Thursday, February 16, 2012


If I may say so, I feel like I have a bit of a knack for languages, and I like to think I am fairly adept at French.

 Here in Ghana, however, language is not coming so easily!

Akan is the most widely spoken language in Ghana. There are two main Akan dialects: Twi and Fante. Twi is spoken in 6/10 administrative regions in Ghana.

Just FYI, those administrative regions are as follows:
1. Greater Accra*
2. Volta Region*
3. Central Region*
4. Western Region
5. Eastern Region
6. Ashanti Region
7. Brong Ahafo Region
8. Northern Region
9. Upper East
10. Upper West

* = regions I have been too thus far

Twi has 7 vowel letters and 10 vowel sounds.

10 vowel sounds seems ridiculous, but English has over twenty!

Think about bow (for your hair), bow (to the king), and book. All the same vowel letter, o, but all different vowel sounds. Aigh yigh yigh.I do not envy those who study English as a second language!

In terms of consonants in Twi, there are familiar letters and sounds, familiar sounds but different representations, new sounds, and missing letters.

Familiar sounds, different representations:
The "sh" sound in English is "hy" in Twi
"ch" --> "ky"
"j" --> "gy"

 New sounds:
The closest I have come to finding equivalent for "hw" in Twi is "shh" in English.

It seems natural to try and find a similar sound as a point of reference, so I have been using both English and French to phonetically represent the new Twi sounds.

Just to make things a little more interesting, the letters q, j, z, v, x, and c don't exist in Twi.

It's tricky stuff!

At this point, I can say please, thank you, I'm sorry, yes/no, some basic food items, and respond to basic questions (i.e. How are you?). 

Introductions and greetings are a big part of Ghanaian culture, a greeting can be a twenty minute conversation. Inquiry by both parties is very important...this is where I am currently struggling. Someone will ask how I am, I respond, and then my mind is totally blank, unable to remember the words for "And you also?" It's like when you pass an acquaintance walking on campus and say, "Hey! How are you?" You say it, but the person is usually three feet behind you by then and they really never answer how they are. There is not much else to do at that point, so you just keep walking.

My goal for the next few days is to avoid situations like the one above and commit a few response questions to memory.

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