Emma Mwende Mulwa


Human beings can acquire as many languages as they come in contact with, and utilize them as it is permissible and applicable in a society. This article seeks to explore language needs among the participants in the subordinate courts in Machakos County, in an attempt to figure out if those needs are attended to by the current language policy in the courts. The article is an extraction from a PhD study. The proficiency with which some of the participants use the languages they know makes their cases attract unjust ruling. To elicit information on the language needs they have during court proceedings, interviews, questionnaires and non-participant observation were used to carry out a descriptive qualitative and quantitative research. Thirteen defendants and defense counsels, thirteen witnesses and eighteen members of the public took the questionnaires, while three magistrates and clerks/interpreters attended the interviews. The researcher observed the proceedings. After triangulation of the data collected, the findings were that, the participants use the official languages, English and Kiswahili or interpretation of their indigenous languages. This is detrimental to their cases because they are not proficient in the languages. The interpreter is incapable of expressing the sentiments of the accused and the witnesses appropriately. Court participants need to use languages they know best in order to express their issues precisely. This article therefore recommends the use of a language that an accused or a witness cognizes. It also recommends the elevation of indigenous languages to official status within their area of dominance.

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diglossia, multilingualism, language needs, indigenous languages, human rights

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.46827/ejlll.v5i1.265


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