Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Feb 25 14:23:57 UTC 2006

>>From (February 24th, 2006)


For many Ghanaians, it is mad, mad, mad for an educated person not to be
able to communicate properly in English Language. It is also mad for an
educated person to always try to communicate in any local language.
In our zeal to prove our proficiency in the Queens English little
attention is paid to the needs of those who did not have the opportunity
to study English at any level, but could contribute meaningfully to
national development, if we made room for the use of local languages in
the day to day running of the country.

The issue of the use of local languages in the national scheme of
activities has been highlighted at the ongoing J.B. Danquah Memorial
Lectures under the theme Education, Literacy and Governance: A linguistic
Inquiry into Ghanas Burgeoning Democracy. The main speaker, Prof. Kwesi
Yankah was forthright in arguing that Ghanaians should consider the issue
of language to liberate the minds and tongues of those who can neither
write nor speak English and open the way for them to contribute their
quota to national development.

In the view of Prof. Yankah if all public transactions are conducted in a
language that majority of Ghanaians do not understand then , it is wrong
in a country taking pride as an emerging democracy. Public Agenda couldnt
agree more with Prof. Yankah. This is because freedom of expression is not
just a hard-won human right but the defining freedom for emerging
democracies. When such a freedom comes under threat because a large
percentage of population cannot speak the official language, it is the job
of the government to defend it. The fact that English language is the
official language should not mean that government business should be
conducted in the Queens language.

Many times, state and public officials who go to the rural areas on state
duties use technical language or jargon and leave their audience bemused.
It is unforgivable when the politicians and public officials speak English
in their own backyards, when they could easily have spoken the local
dialect for effective communication of government policy.

Is there any law that bars public officers from using local languages in
the performance of their jobs? If yes, then the law is obnoxious and if
no, then Ghanaians seriously need a change of mind in the way we look down
on our local languages, all in the name of trying to be more English.
It is a fact that majority of Ghanaians, especially those in rural areas
are unable to read and write English, let alone speaking it. And it is
this majority who must understand government policy before it can succeed.
But in a country where all government business is conducted in English,
little wonder that some good policies like the National Health Insurance
are being held back because a lot of people do not understand the long
English used in explaining the policy.

To get more people involved in the process of governance and decision
making, attention should be paid to non-formal education once more.

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