The wordy worlds of popular music in eastern and southern Africa: Possible implications for language-in-education policy

Sinfree Bullock Makoni, Busi Makoni, Aaron Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Language-in-education policy in Africa is replete with debate regarding the use of standard African languages as part of mother-tongue education. An issue inadequately addressed within this debate is the role and function of urban vernaculars which have become "the" mother tongue of the greater part of Africa's population. Using data from the lyrics of popular music from eastern and southern African songwriters as an instance of ground-level language practices, this article argues that, to the extent that urban vernaculars and standard African languages act as international languages in popular music, there is justification for using urban vernaculars as languages of instruction. The extensive use of urban vernaculars in popular music has led to its popularity, and if these urban vernaculars are used as part of mother tongue education, socio-cultural relations between the school and society may improve. Despite the fact that educational strategies based on language practices in popular songs subvert social hierarchy, the use of urban vernaculars reshapes and blurs linguistic boundaries and, thus, constructs plurilingual identities. Using urban vernaculars not only provides access to education for a large portion of the population but also consolidates "glocal" identities while affirming cultural roots.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Language, Identity and Education
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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