Promoting Learning And Speaking Of Ghanaian Languages

| Updated Feb 22, 2017 at 3:00pm




It is true that globalisation has placed an importance on the learning of English at every level of society. However, one has observed a seemingly dangerous sub-culture in developing Ghana, which is an affront to our culture. Some Ghanaian parents have developed the proclivity of always speaking English with their children at the expense of the local language; just with the hope that their children will become better English speakers. Some even believe that if they do not speak English with their children, they will not do well in school. It is baffling where this is coming from. The sad thing is that most of these parents are not even good English speakers themselves and so they end up transferring their bad English to their naive children. What parents should realize is that maintaining the first language helps children to value their culture and heritage, which contributes to a positive self-concept.

Recent Research from the George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Center for the Study of Language and Education shows that children who learn English at school and continue to develop their native language have higher academic achievement in later years than students who learn English at the expense of their first language. The research further stated that when students who are not yet fluent in English switch to using only English, they function at an intellectual level below their age. However, when parents and children speak the language they know best with one another, they are both working at their actual level of intellectual maturity". Sadly, some people perceive parents who do not speak English with their children as being backward and benighted. What shall we make of the National Theatre, the School of Ghanaian Languages at Ajumako, the Arts Council of Ghana, the Ghana Dance Ensemble, the Institute of African Studies, our Festivals, the School of Music and Drama, or the Ghana Bureau of Languages if we continue to teach our children English at the expense of the local language? Ghana should take a clue from South Africa which has eleven official languages that are mostly indigenous.

The need for a child to speak a native language like Chamba or Nzema when he is in Accra is that it will not hurt the child's language growth. Parents should not forget that children must be able to function or communicate effectively in their homes before they can do same outside and that mastering the native language will not impede the child's English language development but rather enhance it. We all have the responsibility as a society to promote our culture. The Ghanaian culture which includes our local languages plays a central role in shaping the principles of our lives. Our culture shapes our personality and gives us unique identity. The importance of language in socio linguistic terms is inseparable from culture. Language is the vehicle through which culture is transmitted and manifested. Armstrong (1963) observes that if we despise the language of a people, then by that very token, we despise the people. If we are ashamed of our own language then we will certainly lack that minimum self-respect which is necessary for the healthy functioning of society. Arguably, most first and second-cycle school graduates use mainly their local languages to communicate in their day-to-day activities. Boadi (1971) confirms that as far as the majority of school leavers are concerned, if there is any agreement about the level of attainment which they reach in English, it is that, this is low and inadequate for most ordinary purposes. If this is the ultimate plight of the Ghanaian school leaver in the use of the English language, then instead of directing almost all energies at the teaching of English, greater emphasis should be placed on the Ghanaian languages which will be of immediate and practical use when they leave school. For government policies such as increased productivity, decentralisation, rural development and industrialisation to succeed, the broad masses of the population need to be involved. The truth is that these objectives can only be achieved with the proficient use of Ghanaian languages rather than with English. As Parliament in 1971 indicated “The continued use of English condemns the overwhelming majority of the people of Ghana to second-rate citizenship by disqualifying them from discussions”.