Language in Kenya

Katrine Hejslet Larsen & Amalie Kræmer

Student thesis: Subject Module Project


This project aims to investigate the relation between language and culture with a focus on the use of the English language in the Kenyan society and in particular educational system. The project takes its point of departure in the four scholars Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Stella Ting-Toomey and Karen Risager. According to Thiong’o the use of English as language of instruction in Kenyan schools is criticizable, as language and culture cannot be separated. Therefore the English dominance becomes a threat to African languages and the culture they carry. Ting-Toomy, follows this line of thought as she argues that language is a strong determinant in group formation processes. Accordingly, culture is here to be understood as a form of community. Thus, language is central to the heart of culture and how we perceive ourselves. Achebe on the other hand argues that English instead of being perceived as a threat, must be understood as a privileged to be used to the advantage of the individual. In this sense, language is perceived as a tool of communication, which Risager argues is the case to some extent. Therefore, what can be concluded is that English is present in Kenya for better and for worse. Arguably, it has carried advantages with it, but on the other hand, as the situation currently is, it has become dominant in a manner, where it arguably ends up being a threat to African languages and cultures in some aspects. Therefore, the situation calls for language policies aiming to combine the different languages in a way that allows for them to compliment each other.

EducationsCultural Encounter, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Bachelor
Publication date2016
Number of pages31
SupervisorsKirsten Holst Petersen