Why Postfaktisch is the German and International Word of the Year by Alexander Opicho

It is a convention of national culture in Germany that every year, the Society for the German Language, situated in the town of Wiesbaden selects a term or a word that reflects current political and social issues of international significance. This year, the selected word correctly reflects a crucial international, social and political situation. The word is postfaktisch, which translates into English as post-truth and into Kiswahili as ukweli-baadaye. Mr Mumbo a faculty member in the department of Kiswahili Studies at Moi University conjectures that postfaktisch can also have a Kiswahili equivalence of usasa-baadaye. In Lubukusu, a language spoken in Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda, the native language of this writer, the equivalent term is maanyandio. Contextually, the word postfaktisch derives its semantic and logical value from the dynamics of world politics as a key phenomenon of social interest easily observed worldwide in 2016.


The international political back-drop to postfaktisch‘s emergence as word of the year can be found in the post-modern political culture of national sentimentality overtly expressed as collective emotions and irrationalities by a given population to accept contorted political fact out of motivation to exclude otherness as evinced in the recent cases of the Brexit referendum campaign in Europe and Trump’s presidential campaign in America.

Other international social and political experiences that are cases of postfaktischen (plural of postfaktisch), where societies refused political and social truth to accept lies for the sake of collective-self(ish) comfort in 2016 are: the choice by the Swedish academy to award Bob Dylan a Nobel prize in literature for his musical, and not literary, efforts, the general elections in Uganda where Yoweri Museven was installed as the president even though he did not win the elections, the choice of Rwandans to amend the constitution so that Paul Kagame could be a life president contrary to the obvious recognized tenets of democracy and the way the government of Vladimir Putin in Russia has been distorting facts in order to justify Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Pennisula.

RELATED: Self-Idolatry, or What Made Ngugi’s Story Most Translated?

The society of German language has been selecting a word of the year since 1971 to reflect crucial international trends. For example the word of the year in 2015 was flüchtlinge or ‘refugees’, which, given the social challenge of upsurge in the cases of illegal migration by Africans, Arabs and Asians into Europe last year, was especially topical.

The activities of the society of German language is a challenge to African languages speakers and scholars alike: where are our language societies? Where is the Gikuyu, Luhya, Lwo, Luganda, Yoruba, Igbo, Kiswahili or Arabic or IsiZulu word of the year? Where are the words for terrorism, climate-change, feminism, auto-sexism, auto-racism, electoral-college or even Arab-spring in our local languages? We may be joining the bandwagon of Ngugi wa Thiong’o in blaming the Western powers for real, imagined vices of cultural Darwinism against African languages, perhaps the actual enemy of African languages is among and within ourselves in the form of intellectual and cultural laziness.

Subscribe To Newsletter
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
Stay Updated
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.