Why It’s Important to Translate the National Anthem Into Local Languages

Patriotism has become a common theme in President Yoweri K. Museveni’s speeches during national celebrations such as Independence Day. He always talks about how we need to promote patriotism and become a people that put the interests of the country above self; in the words of John F. Kennedy, a people that don’t ask what their country can do for them but rather what they can do for their country.

President Museveni has tried to walk his talk of promoting patriotism through awarding national medals to citizens from various disciplines that he feels have played their parts well in building the nation. His government has also launched campaigns such as “Buy Uganda Build Uganda” which are all commendable. But in order to really build and entrench the spirit of patriotism among Ugandans we need to go back to the basics.

Translate the National Anthem into several local languages

Certainly the most important thing to be done to promote patriotism is to translate the National Anthem into our diverse local languages. This anthem is the embodiment of our cultural and national heritage considering how much is it sung and the feeling and intensity with which it is sung. It makes you wonder how much more it would unite and galvanize the whole nation if it was promoted among the sections of Ugandans who have no formal education.

Every Independence Day local television stations telecast clips of random Ugandans ‘murdering’ the National Anthem firstly by getting the lyrics wrong and singing it out of tune. The first words of the first stanza that go, “Oh Uganda may God uphold thee, we lay our future in thy hand…” is often sung as “Oh Uganda may God appozzi, we lay Africa in zza hand…”

To make matters worse, these clips are posted on YouTube where they generate many hits from all over the world. The first time I watched these clips of our national anthem being ‘massacred’ like that by ignorant Ugandans, I was revolted, and wanted to launch a sit-down strike outside the offices of the Minister of Education as well as the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development that should be responsible for ensuring that all Ugandans memorize and understand the national anthem as a microcosm of national culture and pride.

Come to think of it, you cannot blame uneducated Ugandan for failing to grasp the words of the beloved national anthem since they are in a foreign language. Which is why time is ripe for government to raise resources that will go into translating the national anthem into all the local languages as well as teaching it to all Ugandans both the educated and the uneducated. Yes, even the elite shouldn’t be left behind because most of them only know the first stanza but are clueless about the last two stanzas. Other possible language translation services done in different countries include;

Somali translation services

Tigrinya translation services

Yoruba translation Services

Malagasy translation services

Borrow a page from other countries  

By translating the national anthem into local languages, Uganda would be borrowing a page from other countries who have theirs in local languages. Rwanda’s national anthem is in Kinyarwanda while Tanzania’s is also composed in Kiswahili and so is the East African anthem. Even Kenya has a Kiswahili version of its national anthem (Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu). So why shouldn’t our beautiful anthem be translated into Luganda and the Bantu languages which are popular around the nation?

After all, even the churches are realizing the importance of local languages by translating the popular classic hymns into mother tongues. Pop into any church on Sunday and you will be amazed how the all popular Christian songs both old-school and contemporary, have local language versions. In fact, this trend of ‘localizing’ foreign songs is not new since in secondary schools we used to translate blockbuster tracks into local languages and perform them at socials.

Imagine then what a uniting factor it would be if all Ugandans were able to sing our national anthem correctly and in all our languages. That would mean there would be no more fumbling at social or national events and at international events that Uganda participates in, where it is sung, we would all join in heartily like true patriots sing their anthems, and the man who composed it 56 years ago, Prof. George Wilberforce Kakoma, would smile in his grave.