Language on the radio (Re: "Any hope for local Ghanaian languages...?")

Don Osborn dzo at
Sun Mar 9 03:59:43 UTC 2008

Thank you for forwarding this interesting article and observations. I think
that there are also other levels between the population and the government -
what about national or professional associations (either for community radio
or for journalism), or language and journalism faculties of universities?
The dynamic use of language will always draw on traditions of expression and
run into issues it hadn't before. Personally it sounds like using proverbs
is not in itself bad (in fact it might actually make the broadcasts more
interesting), but the way they're used might be an issue. But if standards
for use are indicated, it seems positive that these are being discussed (at
least in an English language paper - how about in the local language media
itself?). I confess I don't know much about this from practice, but it seems
like a very interesting area.


I'm reminded also of a discussion I had in 2005 with folks at OSIWA in Dakar
about how local language radio stations in Senegal often developed their own
terminologies for new concepts. This is dynamic and natural, but at the same
time, one wonders if there are any efforts to get people talking across the
community radio archipelagos about their ways of rendering various terms -
perhaps standards and new usages could emerge that would be common to all?


It has often been written that government language policies in Africa are
not well developed or implemented, so you have a lot of support in your
comments about that. But the civil society and academia have roles to play
in developing language use as well. In any event, it is great to learn of
how local languages are being used in the broadcast media.


Don Osborn




From: AfricanLanguages at
[mailto:AfricanLanguages at] On Behalf Of polyglute
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2008 8:14 AM
To: AfricanLanguages at
Subject: [AfricanLanguages] Re: "Any hope for local Ghanaian languages...?"


I think most of the African governments lags behind their population
in term of Language Policy.

Heres an articles noting the prolification of local languages news
media (especially radio station) after the dereglementation of the
sector. Just as a site note, since its not the point of the article
for us: Lets say that a lot of news talk show on the radio in the west
dont follow journalism standard. Theres always part of the population
that likes to be entertained into common people languages even for
news related topics. But that is beside the point here. Which is
that government lags behind their population in term of language
policy. With the popularity of local languages radio being of one of
the proof.


Ghana: News in Local Languages Must Follow Journalistic Standards

Public Agenda (Accra)

29 February 2008
Posted to the web 29 February 2008

Basiru Adam

The liberalization of the airwaves has brought in its wake the
proliferation of all forms of mass media in the country. Particularly
increasing in number are radio stations, most of which transmit in
local languages.

A common phenomenon with news read in these local languages,
particularly Twi, is the tendency on the part of the readers to
embellish the reports by resorting to the use of proverbs, sarcastic
remarks and at times downright jokes.

This, according to journalism experts, is regrettable. They say news
read in local languages must follow the journalistic standards of
fairness and balance and must be devoid of personal opinion and emotions.

The President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Ransford Tetteh,
and Ebo Afful, a journalism lecturer at the Ghana Institute of
Journalism, expressed similar views on the matter in separate
interviews with Public Agenda.

Mr. Tetteh said people who read the news in Twi cannot throw away the
professional requirements and make straight news reports sound like
commentaries or personal opinions.

He said if they are doing commentaries and news analyses then there
would be no question on their part but that if it were straight news
report, then the readers must stick to the rules of the profession.
"There are principles guiding news and all media houses must follow
them; and I don't think those who read news in local languages have
different principles."

Explaining what he sees wrong with the practice, Mr. Tetteh cited an
instance where a newsreader, in explaining that somebody was denied
something, said mockingly, "Abo no tise dwunso abo akuko", meaning
that the person was denied his wish just as the fowl cannot urinate.
"Is this news," he asked.

What this sort of comments does, he explained, is to mock or ridicule
the person's situation and make him lose confidence in the journalist.

News reports usually involve situations pertaining to people who are
found on opposing sides. As such, it is agreed among experts that the
journalist must of necessity take the sensibilities of all sides into

If that is the case, then the journalist would not use words or
adjectives that seek to offend the sensibilities of any of the parties
involved in the story. This is particularly so for minority groups.

Uncle Ebo, as his students affectionately refer to him, agreed with
Ransford Tetteh saying, "Journalism is the same everywhere." As such,
news, whether read in English, Twi, Nzima or Ewe, must be devoid of
personal opinion.

The journalism lecturer said he doubts whether reporters who go out to
bring the news are the ones responsible for the anomaly and so advised
news editors to stamp their authority on what is read out to the
public. "I expect the news editors to insist that what they give out
is what is read."

Apparently, however, the script given to the newsreader is usually not
written in the local languages but in English; and this is what seems
to give the reader the opportunity to be personal or subjective.

It is equally apparent that some of the listeners find it entertaining
to listen to eloquent readers who can turn an otherwise grievous
situation into a funny one.

Frank Aboagye, a Supervising Editor at Hot FM, an Accra based radio
station that transmits mostly in Twi had virtually nothing against the
above suppositions when contacted on phone.

He admits that some of the newsreaders have become popular for their
mastery in proverbs and idioms.

But he also admits that the practice is not professional and must be

But is there any intention, as a matter of policy, on the part of his
outfit to stop the practice? Frank Aboagye says though he has raised
the issue before during editorial meetings he is not sure if the
station intends to stop it any time soon.


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