“Swahili facile,” “Lingala facile,” these are the common terms that are used to describe the vernacular languages, or street versions of local languages that is now used on the media (radio and TV broadcasting programs). One can hear a broadcast of news in standard Swahili or in a vernacular version of it. It is not really about “Language for the Dummy”. It seems to be an acknowledgement of how people actually speak. For a long time, the vernacular varieties of local languages have been ignored and devalued. Yet the standard forms of local languages are only spoken in a sermon at church or in a radio or television broadcast. The current shift has been initiated by a journalist from Kinshasa, the capital city. He began using a simple form of the Lingala language that he calls “Lingala facile” or easy Lingala. From there he has influenced other journalists from other radios and television broadcast to begin using simple and vernacular forms of other languages, such as Swahili.
In the educational context, this could be a positive shift because people will begin to use a language that they are familiar with. They will be more proud of themselves, their culture and their intellect. Traditionally, knowing how to speak a foreign language, such as French, is one of the way to get a higher status, esteem and be perceived as educated. Speaking only a local language, particularly in its simplest, vernacular form makes one appear “dum” and illiterate. At the end of the day learning to read and write in the language one speaks and is familiar with should be the ultimate goal. Knowing a foreign language to the expense of one’s own does not seem to serve a good purpose.