Although the national language of Ghana is English, Twi (prounounced “chwee”) is its most widely used native language. For many residents of the 30 rural villages of the Millennium Villages Project in Bonsaaso, Twi is the only language. I’ve dabbled in learning many languages, but I’m determined to master at least a conversational level of this language I had never heard of until a few months ago. I reserve the right, however, to lower these expectations if in, say, two months, I discover that my aptitude to learn non-romance languages is not what I had hoped it would be.
“Twi is easy to learn”, says almost every Ghanaian when I tell them of my intent to learn their language. Hmmm . . . I concede that Twi is simpler to learn as a second language than English, but I find its rhythms, inflections and tones difficult to even create. My “voice and mouth muscles” (not a medical term) are not conditioned for these new sounds. In any case, I figure that six months of immersion and the willing tutelage of many of the 35,000 residents in this village cluster give me a fighting chance to earn what would be at least a B+ in Beginning Twi for Americans class.
Just as my coworkers and others who have travelled and worked in this region advised me before my arrival here, learning to speak a little Twi has made it easier to establish positive relationships with coworkers and villagers. Hopefully, my efforts result in a greater contribution to these communities who have been gracious in their welcomes and willingness to share their culture.
Although most giggle at my accent or muddled words, my attempts are appreciated. I’ve even received some rousing rounds of applause. So, now I’m off to my guest house where I will sit on the porch and eat grilled maize-on-the-cob with my tutors while they give me a pop quiz and move on to the next lesson.