Speaking TwiPosted: March 5, 2012
Although the official language of Ghana is English, there are a variety of dialects spoken all over the country. In Accra, and much of the southern half of the country, Ghanaians speak Twi (pronounced TREE; also known as Akan or Fante). To date, this has been the most foreign language experience I’ve had, but I had such a blast learning new words and phrases and practicing them with locals. Even if I may have butchered the language, locals loved hearing me try, and it opened up so many opportunities to bond with and learn from the beautiful people of Ghana.
Spelling in Twi is extremely difficult; most of the Ghanaians I met had difficulty spelling or writing in Twi. Many words make use of special characters that aren’t in the English language. In fact, the school where we volunteered had Twi lessons scheduled, but no certified Twi teacher to instruct the course (which focused on writing in Twi).
Therefore, for simplicity’s sake, my Twi “spelling” will be strictly phonetic. The following words and phrases were so invaluable for me in getting to know and earning the respect of Ghanaians!
Greetings & Responses
Good morning: MA-CHI
Good afternoon: MA-HA
Good evening: MA-DJO
** For enthusiasm, add OOOO to the end. As in, “ma-chi-oooooo”
How are you?: WHOA-WHO-TA-SEYN
What’s up?: EH-TEH-SEYN
I’m fine: ME-HO-YEY (more formal), or EH-YEY (more informal)
Mind Your Manners!
Ghanaians are big on being polite and minding your manners. These phrases will take you far!
Thank you: MEH-DA-SI
Responding to “thank you”: ME-SA-MEH-DA-SI
** This essentially means “I am also thankful”… Since generosity is so expected and commonplace, there is really no translation for “You’re welcome”
Please / Excuse me / Pardon me: MEH-POW-CHO
What are you called? YEH-FRAY-WHO-SEYN
I am called…: YEH-FRAY-ME
We will meet again: YEH-BAY-SHE-AH
We will meet tomorrow: OH-CHI-NAH–YEH-BAY-SHE-AH
(Since we were there for New Year’s) Happy New Year!: AH-FEE-SHE-AH-PA
Response to “Happy New Year”: OH-FIM-KOM-BA-TOO-YAY
I don’t understand: MEN-TEE-AH-SAY
“Small, small” (i.e. “Just a little”): KA-KRA KA-KRA
Enthusiasm: PA (Ex. Thank you very much = MEH-DA-SI-PA-PA-PA-PA…. can be repeated as often as you like)