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15.04.2010 General News

Ghana's indigenous languages threatened by foreign ones

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Professor Akosua Anyidoho, former Faculty Member, Department of Linguistics, University of Ghana, has stressed the need to project and protect the nation's indigenous languages from potential threat of death.

She noted that Ghana could eventually lose her ability to contribute meaningfully to any global discussions and decisions in respect to culture and language if nothing was done to project and protect the nation's indigenous languages.

"The current trend where Ghana's indigenous languages are being relegated to the background in all aspects of lives pose a great threat not only to the culture and traditions, but also to the very existence of the people as a recognized entity," she added.

Prof. Anyidoho, currently the Director of New York University-in-Ghana, an undergraduate study abroad programme at New York University, was delivering a keynote address at the Eighth Faculty of Arts Colloquium in Accra on Wednesday.

It was under the theme: "Communicating as a Nation: Back to the Future".

She pointed out that while government tried to strengthen the teaching and learning of English Language in schools, the critical role of indigenous language in forging national cohesion should also improve through the proper management of the multi-lingual situation in order not to infringe on any indigenous language of the people.

Prof. Anyidoho said the current situation was due to Ghana's policy of non-committal to indigenous languages and the adoption of English alone as the official language of the country even though a large percentage of the population did not speak English, and the current attitude of parents who preferred to adopt English Language as the medium of expression at home.

She acknowledged the critical role of language, saying though the need to project indigenous African languages had received attention at a number of local and international conferences; little progress had been made even though Africa and Ghana in particular had played down issues of multilingualism, although it still had a role to play in socio-economic and political decision-making.

"In Ghana some intellectual advocacies have been pushed for a recognized national language, but these have not seen much improvement or action," she said.

Prof. Anyidoho expressed concern that though only 49 per cent of Ghanaians were literate, according to the 2005 Ghana Statistical Service Survey Report, meaning majority of the people functioned well in the indigenous languages, the use of the English Language continued to dominate both the political and economic circles of communication, making it difficult for the non-literate to flow with current developmental trends.

She said the consequences included a continued exclusion of the masses in decision-making, widening of the gap between the rich and poor, limitation of writers to draw knowledge from the African flavour of indigenous languages to enrich their writings and poor information sharing.

Prof. Anyidoho said Ghana needs to develop a clear cut policy on the projection of her indigenous languages, backed by explicit guidelines on their implementation in all sectors.

She suggested that Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives should take keen interest in the effective use of indigenous languages.

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