter is just selectively nit-picking on the question of Kwanzaa using some very minimal Swahili language concepts. He has not chosen to apply the same language logic to those who support Christian and Jewish rituals which take place at approximately the same time.

And Twi? A relatively insignificant Ghanian language. As genetic studies have shown--the latest Tishkoff study, e.g., the DNA of AAs shows expansively West-Central Africa origins. And the same holds for all the African population groups especially the Niger-Kordofan group, on account of population intermingling over the millenia. So in that regard, Twi certainly does not fit the bill as some kind of "liturgical" language.

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the lioness,
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quote:
Originally posted by lamin:
No you have ignorantly missed the point of my reply. My point is that McWhorter is just selectively nit-picking on the question of Kwanzaa using some very minimal Swahili language concepts. He has not chosen to apply the same language logic to those who support Christian and Jewish rituals which take place at approximately the same time.

And Twi? A relatively insignificant Ghanian language. As genetic studies have shown--the latest Tishkoff study, e.g., the DNA of AAs shows expansively West-Central Africa origins. And the same holds for all the African population groups especially the Niger-Kordofan group, on account of population intermingling over the millenia. So in that regard, Twi certainly does not fit the bill as some kind of "liturgical" language.

you're African right? Do you know Africans that practice Kwanzaa?
I know just one or two people that practice it.
I thought it had nice concepts.
Is Swahili an ideal language for it? Is it more "liturgical"
Is being more "liturgical" the goal?
On the real, practicing Kwanzaa doesn't mean learning a whole language, just a few words.
Alright maybe he's nitpicking but apart from the whole Kwanzaa issue if AA's were to learn an African language what do you think is the best one to learn in general?

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JujuMan
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Yoruba I say. [Smile]

--------------------
state of mind

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asante-Korton
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quote:
Originally posted by lamin:
No you have ignorantly missed the point of my reply. My point is that McWhorter is just selectively nit-picking on the question of Kwanzaa using some very minimal Swahili language concepts. He has not chosen to apply the same language logic to those who support Christian and Jewish rituals which take place at approximately the same time.

And Twi? A relatively insignificant Ghanian language. As genetic studies have shown--the latest Tishkoff study, e.g., the DNA of AAs shows expansively West-Central Africa origins. And the same holds for all the African population groups especially the Niger-Kordofan group, on account of population intermingling over the millenia. So in that regard, Twi certainly does not fit the bill as some kind of "liturgical" language.

Now what do you mean by

"And Twi? A relatively insignificant Ghanian language" ????

It is spoken by over half the popualtion of ghana so how are you gonna call it insignificant??

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anguishofbeing
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quote:
Originally posted by Mau:
Speaking Swahili for Kwanzaa?
By: John McWhorter

You like this guy McWhorter dont you? lol
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-Just Call Me Jari-
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quote:
Originally posted by lamin:
No you have ignorantly missed the point of my reply. My point is that McWhorter is just selectively nit-picking on the question of Kwanzaa using some very minimal Swahili language concepts. He has not chosen to apply the same language logic to those who support Christian and Jewish rituals which take place at approximately the same time.

You are Nit-picking, your whole argument is null a void because the author is speaking about Kwanzaa and its attempt to be an "African" reaction to Christmas and other holidays. Why would he "apply the same logic" to "Christian and Jewish" holidays when no one claims these holidays are African or supposed to be African, that's a strawman argument.

quote:
Originally posted by lamin:
And Twi? A relatively insignificant Ghanian language. As genetic studies have shown--the latest Tishkoff study, e.g., the DNA of AAs shows expansively West-Central Africa origins. And the same holds for all the African population groups especially the Niger-Kordofan group, on account of population intermingling over the millenia. So in that regard, Twi certainly does not fit the bill as some kind of "liturgical" language.

The author never says Twi is the end all say all.
He admits that picking an African language is tough...

Picking just one is tough, though. No one African language is used as common coin from Senegal all the way down to Angola,

his choosing of Twi has to do with it being more available and more easy to learn. If you disagee fine but it seems you have more issiues with the person than his argument, esp. with your strawman Right-wing Jewish Christian paranoia..

As if Kwanzaa is a real African Holiday..lol

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Sundjata
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Don't know about other African Americans, but my MtDNA came back as L1c2b1, which has matches only in South Africa and Ethiopia (Behar, 2008) and Bass in another thread reported his to be East African L4. So clearly West Africa isn't the "end all, be all" when it comes to AA ancestry so some right-wing nut job writer trying to tell ME (An African-American) what language I need to learn is beyond ignorant.
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Sundjata
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^Read an article on Buzzle by Dominic Ambrose citing Swahili as one of the 12 most useful languages to learn:


The Twelve Most Useful Second Languages for English Speakers

Which are the most useful second languages when you already speak the most useful language in almost any field of human endeavor? Personal impact is the key. Here are the twelve most useful languages according to three major criteria: demographics, personal impact and business opportunity.


When the world talks about science, culture, economy or politics, it speaks English. English speakers don’t really need a second language at all. So, what’s the use of a second language when the first one is enough? English speakers can look for the luxury items: cultural and linguistic enrichment. In this article, I will evaluate the world’s major languages for their usefulness to English speakers, according to three different criteria:

1. Demographics: Opportunity to use the language actively: the number of native and second language speakers, and the chances of communicating with them in this language: use as a lingua franca. It’s not simply a matter of numbers. Mandarin is by far the most spoken language but it is concentrated in one country, China, and that reduces the impact. In the case of Hindi, educated speakers will very likely also speak English, so the opportunity to speak to people in Hindi is greatly reduced.

2. Personal Impact: This subjective criterion looks at the impact on the learner. How does this language study increase the learner’s own sophistication regarding languages, whether English or another, third language? How does this language make the learner a more culturally literate person?

3. Business factors: How will this language open new business and commercial opportunities?

Criterion I. Demographics:
I begin with demographics because this is the criterion that first comes to mind in such a discussion. However, this factor only weighs 40 percent in the ratings, and certain entries here, such as Italian, Swahili and Turkish, will only become understandable when one sees the tables that follow.

1. Spanish: Approx. 350 million natives speakers, with many second language speakers in the Americas, North Africa and elsewhere. It is the official language of about 20 countries. (6 points). It is an important lingua franca in the Western Hemisphere and the Mediterranean, (3 points). (Total: 9 points).

2. French: Despite a relatively small native language base of 130 million, French has a major presence internationally, with a large second language population all over the world and official language status in over 25 countries. It is the working language of many international organizations (4 points). It is also the most recognized lingua franca, after English. (4 points). (Total: 8 points).

3. Arabic: Arabic speakers are hard to quantify. Modern Standard Arabic is a second dialect for 250 million people worldwide, but it is quite difference from the spoken Arabic in each of the 20 countries where it is official. It is an official language of the United Nations and of many international organizations. It is also the language of Islam. (4.5 points). Arabic is a major lingua franca. (2 points). (Total: 6.5 points).

4. Russian: Estimates are as high as 185 million for the native speaking population, and it is the second language in all the nations of the former Soviet Union (3 points). Russia spent much of the Twentieth Century securing the position of its language as the lingua franca in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and it continues to serve in that capacity, in a greatly diminished way. (2 points). (Total: 5 points).

5. Mandarin: It’s the native language of 875 million people, however, they are concentrated in one country, China. It is a second language for the rest of China, Taiwan, and for Chinese communities world-wide. It has little currency beyond its ethnic boundaries and serves as lingua franca only in this context. (Total: 3 points).

6. German: It has approx. 120 million native speakers and many second language speakers throughout Europe. (2 points). It has had moderate success re-establishing itself as the lingua franca of Central Europe, after the disastrous history of the past century, however, this role has been taken up in the meantime by Russian and English (1 point). (Total: 3 points).

7. Hindustani: It includes Urdu at one end and Hindi at the other, with approx. 185 million native speakers in India, and 50 million in Pakistan. It is a second language for another 180 million people in these country. It has not had success as a lingua franca outside of this context, as that purpose is served by English. It has also been burdened by the reluctance of the Dravidian speaking people of South India to adopt it. (Total: 2.5 points).

8. Swahili: It is spoken natively by 5 million people and by another 50 million as a second language along the East African coast. It’s the official language of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (1 point). Swahili is the accepted lingua franca in that area, having achieved nearly neutral "tribal" status on a continent where language is politics, but for dealings with the world beyond, it is normally eclipsed by Arabic, English and French (1.5 points). (Total: 2.5 points).

9. Portuguese: Spoken by approx. 190 million people, it is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola and other states. It has not as yet been able to establish itself as a widely used lingua franca. (Total: 2 points).

10. Turkish: It is spoken by 70 million people in Turkey and Cyprus (1 point). It provides an alternative lingua franca throughout the Turkic speaking lands of Central Asia, replacing the more alien Russian (1 point). (Total: 2 points).

11. Japanese: It is spoken by 125 million people in Japan, but has little currency as a second language or a lingua franca. (Total: 1 point).

12. Italian: It is spoken by 60 million people in Italy, it is also the official language of the Vatican. It has little or no significance as a second language or a lingua franca. (1 point).

Criterion II: Personal Impact:
This is the major consideration for the English speaker. It weighs 40 percent in my ratings. How will the learning of this language help one’s understanding of English? How will knowledge of this language open up a portal to other related languages? For the first question, Latin languages hold a distinct advantage, since the prestige, erudite forms of English are all constructed out of a Latin vocabulary. The second question favors languages which are seen as leading languages in a particular linguistic family, wherever it may be located in the world.

1. French: It holds a particular position among Latin languages, in that it has been the major conduit of Latin vocabulary into English for the past one thousand years. Fully 30 percent of English words come from French, (6 points). In cultural terms, the centrality of France to European civilization cannot be overestimated, adding 6 more points. (Total: 12 points)
2. Spanish: This Latin language has enormous influence on the English of the Americas. It has, in turn, been influenced by Arabic and the indigenous languages of pre-Columbian America, giving insight into those languages. (4 points). Spanish culture continues to move into the forefront of Western civilization, ironically, often because of the patronage of its greatest rival, North American English (4 points). (Total: 8 points).

3. Italian: It is the direct descendant of Latin. Thus, a knowledge of Italian gives the learner an exceptionally clear idea of the classical language. By the same token, it is the central romance language, and the study of a second or third romance language is greatly facilitated when the first one learned is Italian. (4 points). Italian also opens up a store of cultural knowledge dating back two thousand years, and representing, with the Roman Empire, the Catholic tradition and the Italian Renaissance, some of the very highest achievements of European civilization. (4 points). (Total: 8 points).

4. German: The linguistic significance for English speakers is great. German provides a clear presentation of the Germanic roots of English, and of the syntactic and grammatical logic of the basic English language. As the major Germanic language it can also be considered a portal to other Germanic languages such as Dutch and Yiddish. (4 points). German culture is also greatly appreciated in Western culture, and its philosophers and artists are key figures. (2 points). (Total: 6 points).

5. Arabic: Although the immediate linguistic impact of the study of Arabic may be hard to discern for the English speaker, the benefits of Arabic in the study of other languages is high. Arabic has greatly influenced other languages of the Middle East and the Muslim world in religion, politics, and social life. Also, the study of the Arabic alphabet opens the way to many other languages, such as Persian, Urdu, Kurdish, etc. (3 points). Arabic culture has had major influence on western civilization but it remains largely unknown in the English speaking world. Knowledge of the language also leads to a greater understanding of Islam. (2 points). (Total: 5 points).

6. Hindustani: In its Hindi form, it is a window on the origins of the larger Indo-European language family with its Sanskrit vocabulary. As Urdu, it gives a significant introduction to many Persian and Arabic terms. Urdu also uses the Persian form of Arabic script, opening the way to wider studies. It is a starting point for the study of other languages of the subcontinent, an area rich in languages. (3 points). India’s rich culture has become more familiar in the English speaking world, in large part due to India’s ability to project its image through English. However, Hindustani language and Hindi culture are also spread through the Bollywood film industry. Pakistan has yet to make its presence felt, but the potential is there. (2 point). (Total: 5 points).

7. Russian: It has not had major influence in the west, given its geographical isolation. It is, however, the major Slavic language, and as such, opens the way to many other Eastern European languages. The Cyrillic alphabet, moreover, is a tremendous asset for reading many of those languages. (2 points). Russian high culture thrived under both tsarism and communism, and it has a significant place in European civilization. (2 points). (Total: 4 points).

8. Portuguese: As a Latin language, Portuguese has a built-in significance for English speakers, even without a direct relationship with English. (3 points). The cultural significance of Brazil, one of the largest nations of the Americas, is continually growing. (1 point). (Total: 4 points).

9. Mandarin: The official Chinese language has had very little influence on English. It has influenced other national languages of the areas, such as Korean and Japanese, and the other "dialects" of China. The Chinese written characters are the same for all of these dialects, and many of these characters are used in Japanese as well. (2 points). Chinese culture, with over two thousand years of history, is quite significant, if not directly applicable to English speaking civilization. (1.5 point). (Total: 3.5 points).

10. Swahili: As the only sub-Saharan language in the group, it serves to introduce the learner to one of the richest linguistic areas of the Earth. It is from the Bantu family of languages, but it incorporates many words from Arabic, Persian, English and French. (1.5 points). It is the language of trade along the East African coast, and as such, is richly descriptive of the culture there. The West African [sic] diaspora into the Americas is one of the great mass migrations of the past 500 years, but because of its tragic social dynamics, it has left many millions of people cut off from African culture. Swahili, although it is East African and not West African, can help to fill that gap. (1.5 points). (Total: 3 points).

11. Turkish: Though it has little direct relationship to English, it is the major language of a family of languages that extend eastward to the Chinese interior. It has been influenced by Persian, Kurdish and Arabic, and thus gives some introduction to those languages. (1.5 points). It also represents the culture of the Ottoman traditions, and of modern Turkey and Central Asian Turkistan. (1 point). (Total: 2.5 points).

12. Japanese: This language has had little impact on English and it provides little insight into other languages. It does, however, include many words from Chinese, and uses numerous Chinese characters. (0.5 points). This island nation has been one of the most successful exporters of culture of the Far East during the past century. (1.5 points). (Total: 2 points).

Criterion III. Economic Impact.
Is this language useful in the world of commerce and business? Certainly English is by far the most useful language for business, but a knowledge of other key languages can be a distinct advantage. Twenty percent in the ratings:

1. French: has a long history as a language of commerce and trade. It is extremely important in the developing world, especially Africa. France itself is the world’s sixth largest economy. (4 points).
2. Spanish: the language of commerce and trade in Latin America. Spain is the world’s ninth largest economy and Mexico is its fourteenth largest. (4 points).
3. German: often used for business in Central Europe. Germany is the world’s third largest economy. (3 points).
4. Japanese: can be extremely helpful in dealing with Japanese business. Japan is the world’s second largest economy. (3 points).
5. Mandarin: China has recently become the world’s fourth largest economy, and it continues to grow. (3 points).
6. Russian: Used in a part of the world where English is not well-known. Russia is the eleventh largest economy and is moving up in the rankings. (2 points).
7. Portuguese: Brazil is the tenth largest economy, and continues to grow. (2 points).
8. Arabic: the language of commerce and trade for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. (2 points).
9. Hindustani: is used in the world’s twelfth largest economy, however, English is often the language of business in this area. (2 points).
10. Italian: is the language of commerce in Italy, the world’s seventh largest economy. (1.5 points).
11. Swahili: is the language of business along the east coast of Africa. (1 point).
12. Turkish: is used in the world’s seventeenth largest economy, and to some extent in Central Asia. (1 point).

By these criteria we can come up with a ranking of the 12 most useful languages for an English speaker to learn:

1. French: 24 points
2. Spanish 21 points
3. Arabic 13.5 points
4. German 12 points
5. Russian 11 points
6. Italian 10.5 points
7. Hindustani 9.5 points
8. Mandarin 9.5 points
9. Portuguese 8 points
10. Swahili 6.5 points
11. Japanese 5.5 points
12. Turkish 5.5 points

Some readers may be familiar with George Weber’s well-known piece entitled, Top Languages, which first appeared in the journal Languages Today in 1997. His study rated languages according to their influence in world affairs and world culture. It is interesting, at this point to compare them. Here are Weber’s results:

1. English 37 points
2. French 23
3. Spanish 20
4. Russian 16
5. Arabic 14
6. Chinese 13
7. German 12
8. Japanese 10
9. Portuguese 10
10. Hindi/Urdu 9 pts.

The rankings are similar, with some major differences. My criteria are based on tangible and intangible benefits for the English speaker which are not heavily weighed in Weber’s paradigm. Thus, this subjective focus skewers my results in favor of European languages due to the cultural affinity of English for the languages of Western civilization.

Heritage Languages:
The most striking example of a difference is my ranking of Italian as number 6, whereas it does not figure in Weber’s top ten. My justification for Italian is the phenomenon of the "heritage language", i.e., a language that has usefulness in our understanding and appreciation of the past, rather than in the future. Italian is the vehicle for our understanding of ancient history, the development of Latin languages, Renaissance Art and classical music. It is also the ancestral language of at least 60 million people strategically placed in both North and South America. For these reasons, it is the heritage language par excellence. Other languages that benefit from this heritage factor in my listings are German and Swahili.

Note on Statistics:
The statistics that I have used (population, economic ranking, etc.) come from diverse sources: world almanacs, encyclopedias, US government studies. I make no claims about their accuracy, as they are general estimates. Their importance is in relationship to each other.

Point values for English?
French, with 24 points, is number one in my listing. Where does English stand in relation? If rating it for usefulness for speakers of other languages, I would give it 10 points in each category, for a total of 50 points. I think that the extraordinary position of English in today’s world is indisputable, and considering it to be twice as useful as its closest competition, French, is not a great stretch of the imagination.

The only English point assignment that may require explanation is ten points for linguistic value. The value of English in this area for world speakers is quite wide reaching and significant. English is the vehicle for the spread of the classical Latin vocabulary for abstract concepts, for the Greco-Roman terms for government, science, philosophy, etc. It absorbs world vocabulary without major spelling changes, effectively spreading new terminology from a variety of sources. As the official language of international organizations, it serves as a showplace for each nation and organization to present itself to the world. Like the other "empire" languages of Western Europe, French and Spanish, English is propagated by native speakers worldwide with no ethnic, social or political relationship to its motherland. But English goes one step further, English is capable of evolving and developing completely independently of its native speakers. Second language users of English drive the introduction of new words like "informatics" and "ufology" which gain currency first among these speakers. Foreign governments keep close control of their English language nomenclature, and make changes through the United Nations and non-government organizations. These changes are therefore immediate in English, with no consultation with native speakers necessary. While some European languages are still calling the capital of China "Peking", English made the switch to "Beijing" during the late 1980s (for proof, look at contemporary reports regarding the Tienanmen Square events of June, 1989). Recently, the switch from Bombay to Mumbai has happened before most English speakers have even noticed.

Conclusion
The status of English in world affairs puts its native speakers in a unique position. We have the opportunity of living in a provincial English-only environment in which the world comes to us, or we can take advantage of this favored position to become acquainted with other cultures right within our own language. So, is any second language really useful for English speakers? No study can ever really measure the personal importance of second language learning. That is something we have to discover for ourselves. The fact is that every language is well worth the effort to learn, as every language is a complete way of describing the universe of human achievement, and thus it’s significance is as wide and as deep as we personally make it.

.....................

^So according to the above, Swahili is even more useful to learn than Japanese --Konnichiwa!-- go figure. [Smile]

--------------------
mr.writer.asa@gmail.com

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lamin
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Sunjata,
The combined populations of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is approximately 90-100 million. That would Swahili more widely spoken than your article claims. Swahili is also spoken in Mozambique and Congo.

Hausa, the lingua franca or trade language of West Africa, is also spoken by relatively large numbers of trans-national peoples. Nigeria is home to some 160 million people and one can say that Hausa is spoken by at least 70 million people including some from Chad, Niger, Mali and Northern Ghana.

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lamin
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Asante,
Understand what I wrote. Twi may be widely spoken in Ghana as you claim but in terms of its reach in West Africa it does not have the transnational reach of Hausa, Mandinka, Pular(Fulani language) and Yoruba. And even Wolof is spoken not only in Senegambia but also in Mauritania. I believe that some Ibo(Nigeria) is also spoken in the Cameroon.

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lamin
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Jari,
I don't think you understand the subtle[maybe not so subtle] point that McWhorter was trying to make. Regardless of the merits or demerits of Kwanzaa McWhorter's goal was just to discredit it in the same way that right-wing racist whites have done. They argue against its authenticity with the same claim that McWhorter makes: AAs are of West African origin so any cultural embrace of concepts expressed in a non-West African language such as Swahili is proof of the artificiality of Kwanzaa.

What such right wingers avoid noting is that if Kwanzaa is pure made-up artifice with no authentic fit then so would be the Christian ritual of Christmas and the Jewish ritual of Hannukah. The rituals of Christiantiy and Hannukah have absolutely no original cultural connection with the people who now practice them. So why pick on one and not the others?

What is the goal of people like McWhorter and his white right-wing ideological allies. Their goal is to deny a culturally denuded and oppressed people from creating independent cultural institutions that could grant them some kind of ideological independence and agency. They just want AAs to be fully Euro-American in cultural artifacts but ideologically oppressed at the same time.

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MelaninKing
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quote:
Originally posted by lamin:
Their goal is to deny a culturally denuded and oppressed people from creating independent cultural institutions that could grant them some kind of ideological independence and agency. They just want AAs to be fully Euro-American in cultural artifacts but ideologically oppressed at the same time.

Their goal is complete and willing Assimilation.
Whites get defensive when others reject acceptance of their backward and substandard culture.


Note, that all though Africans have been in America longer than most other non-native cultures, they are the least assimilated, even today. Blacks naturally resist assimilation because we realize the culture is inferior and far less than "US".

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