Thursday, 26 February 2009

Somali is playing second fiddle to Arabic language

A couple of years ago the Somali novelist and cultural critic, Mohamed Dahir Afrah, argued that Somali is an endangered language.
Dr Afrah said Somali langauge " has" almost all the symptoms of an endangered language: Civil war; absence of central government that uses it for administration, and promotes it as medium of instruction; people prefer to use other languages because Somali languages does not help them to get decent jobs; absence of language research institutes and ; people boast about facility with a foreign language.
Evidence for Dr Afrah’s argument is plenty but the latest one has come from the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Few weeks ago the Somali Prime Minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, formed a bloated cabinet. A couple of ministries contain Arabic words that replaced their Somali equivalents. A new ministry headed by Hamza Bur’i (Wasaaradda Deeganka iyo Ilaalinta Bey’ada ‘The Ministry of Environment and Environmental Protection’) shows that neither linguistic consideration nor environmental understanding was emphasised when the new ministry was being by conceived. Why use the Somali and Arabic words for the environment ( deegaan and bey’ad) ? Isn’t environmental protection within the remit of the Minister for Environment? Somali language is playing second fiddle to the Arbic language. The Ministry of Security has become in Somali Wasaaradda Aminga. The Somali equivalent of security, nabad-sugida was dumped in favour of the Arabic one Amniga. Nabad-sugidda is self-contained with the notion of security and safeguarding security. When foreign language words are used in place of Somali words that can do the trick, avoidable language and logic mistakes crop up as in the case of the new Somali Ministry of Environment and Environmental Protection.

(Mis)quoting Somalia’s Al Shabab Spokesman

I have been interested in the use of Somali language for newspapers and websites. Misquoting person is possible if a word is misspelt. Another mistake is cased by the order of words—object replacing the subject as the following headline in the Somali website: " Kooxda AlShabaab oo u gacan galay Gobolka Bakool" ( Al Shabab falls into the hands of Bakool region) –the truth is that Bakool region fell into the hands of Al Shabab.
Another Somali website quotes Abu Mansur, Al Shabab spokesman, who was quoted in Somali as saying “''Sharif ma diidanin ee Dustuurkuu wado ayaan diidanahay'' (We are not against Sharif , [ the Somali president], but I am against the constitution he is using). Why does Abu Mansur use two pronouns “we and I ( innaga and aniga) that refer to Al Shabab and himself at the same time? I think that the eighth word diidananay is supposed to be diidannahay to refer to the pronoun innaga (we). An Mistakes such as those outlined in the preceding paragraph confuse translators and students learning Somali as a second language, and it does portray the quoted people in negative light as well.