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Opinions of Saturday, 1 January 2005

Columnist: Agyepong, Stephen

Rejoinder: Call for United Ghana with One Language

I have on my list of to do list an article on the same topic so this topic is dear to my heart. My point of view is however, different from Mr. Kwasi Prempeh's premise that we need one local language. I agree with you one hundred percent on the fact that we should be proactive in identifying our problems and finding solutions to them. But I beg to defer on the issue of one local language and we could for example enter into an agreement with Microsoft to come up with a Twi version of Windows.

What happened to President Kuffour's golden age of business? Why couldn't a Ghanaian company license Windows from Microsoft, create a Twi version and sell it in Ghana and make some money instead of letting Microsoft make all the money? Any way I am not in favor of a local language and I give my reasons below so this is beside the point.

There is no question about the fact that we need one language that every Ghanaian can speak, read and write. But we need to recognize that we live in a global village, which Ghana is just a very tiny bit. Ghanaians for one reason or the other continue to migrate in large numbers to other people's land. From all indications Ghana is turning out to be a preferred destination in the West African sub region. You add to these the fact that we depend to a very large extent on technology developed in other people's land and that the user manuals that come with the technology are usually written in other peoples languages; and that we need to adapt these technology for our own good and a single local language doesn't cut it.

I believe the world has changed and continue to change such that one local language doesn't make sense anymore for any African country. I say this because of the reasons I have given above and the ones I give momentarily.

The only reason we need a language is to be able to communicate with our fellow human beings not just Ghanaians. The internet is every where. What is the medium of communication on the internet? You and I know that it is not Ewe, Akan, Hausa or any of the numerous Ghanaian languages.

Look around you the television, radio, the automobile; books, the cell phone, etc. all came about as a result of science and technology. What is the medium of communication in science and technology? You and I know that it is not Ewe, Akan, Hausa or any of the numerous Ghanaian languages.

Are you seeing a pattern here? So we have a local language then what? Do we rewrite all the technical books, science books, etc into this new language? Can we afford the cost? Right now we cannot even feed ourselves. It hurts but that is the truth.

Countries that are more successful than Ghana have been able to do so because of their ability to take other people stuff, add value to it, make it their own, turn around and sell it to other people and make tons of money doing that. For example, they get us to grow cocoa for peanuts they turn it into chocolate and charge a premium for it.

The English language is already our official language. All official documents are already in this language so why reinvent the wheel? I would rather see us put more emphasis on the study of the English language so that every Ghanaian could speak, read and write the English language like the native English man. I don't think we do a good job in teaching the English language or that students pay as much attention to the learning of the English as we ought to. I remember how students used to make fun of teachers and students who try to speak English like the Englishman. They think these teachers and students are arrogant or something. I also remember how science students were expected to be terrible at English because science and mathematics do not require a good command of the English language. Whenever I think about it I tell myself what a shame.

Our failure as a nation is not because we don't have a single local language. We have failed because we depend too much on other people for our existence. From our government to the man on the street we are all looking to someone to help us solve our problems. Look at what one of Mr. Kwasi Prempeh's solutions to our problems entail - getting Microsoft to come up with a Twi version of Windows so our problems will be solved. There is a Linux operating system like Windows. In several ways it is better than Windows. It is open source and free. Why can't the government working with Ghanaian businesses adopt Linux, modify it to suit our needs instead of relying on a monopolistic entity like Microsoft whose business tactics has been call into question by its own government and several other international bodies?

Ghana has been able to attract some outsourcing business from the USA because it is an English speaking country and is known for its talent. We need to continue to produce the talent and make them even more competent in their command of the English language. This will be a sure way to attract even more business from the USA and elsewhere and compete with the likes of India. A local language will not help us in our drive to attract outsourcing business from the USA and Europe.

I worry a little bit about our national pride. But I want to see a lot more successful Ghanaians running the world show more than I worry about our national pride. Do you think Ghana's own illustrious son His Excellence Kofi Annan would have ended up the Secretary General of the UN if he only spoke Akan? I doubt it. His command of the English language was a plus in his rise to the top.

Let us put our national pride aside and look at the realities of the times and make decisions that are going to move us forward like you said. We are lucky to have a powerful and flexible language like English as our official language. Let us embrace it and make it our own. We can make it our own by learning to speak, read and write it better than the Englishman who knows we can have Ghanaian English like we have American English.

I am very optimistic Ghana shall rise because we have people like Mr. Kwasi Prempeh who are willing to stick out their necks so their voice will be heard.

Long Live Ghana, Long Live The Black Star!!!


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