Expanding educational opportunities in Ghana: bilingualism and biliteracy for young learners

Ghana’s Sociolinguistic Landscape

The Languages of Ghana

People relaxingA recent estimate of Ghana’s languages puts the number at 72 (Gordon & Grimes, 2005). Most of these languages are in a few different branches of the Niger-Congo language family (Awedoba, 2007). Most are community languages. As is true of many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, children grow up speaking two or more languages and comfortably code switch between their languages as do adults (Djite, 2008). No government restrictions exist on the development and use of minority languages. As a result, the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy, and Bible Translation has developed written materials for the majority of Ghanaian languages, many of which did not have a written form until recently (Awedoba, 2007). 

No one language in Ghana has a majority of native speakers. Akan (a language group that includes Twi, Akuapem, and Fante, which are mutually intelligible) is often used in the South when two speakers do not share a language; Ghanaian Hausa, a Chadic language,  is sometimes used in the North; English, Ghana’s official language, is used throughout Ghana, though it is more prevalent in urban areas (Awedoba, 2007). The Ghanaian Ministry of Education currently recognizes Akuapem, Asante, Fante, Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, and Nzema as languages that can be used in early childhood education on a regional basis for teaching reading and writing (Seidu et al., 2008).

References

Awedoba, A. K. (2007). Culture and development in Africa with special references to Ghana. Legon, Ghana: Historical Society of Ghana and University of Ghana.

Djite, P. G. (2008). The sociolinguistics of development in Africa. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Gordon, R. G., & Grimes, B. F. (Eds.) (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Dallas, TX: SIL International.

Seidu, A. et al. (2008). Report on teacher capacity for local language instruction. Winneba, Ghana: University of Education, National Centre for Research into Basic Education.