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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>Twi Course in 2010

>Here’s a message from the Goethe Institute in Accra:

Since the current TWI courses at the Goethe-Institut Accra are highly appreciated we are proud to announce the ongoing of our TWI courses in 2010!!

The Goethe-Institut is offering Twi Classes for Non-Twi speakers (beginners and advanced).

The course focuses on communication – within a short period you will be able to discuss in Twi with your Ghanaian colleagues, neighbours, friends & people in town.

Join us! Are you ready?
Ey? paa! S? wofro dua pa a, na y?npia wo.
That’s wonderful! The person with good intentions receives support.
(=If you mange to climb a tree we will push you)

Time & Date

Beginner (very basic knowledge):
Mondays, 5:30 pm – 7 pm
January 4th till March 8th, 2010
Price: 90 GHc

Tuesdays: 5:30 pm – 7 pm
January 16th till March 9th, 2010
Price: 90 GHc

Goethe-Institut Accra, Kakramadu Road, Cantonments (next to NAFTI), Accra.

Please send the registration form to infospr@accra.goethe.org
Payment should be made before the course starts. Just get in touch with our registration officer.Tel: 021-776764

Since I moved to Ghana, I wanted to learn Twi, see my post here for example. I have been taking the beginner’s course this semester and can testify to that these courses are effective. Remember the song?

Enti, seseara meko di bronya!

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>Kiss My Teeth or Sounds with Meanings in Africa

> Alleluia!

I had wanted to write about how as a process of me learning Twi I have now gotten to the non-verbal sounds used commonly here in Ghana. One sound in particular is very useful.

But how do I describe a sound on my blog? Recording it and posting a sound clip is out, ‘cos I don’t master it quite yet – its really difficult!

But then today, there (facebook) it was: In Writing. Now you might understand what I am talking about:

KMT = kiss my teeth aka tsuos aka tweeeeee(sound) aka the sound African people make when they are angry

It seems the sound I was talking about is called “kiss my teeth”: although my Ghanaian husband had not heard that name, but “tsuos” or “tweee” sounds about right. But I think “angry” doesn’t really cover it – its more close to extreme disappointment, grave nonsense and deep mistrust. Effectively used, it can even be a potent insult.

Often used about a (useless) person:
– As for that thief, *tsuos*

Or to correct a child:
– Did I not tell you to stop doing that five times already? Hm, *tweeeeee*

Or to stress an (upsetting) occurrence, as the Facebooker in question describes:
– they dont give plastic bags in that shop, nonsense i forced her to give it to me KMT

In the pic, my young friend is attempting the sound. – What? I have to stop playing with my toys and go shower? KMT!

According to comments on this post this is not an African sound per se, but also common in the West Indies, South America etc. I was also informed that Guyana Gyal posted on the same topic years ago here, she also added a useful manual on how to do it!

To suck you teeth, you got to pout you lips in a li’l pout, clench you top and bottom teeth close, close. Push the tip o’ you tongue against you teeth. Suck in air. Stchuuuuu….when you want to finish close you lips…uuup.

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>Vagina Monologues in Ghana

>Just like Nana Darkoa, I went to see the Ghanaian producation of Eve Ensler‘s play the Vagina Monologues yesterday. It is playing thios week at the Efua Sutherland Theathre at the campus of University of Ghana in the outskirts of Accra.

The famous play is basically iintroducing us to the vagina, beacuse what do we know about it? Many women have not seen their own vagina, much less appriciated it! It being played in Ghana is no coincidence. It is being played all over the world as bringing awareness to violence against women and the V-day movement.

It was a really good performance, we all had most fun when the V-word was said on stage in Twi, Ga, Ewe, Nzema…and I can reccomend it to everybody, especially women of all ages.

It runs Saturday 28 and Sunday 29, both days at 7.30 PM. The theatre is just close to the main entrance of the uni.

I liked it so much I am planning to go back on Sunday, and then I am taking my husband because I think he should see it too!

I’ll upload pics on Monday!

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>Learn Twi Today!

> Since I came to Ghana, I have been trying to learn the language most often spoken around me, Twi. It is an Akan language spoken as a first language by about 40% of the Ghanaians and as a secondary language my many more.

Ever since I was given a pajama with the mysterious world fleur on it, learning a language is something that has been intriguing to me. My mother told me the word meant “flower” in French, which was somewhat confirmed by a white flower blossoming below the puzzling word. When i said “fleuuur”, I was speaking French! That thought always made me smile.

Language opens doors and can make you become a part of something new, which I touched on earlier here. A newly discovered fellow “obruni” (foreigner) Maame J, descibes her and her half-Ghanaian son’s journey to learn Twi here. It is highly interesting reading for me, and what hits me it how difficult it is to find the tools for learning, so I’d thought I’d describe my process of learning Twi here on my blog.

1, I learned numbers and the Ghanaian weekday-names (find out your name here). A good investment.

2, During my first visit to Ghana, I picked up common phrases like
(Thank you) Me da wo ase (Reply) – Me nda wo ase
(Greeting) – Agoo (reply) Amee
(Wishing someone happy holidays) Afe hya pa (reply) – Afe nkommo tu ye
(How are you?)Ete sen? (reply) – Eye (NOTE spelling is indicative)
It was really difficult just to remember the simplest of phrases.

3, I bought a book in preparation for my move to Ghana, “Let’s Learn Twi: Ma Yensua Twi”. It was ok, for a schooled person it is always good to get the spelling and “look” of foreign words. However, some phrases were a bit old-fashioned. For example few Twi speaking people today say Mema wo akye (I give you daylight), but rather uses the English “Good morning”.

4, I lived with my mother in law for three months and really got the melody of the beautiful language, she speaks the Fanti dialect, as well as all possible greetings (nkyea) under my skin. This is probably the best way to learn a language.

5, Bought Florence Abena Dolphyne’s text book, “A Comprehensive Course in Twi (Asante) for the Non-Twi Learner” a smallish red text book from the University of Ghana bookstore for GHC 4 (same in USD) which is a very useful manual for learning the language. It also has extremely useful phrases like Me ye osuani (I’m a student).

6, Lately, I have been lazy and just lived in the language. Interestingly, it seems like I cant help but learning just from existing in a Ghanaian context. I speak to guards, professors, relatives and coworkers and listen (ok, eavesdrop) a lot too.

7, The future hopefully holds a course of some kind. Maybe at the University of Ghana or some other institution. I need to get into the next gear.

The best resource for learning a language is probably a life partner speaking that language. However, my husband has not been very helpful after step one, but that proves that even without that type of support it is possible to learn a language. Apart from books there are resources on the web such as the Twi-English Dictionary (seems to focus on biblical phrases). Kotey’s dictionary can also in part be accessed online. Google Twi Kasa, I have written about here. Wikipedia in Twi can be found here. A video on kids learning Twi here. I have also come across a Twi Pimsleur audio course on the net, as well as the US Foreign Service course has anyone tried them?

Most interestingly I found this 43things-list of 27 people who want to learn Twi. Well, 28 with me!

In the pic, a beautiful silent sculpture I came across in North Legon last week.

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>Me Tiri Ye

The heading means “I feel lucky” in Ghana’s biggest local language Twi. And that is just how I felt stumbling across Google Twi Kasa – Google in Twi!

I mean, it isn’t strange, its the first language of 40 percent of Ghanaians, which translates into some 10 million people. For some perspective that’s more people than the whole Swedish population!

In the official statistics Internet users in Ghana are still few, but on the street in Accra and other bigger cities there are many Internet cafes (most successful is this one), information technology courses are popular and social networking sites for Ghanaians keep springing up. Some hope Ghana will follow in India’s footsteps and become an IT-economy. Well, then this is a definite first step.

Pic generated with this site.

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>Trying To Fit In

> I have tried some different approaches to integrate into Ghanaian society. I have had dresses made in Ghanaian materials and styles, eaten the spicy foods (with my right hand of course) and learned the difference between the different starchy staples. I have drank Star beer and ginger juice, cheered for Kotoko Hearts in soccer and come to appriciate that in social situations providing details is not required (i.e. saying “I’m coming, eh” when leaving).

I have reached some understanding into the culture and I walk my guests out- longer than to the gate -, also I argue about small change when I think the taxi is too expensive and I can sustain a discussion about Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah for hours.

But by far, the most efficient way to become a part of my new world has been trying to pick up the local language, Twi. Me da wo ase (thanks) and Afehyia pa (Happy New Year!) has made people laugh and take to me like no dress or taxi fight ever did. How I wish that in my homeland Sweden a tack or gott nytt! could do the same for those trying to integrate there.

In the pic from yesterday I try to fit in to a kids pool area in a seaside restaurant in Tema.

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