Foreign languages are picking up in Kenya at an impressive rate. Most high schools offer a foreign language, Either German, French or both. In high school, about 45 students in my senior year out of 125 students picked French as the foreign language. That’s about 40% if my Math doesn’t fail me. Mind you that’s only because that’s the only foreign language the school offered.
3 out of 5 people have a particular interest in learning a foreign language for whatever the reason, individual development, commercial reasons and even better interaction. French, English and Arabic are the most acknowledged languages in Africa at the time because of the post-colonial influence so it’s no shocker that Kenyans are taking interest in them.
Besides those three, European languages such as German, Italian and Spanish are also quite popular. Speaking to Maxwell Njue, the administrator of Westlands School of Language he tells us that Spanish is a very popular foreign language.
He also says,
“Most students in my school come to learn English. Of course, given the location most students are foreigners are here through NGOs and learn English for better communication with the locals and all.’’
As an Arabic student in the same school, he also acknowledges that I am one of the few locals interested in studying Arabic.
Speaking to an Sheikh cum Arabic teacher, Mr. Omar Malala, he says,
“Arabic is a very useful language but Chinese is the most marketable language in Kenya as we speak,’’
He would gauge that the most marketable languages would be Chinese, French then English in that order. From my research, those are the most mentioned languages when that question is posed. When asked if Arabic is associated with Islam, he agrees fully. Saying, Islam in fact spreads Arabic. He even adds that possibly Arabic will go further than French because it spreads through religion.
Arabic is popular to both locals and foreigners because of religious and commercial purposes.
Chinese is a language that came to us with the Vision 2030 realization and technology dynamics. It’s a bit challenging to learn but with language they say it only needs ‘determination and interest’.
It’s so marketable that it won’t surprise me when Kenya and other nations starts using it as a national language say 20, 30 years from now.
The benefits of foreign languages are that :
1) It enables a broad communication.
2) It gives you an additional advantage as a job seeker. Mainly with international bodies and NGOs.
3) It’s essential in business, especially in terms of expanding your business.
4) It’s a basis for career. Translation and teaching of these languages could work as a self sustaining job. (PS#Translation is a lucrative job)
There you have it, now you have a peak of the growth of foreign languages in Kenya. Do you think I left out any foreign language?