I’ve just spent a couple of weeks in the West African state of Ghana. I was last there when I was 21 but I was pleased that I could still make myself understood in the Akan language – well let’s not exaggerate – I had remembered the words for ‘how are you’, ‘thank you’, small and ‘my name is uncle born on Thursday.’ You day of birth is crucial a it gives you a distinctive name. As a male born on Thursday I am ‘Yaw’. I had a colleague at NIACE who was a female Saturday born Ama and probably the most famous Ghanaian of all is Friday-born Kofi Annan.
In fact Akan is a language group and includes the Asante language Twi spoken inland and around Kumasi along with Fante which is spoken by Fante people nearer to the coast. Having said tat Akan is a group – my basic phrases seemed to work anywhere in the wider area. One feature of the language that instead of a word for very – an adjective is just repeated. This syntax is then adopted in English – so it is very Ghanaian to say I speak Akan ‘small small’
Wo Ho te seng? How are you
Me Hoye – I am fine.
I say a big Mendasi (thanks) to all those patient Ghanaians who helped us try new words and when we got it wrong laughed with us and never at us!
Just a few of the guys who lent a hand in the language learning:
- Mathew, Pascal, Emil and Patrick in Elmina
- Charles in Kumasi
- Nana the music man in Accra