Presenter Ortis Deley is on a quest to discover the root causes of the decline in Ghanaian languages, being spoken in London, amongst British Ghanaians. Inspired by his own lack of fluency in a Ghanaian language, Ortis is intrigued by the stories of other successful British Ghanaians, who aren’t all fluent Ghanaian language speakers either.
He aims to encourage Ghanaians everywhere in Britain to learn their languages and therefore further embrace their cultural identity.
A few members of the Me Firi Ghana team and other influential Ghanaians within the Diaspora community feature in the show. We commend how the producer managed to bring the Ghanaian community together for this show but what is very relevant is the theme, as the question remains, are young Ghanaians (in Ghana and the Diaspora) more connected to Ghana but less aware of our cultural roots/identity? especially in regards to the Ghanaian language? watch the show and have your say below…
DATE OF TRANSMISSION: 6th March 2015 (Ghanaian Independence Day!)
How would you feel if you walked into KFC one day to order a chicken wrap only to be told they will serve anything but chicken?! Or you go on an aeroplane to fly to your dream holiday destination, only for the pilot to announce the aeroplane will not fly but taxi all the way to its final destination?! I will tell you how I would feel – I would feel conned, disgusted and disappointed. KFC without chicken and a plane that cannot fly?! Chicken is the core essence of KFC and so is flying for an aeroplane.
It’s the same sort of feeling of disbelief and disappointment I get when I come across a Ghanaian who has lived in Ghana all their life and yet speaks better English than any Ghanaian language. I have two nephews and a niece just like that. Speaking to them the other day, I realised they speak fluent English but struggle to hold a conversation in Fanti or Ga. Their knowledge or Fanti or Ga – which is their mother tongue – is only rudimentary. It does not go past “How are you”, “I’m fine” and “my name is”… Shocking huh? And they’re not the only Ghanaian kids living in Ghana who speak better English than their supposed mother tongue. There are many like my nephews and niece and this is deeply worrying.
A couple of generations down the road we will have a society that cannot speak its own language but can we blame these kids? They speak English when they are at school and when they are at home. All the literature they read is in English and all their favourite TV characters speak English too: Ben 10 speaks no Fanti or Ga and neither does Hannah Montana! The only time they get to speak Fanti is when their maternal grandmother visits or Ga when their paternal grandmother comes around and they also get a few hours of local language lessons a week at school and that’s about it.
We cannot pretend this problem just crept up on us out of the darkness, we should have seen it coming. I remember in primary school we had a sign on the chalkboard which read “No Vernacular”. Anyone caught speaking Fanti during school hours were punished, but I was lucky not to end up like my nephews and niece. Unlike them, I had a safe haven. I could go home and speak Fanti all I like. These kids on the other hand have no one to speak Fanti or Ga with on a regular basis, so uncle is going to do his bit to help them. Next time I speak to them on the phone, I will be speaking Fanti and nothing else but now let’s address this problem in a wider sense. Those in charge of drawing up the Ghanaian school curriculum have to take another look at the system. Local language lessons should be given more teaching hours or we can be brave and start teaching a subject – I would suggest History – in local languages. It makes much sense to teach the history of a society in its own language. It gives a better understanding.
Now let’s take a look at the TV stations in Ghana. Do not scrap Ben 10 or Tom & Jerry or Hannah Montana but work some magic with it. It would be nice to hear some of these characters speak Fanti or Ga or Ewe or Twi or Hausa, it can be done. I’ve seen Scooby Doo speak fluent Hindi.
Finally, I have a few words for Ghanaian parents. Please do not speak English to your kids at home. It will not make them any clever than the kids who speak Fanti or Ga or Ewe or Hausa at home.
Funny… I just tried counting 1 to 20 in Fanti and I am ashamed to say I’m stuck at 10! And I would think there would be a load of people reading this who cannot count from 1 to 20 in any Ghanaian language. It’ s a disgrace! We need to do better.