A corporate slogan is created to express the corporate philosophy of a company. Every day, we see hundreds of messages and catchphrases everywhere from print and broadcast media and online advertisements. In fact, slogans are so important that businesses spend vast sums of money to develop them in the hope of achieving successful brand awareness.
It is refreshing when a leading company in Namibia utilises indigenous languages to convey its core corporate philosophy. In fact, we find this ground-breaking. However, it becomes a problem when this is done in a way through which the language is misrepresented and advice by native speakers of that language is blatantly ignored.
This is the case with the slogan “Oshili nawa” used by the Trustco Group as a tag-line or phrase.
The author advised Trustco of the misrepresentation in the slogan and requested the company to verify the grammar if need be with Oshiwambo language academics. Our request sent earlier this year to Quinton van Rooyen (managing director) was met with a fleeting response.
Attached to it was a vague promise that the matter would be discussed “internally” and that our views would be considered. Moreover, similar requests were sent to Jaco Kleinschmidt (marketing manager) and Mr Bob Kandetu (head of corporate affairs).
To explain the matter to the readers. The current slogan “Oshili nawa” is an apparent misnomer. As it stands, it conveys no linguistic meaning. It loosely translates to: Truth Well. The proper spelling should however be: Oshi li nawa (It is well). Note that Oshi (subject concord) and li (conjunction) are written as separate words.
Our point is this. The company saw no need to heed our advice. It was ignored. This is where we, as speakers of that language, need to ask ourselves serious questions. Amongst them is the question: What condition in this country allows Trustco to disregard our request? What does it tell us about our tertiary educational institutions (linguistic faculties), the National Institute for Education and Development (NIED) and their ability to legitimise our indigenous languages? It is scary. There appears to be a blatant disrespect of indigenous African languages in this country. And this contempt is almost tangible.
A language is ultimately a social product of a specific people handed down over generations. It thus originates from a certain culture. A disrespect for a language almost always reveals a latent disrespect for that culture. In the end, it reveals a collective disrespect for the bearers of that culture.
It is upon the bearers of the language/culture to safeguard and nurture it. Reclaiming our indigenous African languages is part of our generational mission. We all benefit from respecting our African cultures and languages.
Onakalunga (Ohangwena region)