Translate State documents into local languages

Thursday, November 26th, 2020 00:50 |

John Gichuru   

The recent unveiling by the President of Kanuni za Kudumu za Bunge la Taifa kwa Kiswahili, the translated version of National Assembly Standing Orders is a step towards the right direction.

It is aimed at promoting use of Kiswahili, the Kenyan national language in Parliament.

It is also  a way of promoting the use of the language in the country. Such efforts are laudable and should encouraged. 

However, more efforts need to be put, not only in promoting Kiswahili, but also other indigenous languages, which are on the verge of extinction in the country.

According to Ethnologue, Kenya has over 60 indigenous languages, spread across the 47 counties.

Through collaboration with local languages experts and  other experts in various fields, translation to these indigenous languages can be achieved effectively and efficiently.

It will ensure citizens receive government information in a language they can understand. 

Article 7 of the Constitution, while recognising English and Kiswahili as official languages, also stipulates that the state shall endeavour to promote the use of indigenous languages, Kenyan Sign language, braille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities. 

Both the national and the county governments should endeavour to ensure official communication is developed and published in these languages and formats, in order to reach these special interest groups. 

 To serve these citizens, the governments should come up with creative way to ensure information they produce reaches these groups.

They can leverage on technology to ensure this segment of the population gets the information in the right format, language and medium.  

Article 35 of the Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to access to information and posits that the state has the obligation to publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation.

Access to information by citizens allows them to enjoy their other fundamental rights as stipulated in the Constitution. It also ensures they make informed decisions on leadership and other aspects in life.

Effective communication therefore becomes an integral part in ensuring citizens not only enjoy their rights, but are also well appraised at all times and are able to work with governments to impact societies in which they live positively. 

 Currently, most official national and county government documents are published in English.

This inhibits those who do not understand the language from making their contribution to county and national issues.

As a result, citizens are unable to seek, receive and express their opinion on national issues freely and from a point of information, which is contrary to rule of the land and fundamental human rights of the citizens.

Governments have an obligation to make the information available to the population, regardless of the language the citizens speak.  

Vision 2030 envisions a result-oriented and accountable system that is transparent and that guarantees responsiveness to citizens, assures them of their rights and needs.

Such a system also allows free flow of information to citizens to enable them participate in governance and decision making.

It is therefore imperative that the national and county governments provide this information in a language and medium that is easily comprehensible to them. . 

 By offering the documents in a language they can understand, the government can build a long-lasting trust in mwananchi, as they feel valued.

This will  likely increase public participation in local, regional, national and even international level.  — The writer is a PhD Candidate in Information Science

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