Sunday, February 21, 2021, was International Mother Language Day; a day set aside by UNESCO to celebrate linguistic diversity for sustainable societies and it has been observed annually since the year 2000.
As a teacher in Asante Twi, I deem it appropriate to bring to the fore some challenges in the teaching of the language as part of the observation of the International Mother Language Day, though belatedly.
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While walking through the streets of Adum, Kumasi one afternoon, I bumped into a friend who, upon realizing that I taught Asante Twi, wanted to know whether it was true that words in Asante Twi were not written the way they were pronounced.
I took my time to explain to him that indeed there were some words in the language that were written differently from the way they were pronounced but with respect to only a few words and that majority of the words were written the way they were pronounced.
Unfortunately, these few words which are written differently from the way they are pronounced are part of the reasons why most students don’t do well in the subject.
Interestingly this phenomenon abounds in every language. English Language is no exception. For instance, there is no ‘f’ in the word ‘physical’ and ‘k’ in ‘know’ is silent. There is a vast difference between how the word ‘elite’ is written and how it is pronounced and so on.
Surprisingly while the students are able to get used to the differences in the English Language, they are not too able to do so in Asante Twi and no matter the number of times you prompt them, they will still commit some errors.
Now let’s look at some of the words in Asante Twi that a written differently from the way they are pronounced. The Twi word for ‘short’ is pronounced ‘tietia’ but it is spelt ‘tiatia’. The Twi word for ‘this’ is pronounced ‘wei’ but it is spelt “yei’. The Twi word for ‘everybody’ is pronounced ‘obiaa’ but it is written ‘obiara’. The Twi word for ‘years’ is pronounced ‘mfie’ but it is spelt ‘mfe3’ and so on.
There are some more challenges in the area of Tradition and Custom (Amammer3 be Amanne3). This is often brought about by the differences between what tradition dictates and what we practice for the sake of convenience.
For instance, when a child is born, tradition demands that it should be named a week after it is born. That is what the teacher will teach the student and that is what the examiner expects the student to write. But in the house when the student’s kid sister was born it was named a month later. So, he goes to Examination centre and write ‘bosome’ instead of ‘nawotwe’.
There are some challenges relating to our negative attitude towards the study of the local languages that the experts at the Bureau of Ghana Languages have been hammering on over the years.
In spite of all these challenges, we the teachers of Asante Twi must continue to emphasize on the right way of spelling and pronunciation and the dictates of tradition. I believe with time the students will get used to the differences just as they get used to the differences in the English Language.
Source: Osei Tutu
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