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.


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Know what I love and learn about from your writing, Kajsa? The culture I am and have, but do not know! Great piece. You really have the second sight!

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Thanks Nana Yaw, your culture is rich so what I am doing is easy! Looking forward to the day I can tell you that in Twi :-)

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

You will be next time we meet, I'm confident of that!

Adaeze said...

Haha I recognize your process of learning all too well, also about husbands not being too helpful. When you've first fallen into the pattern of speaking English to each other it is difficult to let it go! Sad that there is so little material to find, or perhaps just well hidden material on these wonderful languages. I myself am trying to learn Igbo as you probably understood. I have no idea how to write in it though. Babysteps, babysteps!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Fantastic - just what I needed to brush up on my Twi before my next trip to my homeland...
When I think I used to speak better Twi (no accent) than English or French..!
I'm lacking practice - thanks for sharing..:)

Anonymous said...

I learned Twi pretty fluently. I first used the Pimsleur course, which is good for getting pronunciation & some basic structures down. Then I used the US Foreign Service course, which is really very good. After that, it's a little harder to progress thru print materials. There are relatively few books printed in Twi in Ghana, & none of the dictionaries currently in print are very useful. Try to get a copy of Christaller's old 19th century dictionary. It's way shy of perfect, & it's terribly old, but it's the best Twi-English dictionary ever to have been published. You can get it digitally at http://www.pathawi.net/Christaller.pdf I think a really good next step is the Bible, actually: You can compare the Twi Bible to the English, so for words that you can't find in the dictionary, or sentences you can't parse, you've got a translation to work with. I'm not Christian, but I find the Asante Twi translation of the Bible refreshing & fascinating. &, of course, talk as much as you can! Always ask questions!

Bryce said...

That is so great that you're learning the Twi language. I hope it continues to go well for you!

Here's a great site in Twi that can give you a lot of practice in the language:

Twi wiki browser

Graham said...

I thought the Pimlseur was excellent - I've never been able to learn from audio cassettes before this!
Have tried to collect some Twi resources at:
Hope they are useful.

Anonymous said...


Here's Mr Language Teacher again. Each person has a way to learn a language, but there are some very good universal strategies, such as:

1. Talk to children. They speak a structurally simpler version of the language and will most certainly correct you on the spot when you make a mistake.
2. Get children books/books with illustrations. Try to capture the meanings, seeing which words come again and again and then slowly build a vocabulary (or expand the one you have).
3. Listen to music. Songs are one the best ways to memorize new words, apparently our brains have a mechanism for helping us learn things through rhythms and melody.
4. Think about the language. Pay attention to the words and sentences you already know, how they are used in different contexts and if they ever change.
5. Talk to people. There's no better way to learn someone's tongue than listening to them speaking it.

Hope that was useful!

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Wow, a lot has happened here. Thanks Anon, Bryce, Graham and Idealistico for resources. In the new blog I am putting together I plan to collect Twi resources! So this infor was very helpful, meda wo ase pa paa pa!

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