[lg policy] Ghana: Nation Hosts International Seminar on Language Documentation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 28 14:59:33 UTC 2010

Ghana: Nation Hosts International Seminar on Language Documentation

Milton Aberinga

20 August 2010

Winneba — An international workshop to train linguists on the
documentation of endangered languages has been held at the University
of Education, Winneba. The workshop which was organized by the West
Africa Linguistics Congress (WALC) drew eminent scholars in language
and linguistics from various countries including Nigeria, Senegal,
Cameroun, Liberia, Togo and Ghana. Also in attendance were linguists
from Finland, and the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the
University of Education, Professor Mawutor Avoke, said many languages
in Ghana were seriously threatened with extinction and if that was
allowed to happen, the values that were intended to be inculcated in
the youth will cease to exist.

He said that the strange cultures that have penetrated our society in
recent times with their negative effects were some of the symptoms of
language and culture endangerment. The second in command of the
University lamented that though language and culture were the
catalysts of the country's socio-cultural and economic development
support for their development continue to come from external sources.

He therefore called on the Ministry of Education (MoE) to provide
support for intensive research into Ghanaian languages. He added that
the publication of the several manuscripts that were produced by the
country's universities was necessary to preserve, nurture and protect
Ghana's heritage, Identity and development.

The organizer of the workshop, a lecturer at Leiden University,
Finland, Prof. Ameka, lauded the MoE for introducing a Language policy
which would ensure that indigenous languages were used as the medium
of instruction in the first three years of school. He said, language,
culture and the economy were inseparable, and therefore any
development agenda of the country that would to integrate language and
culture was bound to fail.

He said food conservation and several other cultural practices which
formed an integral part of our rural economy survived the test of time
because of the power of language. The linguistics professor said some
languages in some parts of the country are on the verge of extinction.
He cited Efutu in the Efutu-Ewutu-Senya District for instance, as one
of the languages in Ghana that is seriously endangered.

Prof. Ameka Felix observed that language endangerment has negative
implications for its speakers since basic necessities such as health
for instance, could best be accessed using one's own language. He
disclosed that some of the language experts who had participated in
the workshop had expressed interests in researching into Efutu with
the view to preventing its extinction.

Addressing participants during the closing ceremony on behalf of the
Pro-Vice Chancellor, Dr. Avea Nsoh, Coordinator of Graduate Programmes
at the Ghanaian Languages Department, said that there was a general
trend of most languages disappearing so the documentation of
endangered languages was necessary to protect the eco, cultural and
economic values of the country for current generation and prosperity.

He said the general trend now is that most educated parents prefer
raising their children in the English Language rather than their own.
He described as fallacious the perception that proficiency in the
English Language at an early age could help the child excel in their

He said that children were naturally programmed to acquire as many
languages as they were exposed to and so even if those claims were
true children could still learn English along side their mother tongue
without problems, they should therefore be given the opportunity to
learn as many languages as were possible, especially their own. He
reminded Ghanaians of the predicament of the Aborigines of Australia
and the Red Indians of the U.S and called on all parents to encourage
mother tongue speaking in their homes.

Some Language teaching and research equipment were given to all
participating countries. The University of Education, Winneba, who
made available some facilities including a conference room and shuttle
bus services for the summer school were given some text books on
language documentation and description.

Copyright © 2010 Public Agenda. All rights reserved. Distributed by
AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).


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