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Let’s digitise study of Ghanaian languages

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Ghanaian Language experts have called for the digitisation of the study of local languages in schools to ensure effective inclusive teaching and learning.

They said it would promote interactive learning sessions and enhance Ghanaian language education.

The experts made the call during a virtual celebration of the International Mother Language Day organised by the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) in collaboration with the Association of Teachers of Ghanaian Languages (ATGL) on the theme: ‘‘Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities.’’

The International Mother Language Day is observed globally every year on February 21 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

It was the initiative of Bangladesh to set up the International Mother Language Day, which was approved at the 1999 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) General Conference.

The UN reports that globally 40 percent of the population did not have access to an education in a language they spoke or understood.

Professor Avea Nsoh, a Professor of Linguistics and Principal for the Adjumako Campus of the University of Education, Winneba, noted that COVID-19 pandemic had necessitated the digitisation of all sectors of the economy, including education.

He said, unfortunately, indigenous language education did not benefit much from the digital or technological explosion in education and underscored the need to mainstream digital tools into multilingual education in Ghanaian languages and others globally.

Prof Nsoh proposed a system that would combine features of speech to text and the text to speech as well as the multilingual processing features to create a Multilingual Speech to Speech Translation system (MLS2STS) in Ghanaian languages.

‘‘The proposed system will for instance allow for say a Gonja speaking Teacher to teach in Gonja while the students with Akan as their L1 receive the content in Akan,’’ he explained.

Prof Nsoh said the development of the proposed system would ‘‘immediately’’ resolve the challenges of the study of Ghanaian languages, including the teacher-pupil language mismatch, as teachers would no longer need to speak the first language (L1) of pupils.

 

Mr Issahaku Alhassan, President of ATGL, encouraged the citizenry to cherish their mother languages and ignore perceptions that local languages could not go anywhere.

‘‘Ghanaian languages have grown, and developed wings and will fly like English…,’’ he added.

Dr Kwasi Adomako, a Lecturer at the Department of Akan-Nzema Education, University of Education, Winneba, urged all stakeholders to embrace the idea of digitising the education of Ghanaian languages because the world was being driven by technology.

Currently, only 12 Ghanaian languages, which are Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Gonja, Ga, Guren, Ewe, Asante Twi, Akuapim Twi, Fante, Kasem and Nzema out of the over 80 languages are approved for use in schools.

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