Ghana must adopt utilitarian approach to the study of local languages to serve as a powerful tool for national cohesion and economic development, an African linguist advocated on Thursday in Accra.
Professor E. Kweku Osam, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, In charge of Academic and Student Affairs, made the remarks at the first in a series of the university’s Inaugural Lectures.
He asked policy makers and the Government to rethink the country’s language policies in order to give Ghanaians economic motivation to study and use native languages.
According to him, a policy that would ensure that Ghanaian languages were taken seriously was not an option but a must, given the current trend where the intergenerational transfer of the native languages was in danger.
Prof Osam suggested that the Government, the largest employer, could roll out an employment policy that engaged the services of only those who could read speak and write one or two Ghanaian languages.
He added that such demonstration of linguistic competency in the Ghanaian language would serve as incentive for the citizenry to learn them.
Speaking on the theme: Of Cocoa, Cassava and Chocolate: The Dilemma of an African Linguist,” Prof Osam expressed worry that Ghanaian languages, like some of the country’s export commodities, mainly cocoa, could not boast of any economically-significant value-addition.
He stressed that rather than running solely for the sake of catching up with the rest of the developed countries, Ghana needed firstly to harness her resources to satisfy the domestic needs of the citizenry before thinking about the rest of the world.
Prof Osam warned of impending “linguistically endangered generation” who could hardly speak fluent and impeccable Ghanaian languages because theirs had been adulterated either by their parents who only speak to them in a foreign language (especially English) or by their teachers who insist on speaking a language spoken abroad.
Making reference to the English language that had borrowed, according to him, more than 75 per cent of words from other languages, he said Ghanaian languages needed to grow by ‘borrowing without any shame.’
“As we seek to develop our languages, we should make efforts to develop terminology to handle new concepts we encounter. At the same time, we should not be ashamed to borrow from others. That is one sure way for us to enrich the vocabulary of our languages,” he said.
Prof Osam called on the Government to keep the Bureau of Ghanaian Languages alive, adding “it is the Bureau that keeps the language alive.”
Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of the University, appealed to parents to encourage their wards to be multilingual in Ghanaian languages stressing that language was a powerful tool for unifying people, teaching tolerance, as well as promoting peaceful co-existence.
He explained that the inaugural lectures was a means by which lecturers at the University showcased their world of knowledge to the rest of the Ghanaian society. GNA