The Language Debate: Thiong’o and Achebe on English in Africa
Abstract: Thiong’o’s groundbreaking book Decolonising the Mind: the Politics of Language in African Literature is one of the most discussed and critically acclaimed postcolonial works. The book has four essays; “The Quest for Relevance” is the last essay which discusses the importance of prioritizing African literature in the academia. According to Thiong’o, the only way African students can benefit from studying literature is by prioritizing the study of their own literature in their own language. In fact, Thiong’o has taken his view to such an extreme that he has declared this book to be his “farewell to English” as a means of any of his writings (1). In contrast, Chinua Achebe embraced English as a medium of his writings which not only made him famous, but also earned him a permanent place in the pantheon of the greatest postcolonial authors and scholars. Like Thiong’o, Achebe was also a strong proponent of promoting African literature and African experience; but unlike Thiong’o, he did not shun the use of English. This paper examines Achebe in light of Thiong’o’s essay “The Quest for Relevance” and explores Achebe’s success as an author in Things Fall Apart.
Keywords: postcolonial, African languages, afrocentricity, English, decolonization
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Published in 2018