Learning A Language with the Help of Your Spouse

I am not sure if this is relationship or a language breakthrough, but here it is:

My significant other has not been of much help in my quest for learning to speak Akan or Twi, Ghana’s biggest local language (much like my non-exsistant contribution to his Swedish, to be fair). He speaks a dialect of Twi, Fanti, that is beautiful and eloquent.

Anyways, since I started to get serious about my language studies, I regularly ask him all sorts of questions.

What is “this” called?
How you say “x” or “y”?
Why did you say “a” instead of “b”?
Is “c” the same thing as “d” or rather like “e”?

I understand all of these endless questions are annoying, but thought he’d happily collaborate as it was in fact his mother tongue I was hellbent on learning. But instead I was met with:

Please, not now, I am tired…
Uh, I dunno?
Ahhh, it is just so!
I don’t remember.

Recently, however, a few words have been remembered, an explication of a strange grammar rule has slipped out and the odd Akan proverb has been interspersed in conversation.

And tonight something happened that makes me believe this is a steady development, possibly leading towards me having an in-house tutor. I called my spouse on the phone, and as so many times before, addressed him in Twi.

-Mepa wochew, medu fie.

Only this time, he replied in the same language.

-Yoo. Mereba sisiara.

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  1. It’s a bit odd that he’s not too eager to teach you Fante twi. Then again, it’s a hard dialect to use. I’m Akuapem and can easily switch btwn other twi dialects, but I avoid trying Fante even though I fully understand it. You’re better off learning the Akuapem or Asante dialects which are easier to use. That said, you should try teaching him the Swedish language. Once upon a long time ago, I met someone from Goteborg in NY and realized it’s much easier for me as an African to mimic her words even though she claimed it was hard to learn (the same can be said for Japanese, but that’s for a different topic). I’m surprised you aren’t already speaking twi or ga by now.

  2. Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. Why are you surprised I am not speaking Twi or Ga “by now”? No language comes for free and most contacts in Ghana are for me in English. I’m trying-o! Also, I have no intention of “teaching” anyone Swedish, it is a tiny language with very limited use for someone living in Ghana!

  3. I would just tell you not to give up! As a person having the same problem myself (however I have the problem in learning German and Swedish) I have understood that they sometimes just take time to also understand their own language.
    My significant other used to fill a bit overwhelmed at the beginning, since he had never actually thought about certain grammatical rules; but little by little he has started to like trying to teach me. He even feels like he is learning (or better remembering some things). But as I say, this has been a process of several months, but as you say: In the beginning “he didn’t have time” or was “too tired”.
    I think you are off to a good start!! keep learning and keep writing, I love your posts.

  4. Oh Kajsa, this post made me laugh. I have been learning Hausa from my husband for about 9 months now, at first at a rapid pace, I got to know about 60 words and phrases in a month or so, but then it slowed down a bit. Apparently I also ask when he is tired, or I might ask about something that doesn’t translate to English properly or vice versa, or I don’t pronounce the Hausa word properly so he can’t get what I am saying….we have many laughs over this and I just shared your post with him. Fortunately since living in Ghana for the last 3.5 months I have picked up much more along with a bit of Twi and Ga…nothing like being immersed in it to learn quickly! 🙂

  5. I know exactly what you mean. Honey, my significant other, speaks way more German than I do. But his problem is simpler, and quite understandable: For him, it just “sounds” good. I ask, “Why is the adjective in this case in the third position, and not after the adverd that is preceding the noun?” He has no idea what I’m talking about. He just says, “I don’t know, it just feels right”. And I get that. I want my German to feel right too… but to get there, I have to understand the grammar. Oh, well. It may not be a Latin-based language, but at least Germanic languages have “Western logic”. Thai, for instance, was almost impossible. Almost 😉 Just as Twi and Akan will be for you.

  6. I know your pain. My husband and I speak English at home and I am always asking him how to say things in Slovenian. truthfully his mother has been the biggest help in getting me up to fluency level in the language. unfortunately she doesn’t speak English so she can’t really “explain” things, she just tells me what’s right and what’s wrong, which does help. as for Swedish being a “tiny language” it is surely not tinier than Slovenian! 😉

    Oh and I’m off to Ghana tomorrow! I’ll surely say hello if our paths cross. Your blog has been a good help with planning! 🙂