It was rather interesting, during our recent presidential debate, when a candidate was ranked as unintelligent and disqualified, by virtue of his supposed lack of command over the English language. Indeed, I was overwhelmed by this comment from one of our well-known political figures! That tells us how far, the African, or better still, the Ghanaian has come since independence. We have copied everything foreign, to the extent that it is increasingly becoming a crime for one not to speak fluent English, if any.
As a proud Ghanaian, I find this trend rather disturbing. It is quite understandable that as a country colonized by the British, English has become one of our languages, and like other countries, people have perfected the art of speaking this language. In fact, accents have been adopted overnight by people, who have no idea as to the location of our international airport, Kotoka. Ghanaians are turning Anglicized and Americanized overnight!
Yes, the world is fast becoming a global village. In the world of business, markets are fast growing and interconnecting. As expected, communication has become a very important tool. It has therefore become a useful advantage to be bilingual, but definitely, not a crime to be otherwise! The increasingly growing preference for foreign goods to local goods is a major threat to this nation! Ghanaians prefer anything foreign to local, evident in our fashion, cuisine, music and language, to mention but a few. We keep talking about promoting our culture and teaching our children to be proud of this culture but the question is; what culture are we referring to?
Our children are being born into an acculturated environment! Our very own Ghanaian culture is fast being replaced by that of others! What then are our children supposed to learn? Right from birth, most children in our various homes are being taught to speak English as a first language, to the point where children, who are unable to do so effectively, are reluctant to communicate freely with their peers. Even in our school environment, the intimidation continues. Children cannot even answer questions confidently due to their lack of command over the English language. As expected, most of our current generation of Ghanaians, cannot speak their native languages, but are perfect in foreign languages, notably English and French.
Is that the modern Ghana, all should be proud of? Are there any true Ghanaians left? What about our rich Ghanaian culture? Our diverse Ghanaian culture, evident in our languages, dressing, food, music, to mention but a few! Must we throw all these away just because we want to conform?
Rather sadly these days, more and more people are coming into our country with the hope of learning about our culture. Can we tell these foreigners about our culture, if any? How much do you know about your culture? Would these foreigners come into the country, only to realize that our culture is no different from theirs? Would they come into the country, to learn that citizens have no idea of their own culture, other than what most books have to say; books that have been published in their countries? Very ironic!
On international platforms, it is normal to hear representatives from various countries, making presentations in their native languages, usually subject to interpretation. These dignitaries are usually terrible English speakers, but are not ashamed to fumble. In fact, they speak the English language in any way possible; perhaps just to make sense and not to sound perfect. Must we then locally, attack one another, on grounds of command over the English language?
English is a language, passed on to us by our colonial masters! These were the same people our ancestors fought tooth and nail to resist their oppression. In the end, we had our independence, but in truth, we are still colonized! We are still dependent! How far has the African or perhaps, Ghanaian come, since independence? Not so far, I believe!
As a writer, I am equally guilty of this very crime because, I strive each day, to perfect my command over the English language! I should rather be working hard to polish my Fante! This is a challenge to us all. Let us not, in trying hard to bridge the global gap, push away our true identity. Let us all be proud of who we are and where we come from. On our airwaves, it is a common occurrence for presenters to repeat tapes on people, who fumble in their attempt to communicate in English. Such presenters should be decried; after all, English is only another language. Let us not intimidate others on grounds of command over English. In our world, it is an undeniable fact that there are several successful people out there, in the world of politics, sports, entertainment, business, to mention but a few, who have not mastered the Queen?s language.
Anna Esi Hanson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Takoradi.