Let's settle the issue of appropriate language of teaching in schools

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We may be heading towards a point of no return as a country if we do not settle the issue of the appropriate language of teaching and communication in our schools and churches. In recent years, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the use of the English Language, as the means of teaching, at the expense of the use of the local language.

This practice is common in schools in the cities as well as most of the private Day Care and Kindergarten schools. Parents are always happy to see their kids use the Queen’s language to communicate eloquently and sometimes pride themselves with it in the presence of their colleagues. However, if the practice is not properly controlled, we will get a generation of Ghanaians who cannot use the local language to communicate in their motherland.

Just recently, I had an experience that got me worried and disturbed. It all happened when the Sunday school teachers of my church had to prepare the kids for their annual Children’s Week Celebration. This is usually a period that both the children and their parents take a great delight in. And so, as a parent, my interest was there. Above all, I was one of the resource persons for the week-long programme. Thus, any failure on the part of my daughter would cast a slur on my reputation as one worthy of the privilege accorded me as a resource person. And so I was very mindful of my children’s role in the whole programme. However, things did not go the way I wanted and I thought it calls for concern.


This was what happened: As part of the programme, the children were expected to recite Bible texts. And as somebody who doesn’t favour the practice where the children recite the text only in the English Language, I decided that my children do something unique by reciting their texts in Twi. It was a bit of a struggle teaching them, but finally they managed to overcome the hurdle and my daughter was able to do the recitation eloquently in Twi. One day, after church service, one of their teachers approached me and told me that my daughter could not recite her text. I got alarmed and then called my daughter to recite her text. She did so to the surprise of the teacher. It was then that I realised that there was danger ahead. As if that was not enough, my daughter told my wife that she had been asked by the Sunday school teachers to recite her text in English, as against what we had agreed to do. When my wife informed me of what my daughter had told her, I knew what she said could not represent the truth. It was a way of evading reciting the text in Twi.

So you see the drift of the narrative. What broke the carmel’s back was on the day of the final rehearsal before the D-day. The children were put on the stage to practise and all of them recited theirs in English. When it got to my daughter’s turn, she began crying. She felt different reciting hers in Twi, as the others were doing English; something that she does so beautifully in the house. You could imagine what was going on in her head. Perhaps, she felt her recitation in Twi was inferior to what her mates were doing in English. She cried and cried and there was no room for compromise. All efforts to make her recite hers in Twi proved futile.

It was a very disturbing experience for me, but it was then that I realized that it has far reaching consequences. Are we going to build a society where the language of teaching the future generation would be a foreign language? Do we build a society that cannot recite any of the Bible texts in their local languages? Do we build a society without the knowledge of its proverbs and folklores that embody their rich culture? Definitely, it is high time we did something about this. Our children must forever cherish their heritage, the language of their birth. I have always advocated for the use of the two languages simultaneously. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the children have a true appreciation of what is being taught and not a mere oration of the texts, both in school and Sunday Bible Class.

The saddest part is that this practice is found almost in all facets of our lives. People who are deemed to be orators of the English Language are always seen to be the most knowledgeable workers. Not only that, growing up as a student, the belief was that the best students were those who could mesmerize the class with their oratory skills in the English Language. However, time and experience have shown that this practice does not represent the truth. A good oratory skill with the English Language is not synonymous with having knowledge of the subject area or the ability to perform. It’s a plus and a positive skill but must not be allowed to take the better part of our society.

Another worrying effect is that we have allowed it to affect negatively the confidence of the majority of students and workers. Many students fail to answer questions in class because they think they cannot use the language properly and most of the time, when they get it wrong, they are mocked. This has made otherwise brilliant students and workers timid. These are people who could do well if they are allowed to express themselves in a manner that they are comfortable with. Inasmuch as I believe that users of the English Language must use it well and appropriately, I also believe that it should not be a hindrance to people who are a bit weak in it.

It has now become necessary for us, as a society, to take a decision regarding which way we want to go in terms of our language policy. Otherwise, if the trends keep going this way, we would have a society that can only read, understand and interpret the Bible only in the English Language. We may also develop a society that canonly use the English version of our proverbs and folklores, and last but not the least we would develop a society of grand children who would not be able to communicate with their grandparents who could not access formal education. Gradually, we are getting to a point where our children can mention the names of all items in English but do not know the local names of common items like spoon, table, chair, book, shoe, shirt, comb, etc.  If you doubt this, do your test.

If children are taught only in English, it creates a possibility for them to think in English. And as it is known to many language teachers, inherent in a language is the culture of the people. Therefore, let’s not be surprised when our generation begins to behave in a certain way alien to our culture. The English language is an international one that helps us connect with our brothers in other countries. However, it should not replace our local language. If you work hard to build a home and a foreigner comes to take over your home, then it means there is a problem. Surely, you might not be doing something right.


The writer is a communicator, researcher, speaker, and a teacher. You can reach him via asamoahdaniel643@gmail.com