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Ugandans should acquire multilingual skills

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Added 11th January 2018 08:29 PM

The world today is a global village and, therefore, we should not have any communication barriers whatsoever.

By M.G Adubo Bbaale

While all universities look up to their graduates being absorbed in the Labor market, more and more of them end up on the streets unemployed. Many times we have pointed fingers at the universities. Many have said universities are not teaching the right programmes.

Let us know that our universities are not supposed to produce labour for the local market only, but regional and international too. How qualified are our graduates? What are our priorities and expectations within the nation, in the region and internationally? When our graduates are churned out each year, how many of them can comfortably compete for regional or international jobs?

It is true that many of our graduates lack not only good communication skills, but also very few Ugandan graduates have multilingual skills. Today the world is a global village making it necessary that graduates attain, among other things, multilingual skills.

Communication is key. As Ugandans we should be encouraged to improve on our communication skills, to be multilingual because this is a reality. The world today is a global village and, therefore, we should not have any communication barriers whatsoever.

In Uganda, different foreign languages are taught at different levels and in different schools. Learning another language enriches the mind and opens up new horizons, both personal and professional. It is a fact that Students who speak several languages will increase their chances of finding a job, whether in Uganda, Africa or abroad because it is a career asset.

Let us encourage foreign Language teaching and learning right from Primary School to University level. Foreign language learning will in turn encourage collaborations, critical thinking and creativity. The ability to speak both French and English for example is an added advantage for finding a job with the many multinational companies using French as their working language, in a wide range of. Also France, as the world’s fifth largest economy, attracts entrepreneurs, researchers and the cream of foreign students.

Many advantages come with speaking a foreign language or more. French as an example makes a major contribution to preserving linguistic diversity in the world and avoiding the exclusive domination of a single language in today’s globalised world. Lets us encourage French Language teaching right from primary school to University.

 French is a major language of international communication. It comes second as the most widely learned language after English. It is a language spoken on all five continents. It is also the third most widely used language on the Internet.  Why then should we not encourage Pupils and Students in higher Institutions of learning to speak French?

Proficiency in French is essential for anyone considering a career in any international organisation. Since it is  considered the language of international relations  because it is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross, the African Union , the international courts and also one of the languages of the EAC.

Also, being an analytical language, it structures thought and develops critical thinking. It is the language of great philosophers (Descartes, Sartre and Derrida, among others) and eminent scientists (Pierre and Marie Curie, Pasteur and others).

 In learning French, children also learn how to argue a case and present different points of view, valuable skills for discussions and negotiations.

French is a good grounding for learning other languages, especially Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian) and even English, since over half of modern-day English vocabulary is derived from French.

There exist many exchange opportunities for students to make contact with French speakers of their own age, as pen pals or via the Internet. There are many different exchange programmes in France that offer rewarding experiences. Thousands of French schools are twinned with counterparts around the world, creating links with the world’s largest educational network.

Ugandan Universities and other institutions of higher learning therefore should capitalize on diversifying programmes and rolling out foreign language programmes too as they are considered tools of global commerce. They are of growing importance to the country and to university graduates.  Other key foreign Languages for Ugandans apart from French include Chinese, Arabic, German and Spanish.

 Foreign Language learning will not only boost Tourism, business and trade interests within the EAC and abroad but will promote all-round professionals who can work in any country and environment. It is really important to learn the language of others in order to promote communication and cultural diversity. How many Ugandan Doctors, lawyers can speak French? All professionals should strive to be multi lingual.

International trade especially in the sectors of telecommunication, tourism, energy, technology, commodities and construction is key to the Ugandan situation. France would be a key economic partner since it is considered the world’s fifth biggest economy and third-ranking destination for foreign investment,

Given that French is already strong in Africa, (spoken in as many as 30 African countries and deeply entrenched as an official language in Francophone countries) coupled with its geographical situation in the Great Lakes region, French speaking Ugandans would be advantaged, since this is a basic strategy to achieve the millennium goals as stipulated in the United Nations Strategic Plan.

 Also with the integration process in East Africa rapidly becoming a reality, the launching of a common market for the region, encouraging the flow of labor, goods and services around East Africa . Investors in Uganda will surely opt for people who can speak other languages with definitely French coming first on the list.

In view of the above enlightment, it is obviously imperative to promote the teaching and learning of any of the above Foreign Languages at all levels as a standard for a multilingual society that will cope with the changing world phenomena . Ugandans have continuously been encouraged to learn French. Particular attention may be drawn to a sample of newspaper articles that include:

a) (New Vision October 24, 2017 pg 5) the need for Police officers to learn French as a pre-requisite to join UN peace keeping missions having multilingualism as an added advantage

b)    The Observer November 30, 2015

c)     (New Vision 17th march 2004). a one Lt Abubakar kalume ,because he was foresighted , appealed to the government to teach French to the army. Thanks to him, today a good number of officers in the army have benefitted from the French classes taught in the Jinja military school.

d)    Other related articles in, The Independent April 2, 2013, The New vision March 4, 2001.


This should therefore be embraced without prejudice but with purposeful focus not only on the present but also on the future of a modern Society. It is never too late.


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