The Twi language teacher’s labour of love

Twi Language
Twi Language

For the past 22 years, Georgina Amma Twenboah Sah has been on a mission to spread the Twi language and culture in the UK.

However, it has not been all smooth sailing for the 76-year-old, who was born in Akim Oda in the Eastern Region.

But, as she told the GNA in an interview at her South London home this week, her dogged determination to forge ahead, when faced with setbacks, was because she wanted to leave a legacy for those of Ghanaian descent in the UK.

Having arrived in the UK in 1985, she undertook in 1999 what has now become a labour of love for her: teaching the Twi language and Akan culture.

Ms Sah explains that upon arrival in the UK, she soon discovered that British-born children of Ghanaians appeared to have been cut off from their parents’ cultural ties.

“When I used to attend Ghanaian functions, the children of those attending were not present.

“I was told that the children complained that they found the whole Ghanaian culture alien and boring.”

This was where the cultural contradictions arose: the same Ghana-born parents who were comfortable in throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the Akan culture during traditional ceremonies in the UK were reluctant to allow their children to learn the language.

Ms Sah tells the GNA: “The problem is that most of the parents are not interested in their children learning Twi because they say they will lose their British accent.”
But she points out that children born to Asian parents in the UK – no matter how educated they are – invariably speak their mother tongue.

She also notes that British culture is still widely celebrated.

“When you receive book knowledge, it is not complete if you do not complement it with cultural knowledge,” she states.

“Unfortunately, many Ghanaians think that if you don’t speak English you are not cultured.”

She admits, however, that some UK-based Ghanaians are proud of their culture, pointing out that she has a busy schedule performing traditional rites at ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals and child-naming.

She has also contributed to UK-based Ghanaian-language radio stations.

Indeed, Ms Sah could be viewed as an unofficial cultural ambassador of Ghana, having performed at ceremonies organised by Ghanaians living in the US, Italy and Germany.

When she began her project, Ms Sah used to personally distribute leaflets around London, advertising the Twi language course.

She began with home tuition before she found premises in East London.

Ms Sah recalls the recognition she got from the James Aggrey-Orleans, of blessed memories, who was Ghana High Commissioner to the UK from 1997 to 2001, and his successor, Isaac Osei.

Over the years, Ms Sah has moved around the city, finally ending up in South London in premises rented out to organisations in the voluntary sector.

She explains that the project was not a money-making exercise and that she had poured her own personal funds into promoting the Twi language and culture in the UK.

Over the years, she says, she had taught a 75-year-old Jamaican woman to speak the language.

She has also had British people learning Twi, getting married to Ghanaians and visiting the country.

Ms Sah has also written a book, Sua Twi Kasa, which is sold on Amazon, backing this with audio and YouTube productions for the 10-week language course.

In her book, she notes: “We all know that roots, language and culture are almost inseparable.
“There is a legacy our people need to have to make the future brighter for them, and people of all races doing business in Ghana [to] feel confident by knowing the most widely spoken language in Ghana.”

For Ms Sah, ‘No’ is not part of her vocabulary, as she explains.

For instance, when she finished school in 1960, she started off as a pupil teacher at a primary school in Edubiasie.
By 1964, she had transferred to Accra where she says she was determined to train as a hairdresser.

But there was one problem: when she applied for release, she was refused because pupil teachers did not have that privilege.
So, Ms Sah undertook part-time training as a hairdresser.
Then she arrived in the UK in 1985 with another ambition to fulfil.

“I had a dream to teach the Twi language and culture in this country,” she emphasises to the GNA.

She became involved in the Akim Kotoku Association in London and used this opportunity to launch her project.

In the meantime, she trained as a nurse, and began working in care homes, while also acting as a Twi interpreter for the police and the health and social services dealing with Ghanaians who were not fluent in English.

Speaking to the GNA, it is obvious that Ms Sah has not lost her enthusiasm for spreading the Twi language and the Akan culture among people living in the UK.

“Some Ghanaian families in the UK are losing their culture although, I must say, there is awareness about my project, but it could do with more support from the community.”

Continuing on an upbeat note, Ms Sah says: “I will keep on with the project and that is why I pray for long life to continue the hard work.
“I have worked hard.”

Right now, she is using modern technology to continue her mission: telling stories via Zoom as the UK slowly gets back to normal following the lockdowns engendered by COVID-19.

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