Colonization & Writing

Colonization & Writing


Indeed, the English language is a constitution of diverse facets incorporated from different periods that ideally influence the growth, development and use of the language in modern milieu. Nonetheless, contemporary English depicts the numerous centuries of progression based on the significant influence stemming from the various political and societal factors encompassing the original English speakers. For instance, the Christianization of Britain by the Romans in 597 integrated Latin civilization within England and contributed more elements to the current vocabulary. Alternately, the invasions of the Scandinavians created a considerable mixture of the pair of cultures as well as their dialects. The Norman Conquest transformed English further by making it a dialect for the lower class whereas the nobles and their associates utilized the French language during the majority of occasions. Events such as those mentioned and many more including the Hundred Years War, the progression of England as a nautical power, the extension of the British domain and the Renaissance transformed the English language into what it is now. Furthermore, references in scholarly compositions and popular literature with respect to West African English, Caribbean English and other linguistic miscellanies illustrate that the use of the English language transcends geographical borders depending on certain events such as colonization that influenced the use of the dialect in various mannerisms. Additionally, the historical development of the language also initiates controversy regarding the rise and spread of English in global regions. Nevertheless, the use of English does not evade the contention and controversy evident in the areas its gains utilisation. Such contention arises from the different ways in which English as a language is subject to transformation depending on the manner of its use in tasks such as writing.

The Distinctions of English

Familiarising with the distinctions of the English language allows one to understand the contentions encompassing the use of the language. Indeed, at one point, the English was no more than a mere dialect among the Germanic tribes in England. The manner in which the language spread is attributed to various considerable events that encompassed the use of the language in either the spread of knowledge, the documentation of events or the expulsion of the otherness of various cultures to conform to one English derivative (Leith & Seargeant, 2012, p.16). Nonetheless, the English language continues to deviate in the contemporary era with respect to different milieus. As such, the way in which the English language changes in the modern context drives linguists to connote the language as not a single form of communication, but rather an integration of different types of English spoken in different regions across international borders in an exceptional way. In simpler terms, linguists assert that the English language is not a single dialect but rather, a combination of dissimilar English languages.

Foremost, the distinctions made regarding the epistemology of English incur the issue of nativity or rather, the use of English as a Native Language (ENL). As such, English gains distinction from the manner in which its users regarding their nativity speak it. Thus, the distinction lies between the dialect uttered by Native Speakers and Non-Native Speakers (Seargeant, 2012, p.28). The distinction present based on the two terminologies asserts the difference between a native speaker and a non-native speaker with respect to communicating in English. According to Seargeant (2012), the significance of the distinction is that individuals obtain language through different ways with respect to the age at which the persons learnt the language. As such, for non-native speakers learning the English language as their second language, the dialect they learn receives considerable influence due to their native language. Nonetheless, the environment in which both speakers gain the tongue differentiates the manner in which each speaker delivers their language irrespective of their nativity.

Another distinction that comes into play regarding the English language involves the illustration of the language as a Second Language (ESL) and as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Seargeant, 2012). This distinction provides familiarity regarding the spread and view of the English in a contentious manner within different societies. Regarding the first category, English as a Second Language (ESL) involves the utilisation of the English language in nations that accord the language an official status (Leith & Seargeant, 2012). Usually, the ESL category is evident in instances where a respective country underwent colonization. This conceives the notion of colonization as one of the contentious issues surrounding the use of English. The second category, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to the milieu in which the English language does not possess any legal or official status. Regardless, schools teach the language as an object akin to countries deemed conventionally as conversant in English such as the USA or the UK.

Nonetheless, the categorizations of English are rapidly eroding based on the domineering nature of the dialect in modern context. With respect to EFL, English taught in schools as a means of facilitating communication, in the event that natives of a different country travel to other English-conversant nations, has lost its significance. Instead, in place of ESL, English gains the status of an international language. This is because the language does not only allow individuals to communicate with persons from English-speaking nations; it also facilitates communication among persons from different international regions irrespective of their nativity or connection to English-speaking countries. Interestingly, the English language gains usage more considerably among non-natives than natives in English countries. Thus, even though various nations do not assert an official status to the English language, such countries identify the English language as an indispensable ability that should be evident among every person based on the global use of the language in virtually everything.

Indeed, the original distinctions involving ENL, ESL and EFL require the addition of another categorization that comprises English as an International Language (EIL). EIL further conceptualises the use of the English in modern context. Furthermore, the notion of the English language as a lingua franca involves the manner in which the English language functions as a communication technique for individuals around the world irrespective of the nativity (Leith & Seargeant, 2012). Furthermore, external forces such as globalisation through facets such as the Internet facilitate the need for individuals in different settings to communicate and as such, influence the development of a single and understandable language.

Globalizing English through Colonization

With respect to the distinctions surmising the use and spread of English, indeed, various areas represent the manner in which usage of the language embraces contention in a literary sense. A factor that propels controversy in the use of English involves the distinction that views English as an International Language (EIL). Interestingly, the spread of English as an international language is not an objective aimed for by modern facilitators. Essentially, the internationalization of the English language is a factor that was evident even in past chronological contexts especially linked to Colonialism. This is due to the assumption that the English language possessed the ability and potential to assume the status of a global dialect as early as the mid 18th century. Irrespective of the fact that the English people possessed an affinity towards the learning of new languages, the spread of English gained considerable facilitation from the conquest of other territories.

According to Leith & Seargeant (2012), the global status that English accomplished did not arise from the affinity of the Europeans towards learning English, in essence, the more fundamental reasons for the globalisation of English receive heavy association towards the procedures of geopolitical dominance. As such, while other European nations such as Italy focused on learning the new language, the English people focused on increasing their authoritative demeanour throughout international boundaries based on the establishment of Britain as a maritime authority and the dispersion of English-conversant individuals throughout different parts of the world. By advocating for the spread of English throughout armed conquest, one of the areas that initiates focus regarding the contention, surrounding the use of English involves the notion of Colonization

The notion of Colonization involves the procedures that incorporate the forceful establishment of English-conversant communities in various terrains throughout the globe. The establishment of these communities occurred through strategic positioning. Usually, the English-speaking societies would place themselves in an authoritative position against the native populace occupying the terrains while simultaneously, sustaining edifying and economic associations with England. Such processes influenced the extension of the use of English throughout the globe. Furthermore, in order to understand the gravity behind the spread of English through colonization, it is important to highlight the Three Circles of English, a model by Kachru that illustrates the spread of English in three circles. The circles depict the variations of the spread, the outlines of acquirement and the operational allotment of English in sundry cultural milieus.

Nonetheless, the spread of English by the English-speaking countries, especially Britain within the colonial era resulted from imposition and coercion. Nevertheless, the phases characterising colonisation by the English such as Displacement, Subjection and Replacement illustrate the different forms that the English used in assimilating the English language within their colonies. As such, the different methods utilised by the English colonialists facilitated dissimilar linguistic consequences encompassing the utilisation of the English language with respect to the events surrounding the three phases. The Displacement phase illustrated the displacement of the existing populace by the original English-conversing speakers that settled within the areas. Subjection involved the sparse English settlements allowing some of the native communities to learn English as an alternative language while maintaining them in subjection. Replacement involved the replacement of the existing populace by a novel external workforce.

Colonization and Writing in South Africa

Indeed, the spread of the English language on a global scale due to colonization forms the basis for contention regarding the use of English in writing. The main processes intrinsic within colonization, which include displacement, subjection and replacement, facilitated the globalization of the English language (Leith & Seargeant, 2012, p.106). Nonetheless, with respect to South Africa, the use of subjection initiated the spread of novel language varieties throughout South Africa. As such, due to the effects of colonization through subjection, the language of Afrikaans gained conception. Even though Afrikaans comprises most elements of the Dutch language, it is also a mixed variety of local language varieties. Furthermore, the spread of Afrikaans in South Africa was forceful based on the assertion that the Dutch required instructions in schools and educational institutions in the country during colonization to be in Afrikaans and English only.

Indeed, Mesthrie (clip 3.3) illustrates further development of the English variety in South Africa by underlining the spread of English in South Africa. Indeed, Mesthrie points out that the spread of English began with the settlement of English persons in the Eastern Cape. Furthermore, as mentioned, English, together with Afrikaans comprised the main instructional and official languages within South Africa during apartheid. As such, the influence of Afrikaans on English in South Africa led to the creation of loanwords within the English language. For instance, a word such as ‘aardvark’ stems from the Afrikaans lingo even though it gains recognition as an English term.

Furthermore, initiating loanwords leads to the development of language switching among languages. Language switching involves switching particular words within English with local dialects (264). This is another considerable effect of colonization on the development of English varieties. For instance, in South Africa, a language deemed as Kombuistaal, spoken majorly in Cape Town, derives its vocabulary from the English language while still comprising major facets from the Afrikaans language (McCormick, 2013, p.270, clip 6.2). This process outlines the emergence of code alternations and switching in languages. As such, code switching leads to the creation of more English varieties that further alter the nuances within a particular language. As such, through the process of colonisation by the Dutch and the settlement of English settlers, the English varieties encompassing both English and Afrikaans facilitate further contentions in translation.

Alternately, the controversy surrounding translation involves the use of local language or English in writing literary compositions. Normally, the process of translation in South African literature focused on retaining the cultural authenticity within South African folklore. As such, writers focused on writing the local literary works together with their English translations (McCormick, 2013, p.200). Nonetheless, such assertions initiated controversy based on the implications of colonialism on Africans in South Africa. This propelled the need to conceive a South African literature that was devoid of English or Afrikaans due to associations regarding the oppressive nature of the colonial languages (Johnson, 2013, p.202, Clip 20.1). This is also evident in the assertions provided by Minter (2013, p.53) who acknowledges the prevalence and dominance of the English language in South African literature. Furthermore, the manner in which African literature in South Africa utilises the English language in literal context increased after post-apartheid irrespective of the need to utilise local languages.

However, the contention surrounding writing in local languages in South Africa revolves around the issue of translation. Minter (2013, p.53) acknowledges that for the local literary work to reach a significant part of the society, then it should undergo the difficult process of translation into English. This is because most South Africans understand the English language better. Furthermore, the implications of Apartheid and the prior settlement of the British in the country established more South Africans with knowledge in conversing in English. This is also evident in the Soweto Movement in which students demanded English to comprise the main form of instruction in schools instead of the imposition of Afrikaans. As such, the thought of translation of local language to English presents a difficult task.

The process of translation involves the recognition of the language context. As indicated, South Africa comprises a variety of languages. This is clear due to the assertion that the country recognises eleven languages as official. Adding on, the task of translation recognises the difficulty in the projection of connotations from one translation to another. Minter (2013, p.54) acknowledges that translating is difficult especially in events where the individuals speak more than a single language. Furthermore, there are phrases and expressions that are unable to undergo translation and thus, translators are unable to transfer the meaning presented by the particular terms to another language. This is present in the process of code switching in which speakers of the Kombuistaal language in South Africa switch English words with their local varieties. Furthermore, the controversy in translation illustrates the possibility of the translated text losing its original meaning due to changes in the nuances presented in the local language.

This assertion receives further argument based on the varieties and milieus regarding a particular language. As such, there is absence of a unified concept regarding any language and as such, various distinctions and contexts exist that change the language. As such, with respect to South Africa, numerous language varieties exist that illustrate a disjointed history. This surmises the need to inspect the language undergoing translation to English as well as the variety of English used for the translation. The difficulty involved in translation, therefore, involves the transfer of the original meaning to the translated literary work without deviating from the referred connotation. Minter (2013, p.54), referring to the English translated text of Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk from Afrikaans, highlights that the cultural commodities within the original text should undergo transference to the translated text without losing the original meaning.

Furthermore, more contention based on translation of a local literary work focuses on the implication of translation in changing the feel of the terms. Minter (2013, p.55) alleges that translating the local text by making the English appeal in an Afrikaans’ manner possesses the dilemma of loss in the translated text. Nonetheless, the manner in which the translation operates forms the basis of whether there will be a loss of the translated text’s Afrikaans feel. The creation of Afrikaans’ feel in the English translation involves inculcation of linguistic borrowing and code switching in which the English words, in place of the original text, gain stylistic pronunciations of particular words and phrases of the local language used, in this case, Afrikaans.

In addition to the practice of writing in the local language, another contention arising in this area involves the commercialisation of the English language. Sections of writers in South Africa allege that their use of the English language in writing their literary compositions is due to the marketing of their literature. In a simpler sense, these writers assert that writing in the English language allows their literary materials to spread into a much larger and international audience. This also revolves around the issue of translation in which books and other literary works captured in the local dialect undergo language deviation to English in order to appeal to an international audience.

Njabulo Ndebele, a South African writer who authors her books in English acknowledges that her decision to switch to English from the local Zulu language gained persuasion from the fact that local writers using the English language received considerable recognition from the prevailing English literary periodicals. Nonetheless, another reason arising from Ndebele’s assertion points back to the notion of cultural authenticity. According to Ndebele, her support and appreciation for the local Zulu language advocates for a sense of belonging. This aspect is a feature that the English language cannot provide since it erodes the meanings and the contextual nuances within the local language used to write the composition.

Alternately, Sindiwe Magona, who is also a South African writer that writes in English for adults and isiXhosa for children, acknowledges Ndebele’s assertions with respect to the local language. Magona acknowledges that the isiXhosa she uses in the children’s books constitute a perfect medium for the documentation of her culture as well as the preservation of her dialect, and generally, a sense of belonging and place. Nonetheless, Magona asserts that the educated and literate adults in South Africa express considerable understanding of the English language. On the other hand, Joan Hambidge writes using the Afrikaans dialect. Unlike the previous writers, Hambidge attaches her dialect to her identity and as such, Afrikaans allows her to authenticate her literary compositions by using the ‘feel’ she derives from her native tongue. As such, she is able to use her emotions to document her literature.

As such, it would be unavoidable to raise the issue of cultural loss based on the writers’ assertions regarding the use of the local language in writing. Even though Minter (2013, p.56) asserts that the translation of text written in local language, in this case, Afrikaans, to the English language does not necessarily bear the risk of loss of authenticity, it is certainly dependent on the context of the language. With respect to Hambidge, Minter acknowledges the possibility of emotions dictating the manner in which a translated text exudes authenticity. By attaching ‘feelings’ to words and expressions in the local dialect, translation of the respective text should pay attention to the emotional manner in which the words and phrases receive expression and thus avoid losing the cultural authenticity attached to the literary compositions.


Indeed, the English language is one of the most domineering languages spoken in most parts of the world.  The prevalence of the English language is overly considerable such that it topples languages such as the Chinese language irrespective of China being the most populated country in the world. Nonetheless, such demographic factors do not affect the rapid integration and spread of the English language globally. On another side, the prevalence of the English language in South Africa due to colonisation raises the contention focusing on South African literature in the country. Due to the commercialisation of the English language globally, much of the South African literature uses the English language in order to appeal to an international and broader audience. Despite the positive attributes associated with using English in such literature, it is vital to recognise the defects such use connotes on South African culture and literary authenticity.


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