No ‘Vernacular’ in the House | the New ‘Pathetic’ Trend of Ghanaian Parents Prohibiting Their Kids from Speaking Their Local Languages at Home…

5 min


Black Child

Last week, I met a young Ghanaian lady whom I later got to know as Shirley in Accra— studying Spanish and hoping to work at the Foreign Affairs ministry.

Shirley spoke English, Twi, Ga and Hausa, and she was paying huge amounts of money to add Spanish to her impressive CV of languages. Though I cannot speak Spanish, I know a few sentences from my regular visits to Spain so I was able to chip in a few sentences during our introduction.

In Ghana, most educated people are bi-lingual; they speak mostly English and their native language. A few others speak more than two languages. My mother for instance fluently speaks English, Twi, Hausa and Dagbani, and my senior brother, a chemistry lecturer speaks English, Twi and Hausa.

Like most Ghanaians, I speak only two languages; Twi and English—but I wish I could speak one more Ghanaian language. I speak Twi because that was what my family spoke at home and with English being the language of instruction in Ghanaian schools, there was no way I could have missed that.

It’s beautiful and important that a person is able to speak at least his own native language—if not for anything at all, for the sake of identity and culture.

However, there is a growing pathetic trend in Ghana where parents are prohibiting their children from speaking any other language apart from English at home—to the extent that children born and growing up in Ghana cannot speak or comprehend  any other language except English.

I remember those days in Ghana when speaking vernacular was a taboo in schools, such that my school appointed student spies, who went about writing the names of students who spoke vernacular— and these students were subsequently punished.

Considering the fact that the mode of instruction in Ghanaian schools is English, it is reasonable to encourage students to speak English while on campus to create that sort of language comfort and improvement, capable of helping a student’s general studies.

It is therefore understandable why schools would insist on English-only policies on campus but importing this academic set-up into our homes and compelling children who are just learning to speak to have English as their first, second and only language is really disturbing.

I thought the borders were clear: children learn English in school and at home they get the opportunity to learn the language of their parents—equipping them to be able to communicate in both languages while being able to identify themselves as belonging to a particular culture.

Beyond the conception of culture which may mean less to a lot of people, several people are paying huge amounts of cash to learn a second language and instead of freely granting our children this, we are robbing them of this natural privilege under the new notion of being ‘posh’.

I know over 15 families in Ghana who refuse to speak any other language apart from English to their kids—and shockingly, the children can only speak and understand English despite having been born in Ghana.

African parents who had their children abroad back in the days suffered in the hands of this problem. I know several Ghanaians and Nigerians who grew up in UK unable to speak their local languages bitter about this.

This has always been a western problem associated with Africans born abroad but as usual; this has been swiftly borrowed into Ghana with increasing number of Ghanaian parents finding it prudent and proud that their children are able to speak only English.

Perhaps, the confusion resides in the fact that some people honestly think speaking fluent English is a quintessential tough ingredient to becoming smart—when the measure of intellect or smartness has nothing to do with a person’s spoken language.

We have millions of global geniuses who cannot speak a word of English—don’t look far, just pay attention to China.  In the UK, 1 in 5 adults struggle to read and write—meaning, these people can rattle English eloquently but they are somewhat illiterates.

I find it deeply shocking that instead of celebrating and embracing the Ghanaian setting where almost every Ghanaian school going child can jump between English and a local language, a more desirable phenomenon, we are quickly developing a single language approach. And pathetically, it’s our local language which is being annihilated.

Although a lot of the citizens of France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Netherlands can speak good English, they always serve their local language first. If they find you pitiful enough, they may switch to English to help you. These people take pride in their countries, their languages and cultures, and here we are as Ghanaians selling out the crumb of our left identity, right in Ghana.

It may sound refreshing to have your child speak English eloquently but it’s deeply superficial if this same child cannot speak a word of his own language, especially having been born and brought up in Ghana.

We need to adjust our thinking—our obsession with everything foreign is dangerous.

I confronted one the 15 parents I came across doing this and she told me she has not prohibited her 2 year old child from speaking Twi—it’s just that she prefers to speak only English to her. So I asked; how will this child learn to speak Twi? Adding that, refusing to speak to the child in her mother tongue is a disguised prohibition.

This is a growing trend, albeit inexcusable—and parents are proud of this, unaware of the problems they are nurturing.

If English was the epitome of excellence, China would have been down the ladder.

Once again, we are copying blindly.

Do you know of any Ghanaian parents doing this?



CLICK HERE For Cheap IT Support & Web Design Services—The Web Guys

Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, Founding Editor
Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri is the Founding Editor of GhanaCelebrities.Com , a Film Critic and a Human Rights Advocate; he holds 2 masters degrees in Law; International Human Rights Law (LL.M) and Legal Practice Course (LL.M) from University of Leicester and Nottingham Law School--and also a degree in Law (LL.B) from University of East London. He's a Professional Truth Sayer and he is the author of the popular eBook “Success is a Right, Not A Privilege.” He currently works at Adukus Solicitors in London--where he uses his legal brains to kick real ass, for the good of clients and humanity. Contact: [email protected]

27 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I see it here in the US. Although I spoke 3 languages originally(English, Twi and Brong), my parents dropped Brong(although I can understand fully and can say some things, I cannot fully speak, read or write in it) when we moved to Accra. It sucks honestly. Ghanaians need to take pride in their languages and teach their children as their children are the future.

    1. Brong and Twi are the same. Twi is a common language of the Akans (made up of different tribes or dialects albeit the same people such as, Ashanti, Fanti, Akyem, Nzema, denkyira, Akuapem, Brong) point of correction

        1. Ana Lynn Bono is still a dialect of the Twi language and not a different language. We have Asante Twi, Akuapem Twi, Fante Twi. They all fall under Akan. It is just like British English, American English and Australian English are all the same language. They are just spoken with different accents, slight spelling variations and a few different expressions.

            1. I am A Bono man straight from Nkoranza, it would interest you to know all Akan tribes originated from the Bono Manso, ( pls do a research) I speak Bono Twi, I don’t know what you are talking about, are seriously telling me I don’t speak Twi? I bet I would score better in class than you when it comes to Twi essay.

              1. Excuse me but since when did I declare myself to be well versed in Abron? If you would read my original post, you will see that. And there is no need to talk to me as if I do not know my own history and people.

                And my family hails from the Abron people of Eastern Ivory Coast. Twi is a language of its own within the Akan language and it consists of three dialects: Asante, Akuapem and Akyem. As for languages such as Abron, Fante, Anyin, Wassa, or even Sehwi, they’re their own languages and are different from Twi but are apart of the Akan language.

                1. What I m saying is Brong is and part of the Twi or Akan. It is NOT different how bit different variations of pronunciations or dialect. As Akans we share a common language, customs, clans and inherits on our maternal lineage. Wassa is western region which is also an Akan state, Sefwi all included, according to history The Fantis are from Takyiman or Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region, in search for gold, hunting and wars the Akans were scattered and formed new States, the artificial borders of modern day regions was just created for administrative purposes. You clearly are more accustomed to the Ivory Coast area of brong language but there’s more the region than that. There’s nothing like Abrong and Twi. There’s Twi which comprises of Brong, Akuapem, kwahu, Asante, fanti, Akyem. Thank you

          1. They are not necessarily the same as the different forms of English. Although similar they are all distinct languages on their own. Fante in particular cannot be considered another type of twi. There are major variances in words, phrases and grammatical construction. It is almost like saying Spanish and Portuguese are the same language. They may sound a lot similar and it is quite easy to understand the other with a major understanding of one but fundamentally they are distinct. Same with the various Akan languages, there may be quite similar as in the case of Asante and Akuapem Twi but they are the same as Australian and American English which follow the same rules as the Queens English version for the most part aside minor spelling and word changes.

  2. You see why people barely comment on your site? When you decided to censor people’s comment and only post comments that you agree. You live in UK and you know how people hate censoring especially on the Web. Give people the freedom to say whatever they want as long as it’s not threatenin anyone. I don’t even think you’ll post this comment but I don’t really care. You have pushed a lot of people away from this site

    1. We will continue to censor comments and that’s the way forward. The reason is, we will prefer 5 comments contributing to an article than 1000 comments insulting each other and contributing nothing to an article.

      We have taken time to write down the commenting rules and if a person cannot just follow the rule—then there is a problem.

      All the biggest website on the web have commenting rules and moderate comments. This is necessary, else the place will become a jungle.

      Several of the big websites have even removed their commenting feature, which means readers can only read, share and comment on their own facebook or other social media accounts.

      I believe you should be happy that we have managed to achieve a level of decency on here, at a time other Ghanaian websites have become a jungle of insults and GC was heading towards that area too.

      As long as person has something important to contribute to an article, either an agreement or disagreement, we will welcome that but abusive or insulting comments to our readers or writers won’t be allowed.

      Are you not impressed that people are having decent conversation on this article? We will all learn something from the readers comments. Do you rather want people insulting each other and throwing tribal rants?

  3. Inferiority Complex. Ghanaians love everything foreign. Some parents are actually proud that their children aren’t fluent in their local dialect. They use the term ” Abrokire Nkwadaa” most of the parents involved are the illiterates themselves

    1. I see that here in the states. I actually got picked on by the Ghanaians born here when I moved to America. Just because I was too “Ghanaian”, which is absurd. At least I know my language and culture.

  4. My neighbors are doing this to their 5 year old daughter and its sad. When I moved to the community about 2 years ago, she was 3 years then, and she was the first person to approach me to ask of my name and a few other questions kids ask. I grew fond of her because she is so smart (we cook together and all). Then i noticed that when i speak to her in twi, she does not respond, she only responds in English. She does not not understand anything in twi or even Ewe (she is an ewe). On Saturday she came over for us to cook and I asked her the meaning of her Ewe name (Makafui) and she was surprised that her name should have a meaning, she also told me that her parents do not want anyone to call her Makafui, only Pascaline (her English name)… I was sad!!!

    1. very funny! Ghana!……sometimes I just laugh my head off, when Gh parents who can’t even read and write English, speak the language with their children in public.. especially in the Bus or the Underground….Nsem Pii

      1. As in eh…When i hear this man (my little friend’s father) speaking English, I want to hide. Sometimes i end up correcting her English…I wonder why the man is doing that to this sweet little girl

  5. Chris this is so true. My cousin’s children were born in Ghana and shockingly they cannot speak a word of Twi. All they speak is English. Their parents are proud and often say, for these children they are like whites, all they understand is English.

    This is a sad development. The African is selling away so easily. Many households in Ghana are doing this.

  6. This is so sad when I called my nieces and nephews back home all I hear is English so I asked what going on why don’t you speak Fanti or our Efutu language to them? We are trying so hard for our kids in abroad to speak our language. It is so unfortunate that these things are happening. I was born in Liberia and my mother communicated to me Fanti, Efutu and sometimes Ga, of which I am so proud of. Sometimes people marvel how I learn the Efutu and the Ga language… In America all the Mexicans and Asian children speak their language. What is wrong with some of us Ghanaian

  7. new….?? it5s no news oh…its been always like that ….and its quite sad….the white man does not speak our language….its not even part of their language courses….some of them only learn it to be able to rip us off easily….its so sad how we bow to the white man while they see us as good for nothing…..

  8. @Chris: Putting the language issue aside, there are many examples where Ghanaians if not Africans equate modernizartion with westernization or simply think that all other things except from Ghana/Africa is good….

    for instance we like mexican soap operas

    We like dumas/dutchwax from netherlands china

    faus line(trendy second hand clothes)

    We speak English with locally aquired foreign accents(fake london boy.. lol)

    in the case of our local language one can not just speak it. One must also promote it in the peoples everday lives.

    The problem with our local languages is we tend to speak it more than writing or reading it- They are not institutionalise.

    You mentioned coutnries such as France, Sweden, Germany etc– in these places the local languages are not just taught they are analysed evaluated, people study its history etc.

    in my opinion The only way solve its problem is to make it part of the school curriculum.

    of course it can be difficult to explain some concepts inTwi, ga, Ewe, but in some subject like history, arts, religion its possible

    my two cents……

  9. That is because these peoples mindset are still in 16th century colonial days. I can never understand this kind of mindset of Africans!!!