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General News of Thursday, 21 November 2002

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English shouldn't be only medium of instruction

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Tamale (Northern Region) -- Participants at a day's advocacy seminar on Ghana Language Policy have urged the government to rescind its decision on the use of English language as the only medium of instruction at the basic education level.

The participants explained that the use of mother tongue at the basic education level would help maintain the socio-cultural identity of the country.

The seminar, planned by Collaboration Committee on Ghanaian Language Policy Advocacy, was sponsored by School For Life, a Danish non-governmental organisation.

It was attended by Ghanaian Language tutors from the Tamale Polytechnic, Teacher Training Colleges, School For Life, Literacy Programme, Dagbani Literacy Project, Dagbani Orthography Committee and the Ghana Institute of Linguistics Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT).

Abdulai Salifu, a Tutor at Tamale Polytechnic, noted that no matter how well children communicate in the English language, if they were unable to interact with their peer group in their mother tongue, the values of society would be threatened.

Salifu was speaking on: "Psychological, Social And Scientific Benefits Of The Use Of Mother-Tongue In Ghana". He said "The literate who can express himself or herself well in the mother tongue without continually code-switching to English or another language is better appreciated."

He explained that when children are given instruction in their mother tongue, "they are given knowledge first of all and subject matter knowledge, which makes second language input more comprehensible."

Salifu said it was assumed that English would unite and liberate the country but asked: "How efficient can a nation be liberated if 90 per cent of the population are illiterates?" He noted that the beginning of a child education in the mother tongue enhances his or her literacy and fulfils both psychological and social goals of the child.

"Never learn to read a second language if you can't read your own language first," he said. Salifu said "on a psychological plane, one is more apt to learn faster if one is motivated to do so because acquisition happens when one understands messages."

He called on the universities to research more into the Ghanaian languages and train more teachers to come out and help develop them.

In a 15-point communiqu?, the Collaboration Committee called on Cabinet to have a second look at its decision on the new language policy of using English language as a medium of instruction at the basic education level.

The communiqu?, signed by 13 members of the committee, urged the government to mandate the University College of Education, Winneba, to increase its intake of Ghanaian language students.

Other universities should also introduce the study of Ghanaian languages to increase the number of Ghanaian language scholars.

The communiqu? tasked the universities and other institutions to research more into Ghanaian languages and encourage the writing and publication of quality and relevant Ghanaian language textbooks.

It urged politicians to address the electorate at rallies and durbars in Ghanaian languages, where appropriate.

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