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Ghana, like most other Anglophone nations, has had to adopt the English language for official communication; a sort of a lingua franca. This is to ease communication amongst its people who come from diverse backgrounds with different cultures and languages. It is also to have a common means of communication (both in writing and speaking) in official circles.

Other colonized African countries have also adopted the language of their colonial masters as their official language— a vestige of colonialism. This has seen Africa divided into Anglophone and Francophone nations. Hence those who were colonized by the English communicate in English whiles the French-colonized nations speak French.

This means that every student in Ghana must gain some level of English proficiency to be able to function appreciably in any official outfit. Every school in Ghana is thus to include English as one of the subjects taught; and every student is expected to speak, read and write the English language as proficiently as possible.

The question, however, is how many students over the years have been able to succeed in this quest? My experience as an English language tutor spanning several years, marking students’ scripts and interacting extensively with them has revealed a rather abysmal picture as far as students’ mastery and command of the English Language is concerned. One immediate cause that comes to mind is of course the impediment posed by the native language or the vernacular—what we refer to as L1. The native language interferes with the English Language largely often resulting in problems such as transliteration and overreliance on interlanguage in both oral and written communications.

Besides, the mistake that has been made by educators is making it appear as though the English language is a SUBJECT rather than what it is— a LANGUAGE! A Language, it is my belief, is better acquired than learnt. We speak our native languages impeccably well, but we were not taught. We acquired them naturally growing up. School only teaches us the autography and the syntax.
In my honest view the best way to help students to gain English language mastery is provide them with enough exposure to the language. How? Through voracious reading, provision of the right environment and opportunities to speak the English language both at home and in school. This enables the students to pick up the language naturally. It is the syntactic and autographic aspects of the language that must be actively taught and learnt.

If we would spare a minute to appreciate the relevance of oral and written communication in English to national development, then useful time and energy will be expended at ensuring the attainment of its mastery. It is only then would we have placed the issue of English language proficiency at the heart of our overall developmental agenda, where it rightly belongs.

Source: Frederick Afful Baidu

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