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Opinions of Friday, 31 December 2004

Columnist: Adzei, Francis A.

Re: Call For United Ghana With One Language

I read the above article on ghanaweb about the call for a common local language for Ghana. Kindly permit me to address some observations I have made before and from the article.

This idea of national language came up in parliament of 1960 but was disenchanted by tensions from the cosmopolitan grouping in the house at that time. It took the wisdom of one member of the house that the time was not ripe for such a discussion. Ten years after, the issue came up again in 1970, when the discussion ended in nothing different from what it was in 1960. Since then, it has never been discussed. What lessons have we learnt? You and I know that it is useful to have a national language but for a pluralistic state like Ghana, where there are 46 recognised languages, one could easily fathom the difficulty of choosing one language in preference to other(s). It is remarkable that Ghanaian languages used to be compulsory in basic schools up to second cycle institutions until 1997, when they were all abolished. A legacy of Prof. Ameyaw Ekumfi, the then Director-General of Ghana Education Service. How could one imagine his or her mother tongue be thrown into the dustbin of history just after primary school?

The author suggested Twi but I think it should have been Akan and not Twi. Because Twi, as it stands, excludes Fante but Akan encapsulates all the trio- Asante, Akwapem and Fante. The author also failed to show the link between language and development.

Now, let us consider feasibility. The author acknowledged in his article that ?Learning someone else's language is not easy and therefore puts one aback and disadvantaged as compared to someone who is using his own languages in his education?. How do we solve this problem with other Ghanaians, whose languages are not Akan? Kwesi also indicated in his article that more than 60% of Ghanaians speak Akan. This is untrue according to current demographic data from the statistical services department, which make speakers of Akan stand at 44% of Ghana's population. How can we push Akan down the throat of indigenous speakers of Buli, Bimoba, Birifor, Chumburung, Ntrubo, Tapulma or Vagla? Just to mention a few. It is no doubt that Akan is mostly spoken in Ghana than other languages. But the sad news is that there is no standard of Akan at the moment. All linguists would attest to this fact. The only Ghanaian language with a unified standard is Ewe, which is also spoken by about only 13% of the national population. These are realistic possible barriers to having a national language in Ghana today.

Ghanaians are permanently resident in Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, Japan, Korea, Italy and many other countries that do not use English as official language and yet our fellows have managed to master these languages, sometimes even more than the native speakers. This is enough reason for us to believe that we can still develop with English as official language if we so desire. Why then the call for another language when we cannot pinpoint the feasibility of our suggestions?

What about South Africa? The country is developing at a faster rate but this did not come as a result of accepting Zulu, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, Sesotho or any other language as her national language. English is still used as the official language. The secret is patriotism, which we Ghanaians lack. Until we begin to have visionary leaders and we the citizen change our mentality, Ghana?s development would forever be a mirage.

Albeit Ghana would be more unified with a common national language apart from English as official language, its implementation looks bleak enough. If those of us who were educated well and are now Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, Economists etc. were to stay home and help, our development would have been far somewhere than it is today.

We should not further polarise our already divided country through adoption of one local language to other(s).

Francis Adzei, Norway.

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