How Ghanaian Is Ghanaian English Essay
English language came to Ghana around the second half of the 15th Century through a group of English merchants who arrived in the Guinea coast to trade in gold dust and spices (Sey, 1973). According to Sey, by the 18th Century, British have attempted to establish schools in the Gold Coast. In 1788, a school for twelve children was established in Cape Coast whilst around the same period a number of Ghanaians were sent to Britain to be educated. Among the pioneers who received British education was Philip Quarcoo who returned to the Gold Coast as a missionary of the Anglican Church, a schoolmaster and a catechist.
He is believed to have served from 1965 to 1816 (Sey, 1973). The rise of the English language in Ghana could also be attributed largely to the vigorous activities of missionaries and the active sponsorship of the government during the 19th Century. Many Christian missionaries came to the Gold Coast to spread and propagate the word of God using the Bible. They established churches and later schools where English was taught. Prominent among these missionary organizations were the Methodist, Anglican, Catholic and later Basel (Presbyterian) missions.
Sey (1973:5) observes, “The study of the Bible was actively encouraged, and church attendance was obligatory for all schoolchildren. The Bible, even at the present, plays a major role in the pupil’s first acquaintance with the English language. ” The first newspaper believed to have appeared (in English) in the Gold Coast was entitled the Royal Gold Coast Gazette and Commercial Intelligencer. It appeared in Cape Coast, dated Tuesday 2nd April 1822 whilst the first known Ghanaian novel in English is Joseph Ephraim Casley-Hayford’s political novel Ethiopia Unbound published in 1911 as well as R. E. Obeng’s Eighteen Pence in 1943.
Apart from the novel, Kobina Sekyi is recognised for writing first ever-modern African drama in Ghana. His work is entitled, The Blinkards, which goes back to 1905. At independence, the leaders of the new nation Ghana thought it was feasible to adopt the English language as its official and, in fact, lingua franca to cater for the multiplicity of languages spoken by the people. The English language was then given further boost to entrench itself in this part of the world. Ghana has produced many literary scholars after ndependence some of whom are Ayi Kwei Armah, Ama Ata Aidoo and many others.
In spite of the widespread use of indigenous Ghanaian languages in Ghanaian society, no single Ghanaian language has yet emerged as the country’s dominant language. This is partly because there is no single language, which is spoken and understood by an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians. It is also because there does not appear to be a single indigenous language that an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians would be willing to adopt. The Ghanaian language situation is thus one in which a multiplicity of languages co-exist.
Each language is used by its native speakers for most of their everyday communicating activities. Because of the multiplicity of languages in Ghana, inter-ethnic communication is not that easy. The English language, therefore, fills a huge communication gap. It helps to facilitate contact between Ghanaians of diverse language backgrounds. Today, Ghana as a former British colony teaches English as a second language. Kachru (1985) observes, “English in Ghana is considered as a symbol of modernization, a key to expand functional role and extra hand for success and mobility in culture and linguistically complex and pluralistic societies.
Sey (1973:6) also writes, “The English language established itself very early as the official language of Ghana. It has since the beginning of British administration been the language of government, law, education and the newspapers. ” The current Teaching Syllabus for English Language for Primary and Junior High Schools in Ghana states categorically as its rationale, thus: “The status of English Language and the role it plays in national life are well known. As the official language, it is the language of government and administration.
It is the language of commerce, the learned professions and the media. As an international language, it is the most widely used on the internet and in most parts of the world. English is the medium of instruction from Primary 4 in the school system. This means that success in education at all levels depends, to a very large extent, on the individual’s proficiency in the language. It is for these and other reasons that English Language is a major subject of study in Ghanaian schools (English language syllabus p. ii).
The rationale of the English language syllabus in Ghana makes it clear how the language is valued and placed in the literacy development of the Ghana student. It is very important to note that English language has assumed a vital position in Ghana. English is the medium of instruction in our schools and from the basic school to the secondary school; pupils are required to pass the English language examination before they can get entry into any tertiary institution. When a student passes in the entire subjects but fails in English, the person fails to gain admission into the next higher institution.
English is the first language accepted and used in the country as a Ghanaian international language. Without English, it will be difficult to communicate within certain parts of Ghana because of the multiplicity of languages in the country. When two or more Ghanaians meet and they find out that they cannot use any of the Ghanaian languages, they use the English language. English language is the language used by the legislature in Ghana. It is also the language use in our law courts as well as in trade and commerce.
Various cultural customs and values are transmitted using English language. English has also become the lingua franca in Ghana making it the most preferred language for communication, science, information technology, business, seafaring, aviation, entertainment, the media (including radio, television, newspapers etc. ) and diplomacy. In the school system, English occupies an important place. From Kindergarten to Primary 3, a bilingual policy is in place. The program is referred to as National Literacy Acceleration Program (NALAP).
Under the program, pupils are taught both English and a Ghanaian language at lower primary whilst English is used as the medium of instruction from Primary 4 onwards. The implementing institution is the Ghana Education Service (GES) and it kicked started in January 2009. There is therefore the need for all stakeholders in education in Ghana to ensure that the Ghanaian student is adequately prepared for other literacy developments by ensuring that the students learn the English language in the right environment.
According to Edu-Buandoh (2008), “Even the use of Ghanaian languages in school is frowned upon by most middle-class parents. Parents would want teachers to use English to teach even lower classes although research has shown that if children are taught at the early ages in their own language they do better in school. ” The fundamental role of English in the development of other literacies is also crucial. English language is used to develop other literacies in Ghanaian students. English is central to the literacy development of Ghanaian students.
English serves as the tool for accessing school-based literacy and in some cases out-of-school literacies. The place occupied by English in contemporary Ghana could also be attributed to the general widespread of the English language in the world. Obanya (1982) captures this succinctly, thus: “English is the most widely used language in the world. It is the native language of most of the inhabitants of the British Isles, the United States of American, Australia, New Zealand, and a large majority of the inhabitants of Canada.
It is used as a second (and official) language in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and in all the former British colonies of Africa. It is the second (but not official) language in many places, particularly in those countries of Africa, which have adopted African languages for official purpose, such as Tanzania, Somalia, and Ethiopia. It is also the most widely taught second language in many other parts of the world” (Obanya 1982, p. 5). In Ghana today, English is spoken and written by majority of educated Ghanaians.
The variety of English spoken in Ghana has certain peculiarities, as it is common with many other varieties spoken elsewhere. According to Ngula (2001), the dispersal of English throughout the world has given rise to many new varieties of English outside it native environment. Kachru (1992:220-221) observes that in the contexts of of the New Englishes, “the localized norm has a well-established linguistic, literary and cultural identity. ” Educated Ghanaians have unique speech characteristics peculiar to their indigenous languages.
The new variety of English spoken in Ghana has developed its own character, and the main levels of the differences include pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, idiom, discourse styles (Ngula, 2001). Pronunciation differences between British Standard English and educated Ghanaian English are very large as Jenkins (2000) observes that there are distinctive features even in educated sub varieties. Statement of the Problem English is the official language of Ghana, a country that has over 50 indigenous languages and a population of about 25 million. There are three types of English spoken in Ghana.
They are the Pidgin, Broken and Standard English (Educated Ghanaian English). In Ghana, Pidgin is mostly used by uneducated labourers in their places of work and at other social gatherings. Even the educated youth are not left out when it comes to the use of Pidgin English especially in informal situations to make interaction friendly, easy to understand and simple. The uneducated people in large commercial centres are those who speak the kind of English described as Broken English. Educated Ghanaian English is the third type of English language spoken in Ghana.
It is spoken with varying degrees of proficiency depending on the level of education of the individual. Ghanaian English variety has its own unique features. It has its own differences in pronunciation as compared to the British Standard English. The educated Ghanaians have their own peculiar pronunciations, which need to be investigated. There are some speech sounds in English that are absent in Ghanaian languages which the educated Ghanaian pronounce with varying degree of difference depending on the indigenous language one speaks. These sounds are pronounced variedly by Educated Ghanaians depending on the ethnic group one belongs.
The different pronunciations by educated Ghanaians have been referred to as “deviant usage in pronunciation” (Sey, 1973:147). The Received Pronunciation (henceforth RP) accent does not usually feature much in the speech of many educated Ghanaians. Many Ghanaian English pronunciations are distinct from the RP in many ways. Educated Ghanaian English often differs in segmental phonetics and phonology as well as suprasegmentals of accentuation or stress and intonation. This research focus on determining whether educated Ghanaian English pronunciations differ from that of the standard British English.