Many of my friends and family have been asking, do I have a problem understanding the language in Ghana. My answer is no, most Ghanaians speak English. True, there is a challenge with accents and it may be in the different way we phrase things, Ghanaians speak British English, or a pidgin English, I speak American English, American slang, or Ebonics. There are times when a Ghanaian may ask me, to “Come again?” Which means, repeat that? Or I will ask, “Huh?” or “What did you say?”
There are however, 250 languages spoken in Ghana, and most people articulate in more languages than just one. English, however is the official language, inherited during British colonialism. I do mean to learn Twi fluently, as a place to start familiarizing myself, but some of my friends who have said I’ll teach you soon grow impatient. Should I learn Twi, I will still feel the need to also learn Ga, Ewe, and Hausa so that I won’t feel left out of the conversation.
Ghanaians call the room that Americans call the Living Room of the house, the Hall, where I call the long path between rooms that lead to bathrooms and bedrooms the hall or hallway. Ghanaians may say I need to top up my data, where I may say recharge. I may say I’ll disembark here, and Ghanaians may say, I will get down here or alight here which means they will get out of the car at this point. There are times when I may be with a group of Ghanaians and feel left out, when the conversation changes into the language the speakers are most comfortable with. I understand some Twi, but as Ghanaians would say, “small, small.”
This is a cause of sadness for me that as an American of African descent I can’t understand what is being said in the native languages. Our African ancestors were separated from other same speaking people. Grouped together with others who didn’t speak the same language and out of neccesity to communicate developed creole and pidgin dialects, Gullah and patois, in order to understand each other, at the expense of losing their native African tongue. Being multilingual is a display of the highest intelligence, and is what I oneday hope to be. We are after all, just birds of a feather.