One of many reasons we moved to Ghana a year ago was because the national language is English. In Kumasi, one out of every twenty people I encounter has a passable grasp of English enabling us to communicate on a very superficial level. The other nineteen speak primarily Twi or French with a few rudimentary words of the King’s English thrown in.
To be fair, my Twi is abysmal, just good enough for me to pry open the door of conversation and completely confuse the two of us before making a red-faced retreat. My desire to communicate is providing me with a wealth of awkward moments to savor upon my return to the States. And my French is limited to “Bon Jour” “Ca Va” and “Ca Va Bien.”
However, even the best English is delivered with enough accent and cultural nuances so as to be very difficult to follow. For one thing, the local English devolved from the English spoken in Great Britian where band-aids are “plasters”, automobile trunks are “boots” and trash cans are “rubbish bins.”
This video with footage of the most recent fire at Kejetia Market, a.k.a. Kumasi’s Central Market gives a good example of excellent Ghanaian English. Even so, it is difficult to follow. See what you think and try to imagine doing business with someone who speaks English half as well as the narrator.
The written word can be equally cryptic. Here’s a fun example of amusing (and confusing) terminology brought to you by Ghana Business News:
New police recruits pass-out in Kumasi
Four hundred and seventeen (417) police recruits on Thursday passed out at the Police Training School, Patasi, Kumasi, with a reminder to them to uphold professional ethics and standards.
Commissioner of Police (COP) Frank Adu-Poku, Director-General, Technical Service, said they should be civil, courteous, even-handed, and firm in the performance of their duties.
This is the way to go to win public support and confidence.
He cautioned them against bullying the very people they are supposed to protect. They should also distance themselves from criminal and other acts likely to dent the image of the police service.
COP Adu-Poku urged them to have the courage to expose the bad nuts among them.
He spoke of the determination of the Police Administration to ensure police visibility in every part of the country to bring down crime.
The passing out recruits were made up of 257 men and 160 women and they went through six months of training.
They received service instructions in human rights, criminal procedure law, ethics, social psychology, first aid, self-defence and musketry.
General Recruit Richard Okai was adjudged the overall best recruit with the best academic award going to General Recruit Adisatu Alhassan. General Recruit Lydia Amoah won the best drill award with General Recruit Daniel Adams adjudged the best in musketry.
So while we would love to mingle a bit more with the locals, we find ourselves gravitating towards the ex-pat crowd who are all fluent in English, regardless of whether they learned to speak it in Germany, Sri Lanka, Italy, Lebanon, France, Ireland, Australia or Great Britain.