The advancement of community development

Effective communication is key to the success or failure of any community development initiative, so the choice of language is critical. This fact is often under-rated.

Development discourse is often monopolised by speakers of powerful, prestigious, international languages, whether they be expatriates or those within the community with a higher level of education. They are often unaware that their language choice excludes others from participating in the process. Yet ironically, it is these very people – the poor, the marginalised, the illiterate, the women – who are most likely to be beneficiaries of the proposed development.

Use of the mother tongue, on the other hand, means that these beneficiaries are no longer marginalised from development initiatives. It is key factor in participatory methods, and this in turn leads to ownership. It counteracts resistance to change because the message is not perceived as foreign. It provides a platform for consensus building, since the mother tongue is the single most uniting factor in the community.