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The impact of the English language in Zimbabwe: A phenomenological and historical study, 1980–1999

Doreen Tarirai Moyo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The general assumption in this study was that the status of native languages in Zimbabwe was deteriorating while that of the English language was fast growing. No studies had been done on the issue, so this study aimed at exploring the impact of the English language on the Zimbabwean native languages since independence (1980–1999). The data for this study were collected through literature searches, formal and informal observations of language use by Zimbabweans, and structured audio-taped interviews. Analysis of the data was done following the historical and phenomenological paradigms. Results showed that English indeed impacted the native languages of Zimbabwe in the following aspects: school instruction, social and economic status, prestige, power, the job market, communication, the media, political administration, and culture. Shona and Ndebele are also considered official languages. Various minority languages and dialects continue to be threatened. Native people indicated a willingness to learn English even at the expense of their own native languages because of the perceived economic, social and political advantages it brings. General recommendations made from the study are as follows: (1) Raising the awareness of Zimbabwean people of the need and importance of all their native languages in their lives. (2) Language policy decisions should start at the grassroots level rather than being imposed from above. (3) Native languages should play a complementary role in the education of children. (4) Schools and mass media should provide programs that enhance native languages and native cultures. Further studies could explore language policy decisions, implementation and enforcement, minority languages, cultural and religious imperialism, how negative attitudes towards native languages can be changed and native languages and education.

Subject Area

Language|Cultural anthropology|African history

Recommended Citation

Moyo, Doreen Tarirai, "The impact of the English language in Zimbabwe: A phenomenological and historical study, 1980–1999" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9997016.