Young adults, oral culture and languages postcolonial perspectives
Amankwah, Dinah Serwaa
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This study explores the dilemma facing young adults from former colonized cultures in their attempts to (re)claim their native, minority languages. It traces the historical clash of European, African and Aboriginal cultures, and the condescending attitudes Europeans adopt towards non-European cultures, which attitudes eventually lead to the colonization of such cultures, dwelling on the effects of colonization on African and Aboriginal languages, Twi and Kalenjin and Cree, respectively. Colonization has succeeded in dichotomizing the world's cultures into dominant and minority cultures, which has spilled over into languages used by the respective cultures; consequently, the world speaks dominant and minority languages. Just as dominant cultures are more visible than minority ones, dominant languages continue to overshadow minor ones. Consequently, the former dominate in major areas of communication--education, economics, technology, politics and entertainment. This study examines how young adults from the former colonized cultures handle the differences between their minority cultures and the dominant ones that impact so heavily on their day-to-day existence in Canada. The study also explores the colonial implications of the numerous choices the young adults have to make in their quest to keep abreast with the times. A combination of three focus group interviews and twelve fully structured interviews with eight students comprise the principal forms of data collection for this study. Additionally, I had four dialogue sessions with African and Aboriginal elders in order to solicit their opinions about good language skills. Participants are of African and Aboriginal backgrounds, aged between twenty and thirty five years, all of them in post- secondary education at the time of the study. I analysed the data as similar themes emerged from the interviews. In the final analyses, all the participants agreed that colonial processes have impacted negatively on oral languages and cultures. Oral languages and cultures are considered minority in comparison with the colonizers' languages and cultures. There was consensus that from their minority domains, oral languages and cultures grant distinct socio-cultural identities to the people inhabiting the culture, in similar ways to dominant cultures. Formal education has aided people from the (former) colonized cultures to critique colonizing processes. Yet, theories supposed to grant the former silenced good audience tend to be a marginalizing agent, because they stem from the Western worldview. The (former) colonized themselves tend to be implicated in the colonizing processes, due to exposure to Western education. Consequently, it is difficult to distinguish between the colonial and the post-colonial periods. The participants agree that oral languages and cultures are as authentic worldviews as the written languages and cultures. Each has complex inherent systems through which one can obtain knowledge about the world. Therefore, if people from the (former) colonized cultures invest proportionately in their native cultures, as they do with the dominant cultures, they imply the authentic natures of their cultures and ensure their concurrent existence with the dominant ones.