Multilingualism and Language Attitudes: Students Perceptions towards Kiswahili in Mtwara Region of Tanzania

Eric W. Wamalwa, Stanley K. Adika, Alex U. Kevogo


The role of language attitudes on language choice, development and policy in multilingual societies cannot beover emphasized (Adegbija, 1994; Batibo, 2005). Monolingual speakers have only one attitude towards theirlanguage because they have no other languages to compare it with. However, where speakers are bilingual ormultilingual; there is a tendency to develop different attitudes to each of the languages used. These attitudes,whether positive or negative, will normally depend on the degree of symbolic or socio-economic valuemanifested by each language. Tanzania, a multilingual country with over 128 languages and with a bilinguallanguage policy in education is therefore a fertile ground for studies on language attitudes. In recent years, therehave been concerted efforts by various stake holders to propagate growth and development of English inTanzania. English has been lauded as the essential language which links Tanzania to the rest of the worldthrough technology, commerce and administration. Against this backdrop, this study sought to investigatestudents’ attitudes towards Kiswahili so as to determine whether the shift to English had impacted students’attitude formation towards Kiswahili. This survey comprised of 340 students sampled from six selected schoolsof Mtwara Urban and Mtwara Rural districts. Results show that most Tanzanian students have favourableattitudes towards Kiswahili and the language’s status among secondary school students has not diminished.Kiswahili remains the most preferred language of use in all major domains. This study proposes that the placeand role of Kiswahili be further enhanced in the country by exploring its possible use as a medium of instructionat secondary school level. Further, the study proposes that local vernaculars, which face extinction due tolanguage shift that has taken place, need drastic measures in order to preserve them.Keywords: Multilingualism, Bilingual education, language attitudes, Kiswahili

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