Ghana: The Country and its Languages - Part 2
The Portuguese first visited Ghana in the late 15th century.
A Brief History
The Portuguese first visited Ghana in the late 15th century, and what is now known as Accra was originally occupied by the people of the villages of the Ga. The Dutch forced the Portuguese to withdraw during the 17th century and, together with the English and the Danes, founded rival trading posts. These ultimately became the Christiansborg, Ussher Town, and James Town settlements.
Then, in the 19th century, Britain purchased the Danish and Dutch rights to the area, and Christiansborg was made the capital of the Gold Coast Colony in 1876. These three separate towns continued to grow, and eventually coalesced to form the city of Accra. Most of the layout for this modern city was planned in the 1920s, and growth has been rapid since that time. When the Gold Coast Colony became the Independent State of Ghana in 1957, Accra remained the capital city. Today Accra comprises 10% of the total population of Ghana. Other major cities include –
- Kumasi: the capital of the Ashanti region;
- Sekondi: the first modern port built in Ghana, complete with an artificial harbor;
- Cape Coast; and
Approximately 37% of Ghana’s population live in urban areas
Religion in Ghana
The Christian population of Ghana accounts for approximately two-fifths of the population, while around 15% are Muslim – the Muslim population is chiefly located in the northern part of Ghana.
The Languages of Ghana
Due to its colonial history, the official language of Ghana is English; and English, in addition to 9 other local languages, is universally taught in schools. The English language is used for all official, administrative and legal procedures, and documents; it’s also the language used in politics, television and radio. Daily newspapers are widely available in English.
A lot of the English spoken in Ghana is pidgin English, and it should be noted that many Ghanaians won’t be able to speak English fluently, and certainly not in the same style as a native English speaker. Much of the English spoken here appears to be a kind of parallel language with its own phrases, idioms, and grammatical rules.
The most widely spoken local languages in Ghana are Dagomba, Ga, Ewe, and Akan. There are many regional dialects spoken in Ghana, and these are classified into six main groups – Kwa, Mande, Gur, Senufo, Kulango, and Gbe. Kwa is by far the largest language family, and this is grouped into several different dialects. One of these dialects is the Akan dialect which, besides being spoken in regions of the Ivory Coast, is spoken by more than 40% of the Ghanaian population. Approximately 60% of Ghanaians speak some form of Kwa.
It’s recently been estimated that there are a minimum of 79 different languages and dialects spoken in Ghana, and some sources claim there could well be more than 100 different languages!
[Photo by Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com]
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