Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
SHONA, a Zimbabwean language, has become the first among first African languages to be recognised by Facebook as an alternative that users can use on the social media platform.
Shona is predominantly spoken in several parts of the country and has various dialects such as Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika and Korekore. It is the only other language in Southern Africa to gain this recognition after Afrikaans that is spoken in South Africa and Namibia.
Other African languages that have been added to the options for Facebook users include KiSwahili spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Hausa which is native to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Benin, Niger, Fula, spoken in West Africa and Somali which is spoken in the region of Somalia.
This feature first appeared in 2017 and is gaining momentum as several users who are keen on learning more about the language have switched from English to Shona. If one is to navigate the applications and go to the language settings, they have the option to choose from dozens of languages that are there on Facebook.
However, challenges have been raised as to the lack of flexibility of the Shona language in interpreting some of the functions of Facebook as the translations would be too wordy compared to the use of English which has one word in some instances to describe an action.
Dr Eventhough Ndlovu, senior lecturer in the Department of Language Literature and Culture at the University of Zimbabwe is on record saying it is a global trend now to teach in local languages known to learners. He said it is actually the best practice and a global trend that learners must be taught in their mother tongue right from Early Childhood Development (ECD).
Unesco has, however, made a recommendation that this must be extended beyond ECD level because research has shown that learners learn better through the mother tongues.
The coming in of Facebook in Shona could usher a new trend where Shona speakers get to develop their language more as it has been incorporated in social media applications that have taken the world by storm. Dr Ndlovu said if mother tongue education is confined to ECD, there will be a promotion of what are called submersion programmes, yet there should be promotion of immersion programmes where the learner is supported in the mother tongue throughout their education life.
It has been noted that the reason why most students are not that innovative and able to think critically in universities is because they are trying to tap into their creative minds using a language that they cannot be creative in which is not beneficial to the nation.
The addition of Shona to the languages of social media platforms like Facebook is a positive move in that the language will develop further as more users come in to review some of the words and meanings available on the site, experts said. — @NyembeziMu