BLOG: Who Is A Native English Speaker?

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Who Is A Native English Speaker?

Who is a native speaker of English? This question often fuels up controversy anytime it is discussed on English forums. The more people share their views, the more controversial the word ‘native’ becomes.  Are countries like Britain, America, Australia etc. considered as the only Native English Speakers?

What is the difference between official/first language, Native language and Mother tongue?  Let’s take a look at this example.

Though English is the official language in Ghana, we also have our local dialects. English is mostly the language of communication, the media, the people and even the educational system rest on it. Does it make Ghanaians native English speakers?

This example also applies to countries like Singapore, Ivory Coast, China etc.


*English is the mother tongue of  Britain, America etc.

*English is the official language in Ghana; Ghanaians are native speakers (really?)

*English is not the mother tongue of Ghanaians

*Chinese are native speakers of Chinese (note, apart from Mandarin which is the official language, each town has its own language which is very different from the official Mandarin)

*What is your view on Native English Speakers?

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  1. NAtive English speakers would be people from countries like Britain and America because its their first language and obviously they were born in these countries.(YOu ve almost said it all)

    1. @Adjoa nbaaso), Not America. Here they speak “American” and it’s so different from how original english sounds. You want to hear real English? Then off to the English countryside where the old Englishmen live and then you would hear real English- proper grammar and pronouncing.

      1. I aint no stranger to your point.The languauge Americans speak is neither twi nor any

        other.It is termed as american english which I know.Though the U.S. federal government has no official language, English is considered the de facto language of the United States because of its widespread use.The use of English in the United States was inherited by the British colonization so definetly they still wear the crwn to that.




    1. @MEE, Babe,dont be ignorant a bit n have in mind whn we talk about Official Language,is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country,state,or other jurisdiction.typically,a nations official language will be the one used in that nations courts,parliament and administration.This is my question for u,ghana is a nation wit about 47 languages n which of dem wld u prefer for us to use as an official language n why do u want us to use de one u wil prefer as our official lang.Moreover,whn we talk about Native language,is a language a person has learned 4rm birth or speaks de best,and is often de USA,BRITAIN,CANADA,IRELAND,AUSTRALIA,ETC………………,about mother tongue language is de one used for the language a person learnt at home (usually 4rm their parents).children growing up in a bilingual homes can according to this definition,have more than one mother tongue language.

      1. @osei,
        osei, you of all people should know better….I mean I was expecting alot from an OSU student…
        You sound really ignorant.

        You said, “Official Language,is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country,state,or other jurisdiction.typically,a nations official language will be the one used in that nations courts,parliament and administration.” I mean if other countries can you spanish, dutch, portugese, italian, german, chinese, etc in their court, and administration, then why can’t we use our own??? English is not our language blame and simple. Please go and learn about our history and you will see where i am coming from.

        I keep saying this and will say it again, there is nothing wrong with speaking english as it is spoken in a lot of countries as a second language, but it should not be our official language.
        How can a language be our official language when some of our
        grandparents, some living in villages can’t even speak. I think people don’t understand what OFFICIAL really means. If english is the official/main language, then every citizen should know how to speak it because it is supposedly the main language there, which we know it’s not the truth. We should just be proud of our language and pick one to be the official language.

        1. @MEE, I strongly agree with you. I think TWI should be the offical language in GHANA since most of Ghanaians speaks and understands it.
          It’s really sad and pitiful to say English is the official language when most of the citizens in Ghana cannot speak or understand it.

        2. @MEE,i really get ur point but dont talk as if u’re not a ghanaian.a nation wit 47 languages wit different kinds of tribes, where some tribes sound superior than u fink it wil be easy to use one of our languages as official language?MEE,if we try to use a local an official lang.then de WARS in somalia wld be better, than de one we will encounter as ghanaians.dont fink ur IQ is above de past n present LEADERS OF OUR DEAR NATION.

  3. The problem is the accents used. I don’t think there is a definitive GHANA accent or style of speaking English, so there is always controversy.

    A Tamale based student will speak fluent English with a particular lilt but in a place like Hohoe there is most certainly a unique accent for the English spoken there. The same can be said in cities like Elmina, even in big cities like Kumasi and Accra a person living in a suburb versus its village environ will have different accent yet both share a local in the same big city.

    Its a beautiful thing really so thanks for posing this question.

    1. @Kin, in america, there is a way new yorkers seak their english where u can tell he’s from ny de same with people down south. Ghana adopted english from de britains so its not our native language, twi shd be (wink).

      1. @syn, well then we’re damed cause not all Ghanaians are comfortable with Twi as the francalingua…..Perhaps all 50 of the states in the USA should speak the native language of the tribes originating there

        Floridaians – speak Seminole
        Arizonans- speak Piuit or Apache
        Illinois- speak Illini
        Louisianans- speak Comanche
        New Yorkers- speak Tuscarora
        Alaskans- speak

        For the other nations:
        Canadians-speak Inuit
        Mexicans- speak Mayan
        Dominicans- speak Taino

  4. I am not a master of these things but I think we should consider the most important word here “Native”..

    A little research tells me that the word native means “characteristic of or existing by virtue of geographic origin”…

    So we consider the geographical origin of English then.  Where did it come from as far as Ghana and other nations are concern? Its origin is Britain and America right?

    If the states I mentioned above are right as the origin of English, then only those nations can say, english is their native language and therefore they are native english speakers…

    Ghanaians therefore are not native English speakers then… That is my 2 cents, will love to read what others have to say…

    1. @Author: Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri,
      Thank you Chris, people don’t get it….It could be ignorance or just stupidity…..

      People need to learn about our history, why we fought for independence, pre and post colonialism to really understand. There is nothing wrong with speaking english but when you say a language is your official language, yet alot of the population can’t speak or write it is, is just embarassing. Why can’t we be proud of our culture and language and make that the official language. Even hispanics have come up with one language for all of latinos to speak(spanish), so why can’t africans do that, so it can be a form of language for just africans…I am telling you, we Africans are still enslaved but we don’t know….Only the smartest can see this….

  5. the partition of africa in the 1880’s played  a decisive role in what “official languages” we use as africans. english, french and portuguese are the main languages used because of colonialism. im particularly worried by the demise of our local dialects. i wonder how many people in the next generation can read and write akan, ewe, nzema and co. 

    It is estimated there are over 40 different dialects in ghana and over 2000 in africa alone, albeit some spoken by a community of 68. fact is most of these languages would be dead in a few years.  English will always be important, cos its the main medium of communication in ghana and other anglophone countries. In the UK,  for eg even though welsh is spoken and written in wales, english is still the main lingua franca. and regarding the various accents from people from different parts in ghana, the same is prevalent everywhere. cockney is different from scouse, geordie or mancunian.

    1. @dagodfather,
      You say you wonder how many of the next generation can speak ewe, twi, ga, etc….Are you serious??? How hard was it for you to learn english???The same way people can learn english, they can learn our native language. Plus how many people in ghana speaks twi….Even when you go to accra(belongs to ga) the language spoken there is mostly in twi. So if it is taught in schools like english is taught in schools, it can easily become our official language. Not saying english should not be learned or that it’s a bad thing, just saying it can be a second language or a choice, not our official language. People didn’t fight for independence for nothing…

      About the UK, their official language is English, so of course it will be main language. Now go to other foreign countries where english is not their official language and see what they speak.

      1. @MEE, fact is fewer number of people who can now read or write our local languages. most of the 40 languages in ghana are near extinct. perhaps not twi, ewe or hausa. if efforts are not made to teach these languages, they will be under threat. and its not about making twi, hausa or ewe the official language, that wont happen in a million years. but its about teaching at least one local language through to high school or even in higher education. 

  6. Does it make Ghanaians native English speakers?

    Are countries like Britain, America, Australia etc. considered as the only Native English Speakers?

    What is the difference between official/first language, Native language and Mother tongue?
    —The problem is the word “native”, in the sociopolitical sense if you have been in a particular place for more than 20years you are considered native to said place. So in that case every 20years past Ghanaian history we manifested the use of language in ways to accommodate the west(which is not necessarily a bad thing). But like other nations/segments of society with a population of black people(Brazil, Haiti, Nigeria, South Africa, USA….) we’ve found creative ways to resist TOTAL BRAINWASHING by butchering the norm of the western language case in point our own Pidgin English.

    I once had a friend from Mali that said there is not such thing as pure Bambara cause a large population who speak it have married off to Fulani nomads and this population have a language that’s a mix of Pulaar/Bambara

    I think the problem is not necessarily the use of English, the problem is the eradication of our culture. Another problem is people somehow misunderstand the world illiterate to mean a person who doesn’t speak English but the truth is a person who speaks Ewe, Hausa, Nzema or Frafra can be taught Calculus, Geography, Business finance, Journalism, Economics and Law in their own language.

  7. hmmmm…[email protected] osie, i agree with u waaaa…like seriously, suppose english shldn’t our official language, then wat language in ghana should? cuz if i’m frm volta region, western region, or central region, i will want my language to be the official language…if ppl say dat twi shld be the official language simply because they hve the largest population and fill too superior, then just like somebody said, it will turn into a war zone and worst than da one our ancestors fought years ago…i wouldn’t want twi to be my official language whn Greater Accra region is the capital of ghana where Ga could be the offical language…everybody hve their preference on wat language they will wish to hve as the official language…so yes, OSEI as u said, our past leaders knew best dats why our official language is english…even here in america, if we ghanaians see a spanish person who can’t speak english, we laugh at them…so who r we kidding…we all know we like english and how it sounds….sooooo dats my own two cent….

    1. @lily,
      some people paaaaa….ignorance on display….how can a normal person say, “even in america, if we ghanaians see a spanish person who can’t speak english, we laugh at them.” …people are funny paaa…first of all, what is funny about a person that doesn’t speak a english.

      I like what KIN said, she said it perfectly, and i will use her quote, she said, “I think the problem is not necessarily the use of English, the problem is the eradication of our culture. Another problem is people somehow misunderstand the world illiterate to mean a person who doesn’t speak English but the truth is a person who speaks Ewe, Hausa, Nzema or Frafra can be taught Calculus, Geography, Business finance, Journalism, Economics and Law in their own language.”

      People think america is second heaven. Just because u speak english that makes u smart? Some of these spanish people some ignorant ghanaians are making fun of might be doctors, engineers, lawyers, in their country, but just because they don’t speak english, it is a means to make fun of them…. Ah, what kind of ignorance be this. Some people need to repeat primary school. I am getting my masters next fall, and even though america has done alot for me, doesn’t mean it is best in the world.

      Ah, can’t believe what i read from some Ghanaians. I am bothered, that someone can disrespect someone based on their language barrier and brag about it. Unfortunately, i lost my mom, but it saddens me because i used to insult others when they made fun of my mom based on her ghanaian accent but i can’t believe a ghanaian is doing the same to others. WOW….. Some people are stupid, doesn’t matter where they are from….Ahhhhh people paaaa…..laughing at someone over language barrier, can’t get over it. I always try to help hispanics when i go to store, and see them needing help….ok, let me get over this….This has really stuck a nerve for me….sorry guys if it seems i am saying things over and over again….but i knew how it hurt my mom when kids will make fun of her not because she doesn’t speak english but she has an accent, yet our own people are doing the same. I lost my mom(who mind you was a owner/ principal at a school in ghana, so doesn’t mean she was stupid), so it brings back memories. I hope these kind of ignorance will stop. This is why i am saying english should not be our official language, because people feel it’s a PRIVILEGE…. just because u can speak english makes u better than others. We need to be proud of our language, and culture….hmmmmm……life is unfair paaa, can’t blame these people…ignorance is a disease, education is the only cure

      1. @MEE, hey hey hey…if u’re making a comment, make it on the comment box and keep it moving…but if u r replying to me, then stop trying to create a 3rd person by saying “SOME PEOPLE”…because those stupid some ppl u r referring will include urself…why do u want to attack everybody’s comment dat disagrees with u…and then whn they start insulting u, u want to come them childish…annoyance…i can see da last comments u made on the last article wasn’t enough for u, so u want to come here to and vent…stop going on everybody’s comment to proof ur point…u hve urs, and others hve theirs…wat u r saying can easily been seen as stupid as well…since u r going for ur masters (which i find very funny), u shld learn how to differentiate whn it comes to opinion…nobody is talking abt accent here…AGAIN TAKING THE CONVERSATION TO A DIFFERENT TURN…NOT NECESSARY…if u misunderstood wat i commented abt, instead of being ignorance and too proud, u could ask me to explain my thoughts to u since u obviously hve no clue wat i’m talking abt…nobody is also talking abt assistance to someone who can’t speak english…wat i’m opposing is dat, we might all come here and say our native language shld be the official language and all that…but we dnt practice wat we preach…in order for me to get my point across whn i come on this site, i always text in english because not everybody will understand my hausa, fante, ewe, or nzema…we are all different…but fact be told…come to BX, and u will see how ghanaians even parents who make fun of spanish ppl who dnt speak english…i live there so i see dis everyday…indeed ignorance is a disease and off course education is the cure, otherwise u won’t be going for ur master (so u say)…

        1. @lily,
          since u said i misunderstood what you were saying, i will like u to clarify.

          first, what is funny about your quote “even in america, if we ghanaians see a spanish person who can’t speak english, we laugh at them.” i have alot of humor, but i didn’t get the joke at all, so please do explain so i can laugh too….You said even ghanaian parents make fun of them but isn’t that a form of prejudice?? If only u know what it means….heheheheh….i KEED…. But seriously don’t u think this can happen to u….not every ghanaian that comes to america speaks english, so how will it feel to u when people make fun of u just because u don’t speak the language. Just because other ghanaians are doing it, doesn’t mean u have to go along. It will be the time to educate them because it can happen to any one of u….u know??? Maybe i’m missing something, so please show me the joke. Don’t be a follower, be a leader..

          second, what is funny about me getting my masters in the fall??what is there to lie about. If it wasn’t for privacy, i would have given u my name to look at the university of michigan directory for u to see that i graduated, and go to virginia commonwealth university to see if i am not going there next fall. And what is hard about getting masters after b.s???? take GRE, apply and get recommendation. I don’t get it…u are just a fool…not everyone that comes here is uneducated like……u can fill it in urself……haahahahah…i keed…but seriously with hardwork one can accomplish anything they put their mind to. Look at chris, he is doing the same, managing a site with law school. The reason I come on this site is because i like it ….so i check it quiet a bit, at work, before i go to bed, when watching t.v. Whenever i have free time. So it doesn’t mean someone is uneducated. We all have a common interest….which is ghanacelebrities..

          third, i get your point when u said, “i always text in english because not everybody will understand my hausa, fante, ewe, or nzema”…… what i told osei. People were not born with english. The same why people learned english, they can do the same for whatever language we have as our official. If ewe is made as the official language, all kids will be taught it from a young age, just like they do with english, so they can write it..Frankly i am tired of this convo…..Go and learn about our history, why people fought and died for us to gain independence….and pre and post colonalism, and hopefully u will get it. If you still don’t get it, then i’m sorry i can’t help 😆 . I am done with this language issues. If you so proud to speak english and feel it’s a privilege great. Just remember other countries such as germany, france, argentina, brazil, netherlands, china, etc speak in their language. Not everyone speaks english as u said in your previous post. For example in china people read and write in chinese, yet they have one of the best economies in the world, with good businesses and job creation. That is why leaders in these countries have interpreters when they travel to english speaking country. Speaking english doesn’t mean anything in non speaking english countries. U are sitting in america, that’s why. Travel to france, germany, and netherlands and see how hard it is to even order food. I know what i am talking about. They will say in french, “Je ne parle pas l’anglais”…meaning they don’t speak english. Even if u do find someone their english might not be too good to comprehend fully. Don’t sit in america, and think the whole world speaks english…..africans especially black africans needs to wake up from their ignorance. Appreciate and love your culture. As I said before hispanics have come up with one language for all of latinos to speak(spanish), so why can’t africans do something like that, instead of always imitating america like it is the closet place to heaven….

          Even our movies are reflecting that. Watch bollywood movies and see how true they are to their culture from language hindu to the clothing customs to their story line. Now watch ghanaian and nigerian movies and see the pathetic attempt at trying to be western. Our movies will never get recognition at least in hollywood if we keep copying instead of being original.

      2. @MEE, first of all u dnt know me…u dnt know anything concerning me…and i kno u could careless….so therefore dnt make statements as if u know me…if u r done with this convo, then be done….u r using ur emotions on this topic too much…people make fun of people all the time…whn u go to the spanish ppl to do ur hair they always make fun of u if u dnt speak their language…sorry to say this but dats just a reality to any situation…u said it urself dat u used to make fun of ppl too, but now u stopped…good for u…but da simple fact that u stopped doesn’t mean others have as well…i dnt know wat state u r from…but wat i’m saying is dat in nyc, is something that ghanaians here do…and dats da fact…i’m giving u facts of things dat goes on here in nyc…so off course its not a JOKE…YES I KNOW WAT PREJUDICE IS…i dnt need to entertain dat come back…wat i’m saying is dat we r preaching abt respecting ppl and their language and accepting their language even though they dnt speak english…but yet we dnt practice wat we preach….dis happen in many places…

        Secondly, i do not care abt u getting ur masters in the fall…good for u…but u also dnt know my level of education…u r not the only person who is a college graduate….so PUH-LEEAAASEEE…i dnt like to brag abt my education cuz its unnecessary…just because i am going for my masters doesn’t mean i hve to broadcast it…ppl think they r intelligent but they hve a very small mindset da moment they open their mouths…u keep contradicting urself dat da simple fact dat we come here doesn’t mean we r uneducated…but yet u calling someone uneducated? i dnt get u…

        pls dnt come and talk to me abt my history cuz obviously u dnt know urs if only colonial and post colonial is da only history u know…do u think u know better than OSAGYEFO DR. KWAME NKRUMAH…i dnt think soo…why do u think he adopted the english…he did it because he knows the history of ghana…how ashanti’s fought fante’s…and how ashanti’s fought ewe…it was because of the tribal wars, dats why our official language is how it is…dnt assume everybody shld think like u…even today, there are still tribal wars…did u check the news abt the outburst of both tuobodomhene and the ashantihene? how did dat result into…i’m not saying speaking our local language is not good….how can i say dat…dats wat i speak at home…but if we shld change our language to ewe, will i then go to nigeria or togo and force them to incorporate my language into their educational system? is spanish learned everywhere? is hausa learned everywhere? NO…so i believe wat da father of ghana did is very much respected…there is absolutely NOTHING wrong in speaking ENGLISH…ppl frm china, whn they do business with other countries like da US, they speak english with them…dats da only way their businesses can done…all those countries u mentioned were not colonized by the brits…the brits and those countries colonized africa and the united states…so u really have a lot to learn…

        and FYI, i am a leader and not a follower…i do not let my emotions ruin a discussion…whn u r involve in organizations like myself then u will know how to interact with ppl with different views…u might have some points…but the way to get ur point across is not by attacking ppl who share something different….good day

      3. @MEE, Say nomore my friend……..”ignorance is a disease, education is the only cure” most of the people didn’t even understand the question beeing asked.

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  9. hahaha really asking this question then you lot really dont know history english comes from england the english expanded so far other countries had to learn the language the english was a strong and well trained army they toock loads of countries inclouding american india deminican republic africa and more that is the reason you americans speak english because your relitives were english and irish the mexican’s are spainish the real americans are the red indian with you celebrate with thanks giving you meet a tribe had dinner with them then afterwards killed them all when they thought you where freindly you killed off the real american same with the english did as well as the english did to australia that was the english prison island learn history and stop asking stupid questions