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From the Oral Tradition to the Information Era: the Case of Tanzania

Author(s): Safari Mafu

Journal: International Journal of Multicultural Societies
ISSN 1817-4574

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 99;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Keywords: Internet language | language shift | multilingualism | lingual diversity | Internet use

Internet use is spreading among Tanzanians, as government institutions use it for the dissemination of information, as universities set up projects for distance learning and, as cybercafés become a commonplace in major towns and cities. However, it is necessary to remember that the phenomenon only touches a minority of the community. In a situation where the electricity grid does not cover the whole country, where the service providers are still experiencing difficulties and where there is a large group with no surplus revenue whatsoever, not only unable to afford to purchase the necessary hardware but also without the means to afford the comparatively modest charges of the cybercafé, Internet use will remain a minority and elite activity. This limitation is underscored by the language of the Internet. With few sites in Kiswahili, those Tanzanians who surf the WWW mostly do so in English. The Internet thus is one more domain where English has become the language of the Tanzanian elite.
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