Saturday, September 29, 2007
Twi for the library
By: NII LARYEA KORLEY
SOME of our musicians may be doing well singing in Twi but the spelling of song titles on their albums is appalling. The same awful practice can be noticed on commercial motor vehicles.
That observation was made by Professor Emertius J.H. Nketia this week at the Hotel Shangri-la in Accra at the launch of three books published by the Cape Town-based Centre for Advanced Studies of African Studies (CASAS). Two of the books, Akan Nsemfuasekyere and Mbofra Akan Nsemfuasekyere, are Twi dictionaries authored by five Ghanaian authorities on the language.
Though Prof. J.H. Nketia is known around the world for his work in ethnomusicology, he has also done extensive research into and published books in the Twi language. He congratulated the authors: J. Gyekye-Aboagye, S.A. Gyima L.A. Okraku, R.M. Oppong, A.O. Boakye and S.K. Coleman on their work and tasked them to explore more traditional sources, oral literature especially, to enrich future output.
“In areas like drum language, libation, funeral dirges and other songs, we can get words as that we do not use too often now. There are words we use on ceremonial occasions which are still important because we hear them recited. All these can provide us with the material for expanding our work in the language”.
He also thanked Prof. Kwesi Kwaa Prah, Director of CASAS, for his initiative in getting the dictionaries published. Prof. Nketia suggested the publication of pocket editions of the dictionaries in future so that people can easily carry them around.
“Language is closely linked to our culture in the sense that the storehouse of your culture is in your language. The serious study of our culture through language is something we need to think about”.
Four of the authors were present at the launch. One of them, J. Gyekye-Aboagye, said the Ministry of Education should pay more attention to local languages since that would inspire authors to do more. He expressed disquiet about parents who do not speak English well but insist on speaking it to their children, adding that such parents are doing a lot of harm to their children by that practice.
Prof. Kwame Karikari of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), who chaired the function, was also not happy with the trend of parents speaking only English to children at home since, according to him, it has been scientifically proven that children learn better when they first learn with their mother tongue.
“Across the continent governments are moving away more and more from policies that promote the development of local languages. It is a disturbing phenomenon that needs to be taken up seriously. Without our languages we cannot talk about having a culture”.
Touching on the proliferation of radio stations in the country, Prof. Karikari says it is an opportunity for the advancement of our local languages but the young disc jockeys and presenters need some schooling in the use of the local languages.
“This new generation cannot pronounce one sentence in Ga, Twi or Ewe without bringing in about 70 per cent of English. That shows the enormity of the work that confronts us all in the quest to properly develop our languages”.
He announced at the function that the MFWA and CASAS would embark on an exercise next year to help selected radio stations across the continent to upgrade the languages they use on air.
Prof. K. Bediako, Rector of the Akrofi/Christaller Institute at Akropong, launched the third book, African Nation by Prof. Kwesi Prah which discusses what should be happening to us as Africans if we want to be part of the development of the world. Prof. Bediako said the three books belonged together because the best way Africans could discover the shared consciousness that links them was through the development of their languages.
Ms. Joyce Aryee of the Ghana Chamber of Mines auctioned copies of the books. She said before the auction that “we of this generation have let our nation down. We went to school to study in order to bring value to the development of our nation. We were not to become even more emasculated. We did not go to school so we could learn the cultures of other people to the neglect of our own. But that is what we seem to have done. It is a fact”.
Ms. Aryee pointed out the need for this country to work towards developing a national language since “if there is a language that binds us together, we can grow as one people”.
Daily Graphic - Saturday, September 29, 2007 Page: 19