African Studies Quarterly

English in Ghana. M. E. Kropp Dakubu, ed. Accra: Ghana English Studies Association, 1997

English in Ghana (EIG) is a very timely book on the "new Englishes" and a welcome addition to many of its kind already published for other countries. Much, for instance, has been written on Indian English, Nigerian English, Cameroonian English, Singapore English, etc. Although the existence of a Ghanaian variety of English has long been recognized, and several articles have been written on different aspects of it (Gyasi 1990; Ahulu 1994; Owusu-Ansah 1994, etc.), this is the first comprehensive book dealing with practically all facets of this variety of English, since Sey's pioneering book: Ghanaian English (1973).

EIG is a compilation of 21 papers by language experts on English usage in Ghanaian society--although a few of them deal with some other nations of West Africa, such as Nigeria and Cameroon--and presented at the inaugural meeting of GESA held at the University College of Education, Winneba, June 13-15, 1996. The book is divided into four sections and concludes on a futuristic note with Ayo Banjo's keynote paper entitled 'Language Policy Implementation: the Way Forward'. The main body of the book is preceded by an address from the Ghanaian minister of education and the president of GESA.

The first section, "English and how we speak it," is a compilation of five papers on usage and is introduced by eminent African linguist Ayo Bamgbose whose research and publications on both Nigerian and African languages and linguistics as well as English in Nigeria are well known in Africa and internationally. His paper, 'Non-native Englishes on Trial' is full of insights on some of the hot issues that confront non-native varieties of English (NNVE), such as those of models, standards and standardization, norms, descriptive issues, errors and innovations. He unabashedly takes issue with scholars such as Prator and Quirk who have vehemently opposed the idea of NNVE.

Next is the theory/methodology paper entitled 'Nativisation and the Maintenance of Standards in Non-native Varieties of English' -- a logical follow-up to Bamgbose's paper that deals with similar issues. In this article, Owusu-Ansah grapples with one of the issues of concern in NNVEs: how to distinguish between acceptable norm breaking/norm setting forms and manifestations of lowering standards, one of the main concerns of EL teachers throughout English speaking Africa.

Gogovi's brief, but interesting paper studies the use of collocations and suggests that they be learned separately due to their complexity and peculiar and selective nature. The next paper raises a perennial concern of EL teachers all over English speaking Africa: the apparent decline in EL competence among secondary and tertiary institution students. Dako et al. blame this downward trend on inadequate teaching of grammar to students and would-be teachers alike. Wiredu's paper, the last in section one, takes a critical look at the syntactic behavior of EL catenative verbs.

Section two is entitled "English in National Contexts" and is made up of three socio-historical papers dealing with EL in Cameroon (Simo-Bobda), in Nigeria (Funso Akere) and in Ghana (John A. Sackey). Simo-Bobda's article is entitled 'English in a Multilingual Society' and takes a close look at the linguistic complex called Cameroon, a relatively small country with more than 200 indigenous languages co-existing with three other 'imported' languages -- French, English and Pidgin English -- two of which (French and English) enjoy prestige status in the society. The writer begins with a brief review of the literature on the status of EL around the world, beginning from its native soils before focussing on the specific case of Cameroon. This paper is a beautiful example of the complex chemistry that takes place when several languages come into contact, as well as the competition that also comes with the struggle for status and prestige, which, in the Cameroonian context is one between French (the dominant language) and EL. He concludes by noting that although one cannot deny that English has had a measure of influence on the indigenous languages, the latter have had a much greater influence on EL. This has therefore produced an EL that is distinctively Cameroonian in flavor.

Akere's paper examines the corpus of Nigerian English, which is part of the International Corpus of English (ICE) project. The aim of this extensive research project proposed in 1988 by Sydney Greenbaum of the University College of London is to compile and describe the different varieties of standard EL used around the globe. Akere also looks at the thorny issue of what constitutes standard Nigerian English.

The last of the articles in this section is Sackey's paper, which takes a historical look at EL in Ghana. Sackey gives a brief account of the route EL has taken from its original implantation on Ghanaian soil until the present day and the social, political and educational pressures that have shaped its course. This is must-read for the newcomer to the Ghanaian English scene, as it outlines the historical development of EL in this West African nation.

The third section of the book centers on pedagogical issues affecting the teaching of EL in Ghanaian classrooms. The first two papers by Davies and Angmor et al. focus on the teaching of literature and the important role it plays in the teaching and acquisition of EL. While the first paper is concerned with the importance of teacher training, the second emphasizes the importance of using literary texts to teach EL. Dzameshie's paper proposes a communicative approach to the teaching of English as a second language (ESL) as an alternative to the traditional grammar-based approach.

Edu-Buandoh's paper is a preliminary report on error patterns common among students in Ghanaian Senior Secondary Schools (SSS). It proposes error analysis as a means of correcting recurrent errors among SSS students and concludes with a list of recommendations on how to improve EL usage. The last paper by Adika and Denkabe proposes a linguistically based framework for literary text analysis.

"Expressing the Self in Society" is the title of the fourth section which comprises six papers, each dealing with different self-expressions in the Ghanaian society. The first paper by Opoku-Agyemang explores recent female literary voices and invites literary critics to begin to consider the works of female writers whose works have been either ignored or forgotten in critical circles. The article takes a critical look at four contemporary Ghanaian women writers -- Yeboah-Afari, Gyamfuaa-Fofie, Cudjoe-Swayne and Aggrey and encourages criticism of their works for the benefit of the larger society.

Whereas Sekyi-Baidoo's paper explores the importance of using background information in the teaching of literature to students at the secondary level, Dako's is an assessment of the competence of graduates of EL at the tertiary level of education. His conclusion is that much still needs to be done to bring graduating students to a desired level of competency in EL. The third article in this section by Kropp Dakubu entitled 'The Trope of the Nation in Kojo Laing's Poetry'. Using two poems of Laing's, Dakubu teases out what she perceives as the former's concept of the Ghanaian nation -- an unrealized yet real and ideal community. Denkabe's paper takes a critical look at the Ghanaian print media and concludes that although the chief players in this sector of society have a good command of the English language, the actual language used in print, in the final analysis, is still shaped by the reality of Ghanaian society. This is a good paper on how language is shaped by society, while society itself continues to be shaped by language. The last paper 'A study of the Embattled Heroine in two African Films' by Yankah deals with gender issues in African film and proposes the use of film to enhance the teaching of language and literature at all levels of education.

The last section, "Into the Future", comprises only one paper by eminent linguist Ayo Banjo, author of several articles and books on the English language in Nigeria. Banjo delves into the often volatile and thorny national language issue and language policy formulation and implementation -- an area of major concern in most of the ex-British colonies of Africa and Asia. Also at issue in this paper is the often ambivalent, if not ambiguous, role of EL in these so-called anglophone nations. According to Banjo, well thought out language policy has been neglected, with all the obvious implications on the educational and governmental institutions of the countries concerned. He calls for the replacement of the exoglossic EL with endoglossic languages as national lingua francas. Banjo believes EL will still maintain a co-official role with the chosen indigenous official languages (due to its international role), he suggests an endonormative, rather than an exonormative model of usage. In conclusion, Banjo calls for a working partnership, collaboration and information sharing among linguists and language policy makers within the West-African sub-region in order to achieve a more lasting solution to what is a sensitive issue for all the nations concerned.

Although the various papers in this collection differ in quality and accessibility, one must look beyond the individual articles to appreciate its overall significance. This is a high-quality volume that will be of interest to linguists, language specialists, students, teachers and educationists, journalists and policy makers, as well as anyone who wishes to familiarize themselves with the history, development, role and significance of EL in the Ghanaian society and the wider context of West Africa. It also is useful as a superior reference source for students of ESL and language variation and change.

T. Temi Ajani
Dept. of African & Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Florida


Ahulu, Samuel, 1994. How Ghanaian is Ghaanaian English?. English Today 38: 25-29.
Gyasi, I.K., 1990. The State of English in Ghana. English Today 23: 24-26.
Owusu-Ansah, Laawrence, 1994. Intertextuality in Ghanaian English Texts. Papers in Ghanaian Linguistics. 10: 1-25.
Sey, Kofi, 1973. Ghanaian English: an exploratory study. London: Macmillan.