Its all in the tonation

Its 17 hours since I woke up and I after getting to work, rushing back home to change out of my jeans and into a skirt, meetings, meet and greet the head of the zone (which consisted of hello my name is eh, before they turned to shake my colleagues hand after all that, and no picture), writing a report, completing a presentation, tried to solve the world’s issues. I am finally back at home, well my spot, a quick drink to help me doze off as soon as my head hits the pillow. I’ve doused myself in mosquito repellent although I know the pesky things will find the one little spot where I didn’t reach to feed off of me, so I will make this a quick one (well as quick as I can do while trying to get all my thoughts on this blog).

I would have left the office a lot sooner had it not been for my dear friend and colleague pinging me every two seconds for me to hurry up and meet him for a drink. He didn’t take into consideration that the more I stopped what I was doing to respond, the less likely it would be for me to actually finish and get out of the office. I am great at multi-tasking but typing on the PC while BBMing is a skill I haven’t yet mastered and don’t think I ever will do unless I grow an extra arm or 2. I love him dearly, but he’s a man so I wouldn’t expect anything more. He ended up telling me he was off, 10 minutes later I was done, go figure, the correlation between concentrating on one thing at a time and the ability to get it done in time.

On the way home, I listened to the French radio station, only managed to get a few words out of it, like the rest of the nation, they were discussing Ghana’s exit from this tournament and Asamoah Gyan’s missed penalty. Poor guy, he goes through this every time, he’s hailed a hero when he scores on target and the villain when he misses, what makes it worse is that he is always 50:50 you never know when he’s actually going to make the target. I don’t know why anyone is surprised but hey. I do listen to the French radio station a lot. As well as the Akan speaking stations. I love learning new languages, although I haven’t really mastered the French I think my twi speaking skills are improving by the day. I still don’t know why Ghanaians abroad (and even some here) are so proud of their heritage, yet don’t embrace the language with so much vigour. To me its like the card to the exclusive members club, to speak a language that only you and yours can speak while others look on and wonder if when you laugh, is it something you said. It bridges the gap between the rich and the poor, the old and the young. There are so many things that can be said with so few words, there are the proverbs and the jokes too. I remember my cousin telling us a joke in twi, some things just sound so much more meaningful than it does in English and because of the vocabulary, by the time it is translated, it kind of gets lost. The same with most languages, my friend was translating something from French to English and it just got lost in translation.

Most people when they meet me, especially in my office where there are so many Francophones think I am French. The first thing people say to me when they meet me for the first time (especially the Ghanaians coincidentally) is bonjour, çava, I respond and then those that are French or english speaking but have confidence then start to go into deep conversation. That’s when I have to say, hold up mate, I’m bri-ish. As I reiterate, I don’t know that many french words but I make sure that what I do say has the correct tonation. My belief is that when you are amonst “foreigners” learn the words hello, goodbye and thank you (it’s good to be polite), you must also get the accent right. Ok haven’t really mastered it when speaking twi, but I do try my best. I hate it when another person’s language is butchered to the point of a massacre. It is not just the English, I am in a French class with Ghanaians, and sometimes I am thinking wtf, they know all the words but tonation is just well sad.

In the same way, I think if you have lived here for a certain period of time, or you have a Ghanaian friend, take their word for it that they know how to pronounce a word and your version is not gospel. I remember the days when I used to get random calls from banks or telesales people, they would start off by saying “can I speak to misssss” like they were bracing themselves to try and attempt saying my surname. They would then stumble and stutter, trying to get the name out. If I was feeling particularly wicked I would wait until they eventually give up and ask “how do you pronounce your surname”, if I was feeling compassionate I would pronounce it out or just tell them to call me by my first name when it was obvious that they would never get it.

I had a friend at uni too that was adamanr that Accra was pronounced ahh-craa. We had a 5 minute conversation about the pronunciation, I finally gave up and said you obviously know best having never seen it on the map until the day I showed you.

On the other hand I was very proud today of the french broadcaster who pronounced Asamoah Gyan’s name correctly. Some may be rude and abrasive but they take pride in their language and in turn give other people’s language the same respect. For those of you that don’t know, it is pronounced Asamwa, jaan, say it how you see it. The “oa” part may be confusing but if you hang around a Ghanaian long enough (about 5 seconds) you will get it. After all these years, it gets to me when people call him asam-oa, geeyan, the akan alphabet is similar but not the same as the english, so just go with it.

I used to work in a bank, a gentleman came up to me for whatever transaction and it is our policy to always say at the end of the transaction, thank you Mr…. So I said to this particular gentleman thank you Mr Boateng (remember the “oa” has a “wa” and the “e” is said as it is E so it is mr Bwating). Immediately he said as if very relieved “are you a Ghanaian”. He then asked where I was from and we had a brief chat before he was on his way, a very happy chappy I must say. We are very simple people, it doesn’t take much to please us, just take time to pronounce the name right. It is not Bo-a-tang, or Boat-tang.

The language is very simple but there are a few exceptions “ky” is pronounced “ch”, oa is pronounced “wa” “uo” “wo” as in “that girls like wo”, e like you pronounce in eagle, and there are no silent e’s at the end of any given word, “a” as in apple, the backwards 3 is e as in elephant, o is pronounced “or like orange” and ) (half an o) is pronunced o as more “oo”. Ny is “nya” and not ni, but a name such as Nketia is pronounced N-ket-eeya… I could go on but I think that’s enough for tonight. If you want to learn more, hang around an akan speaking person do what I did and find a course or buy the tapes. There’s so much to learn, the language is so rich and that’s why I love it. Haven’t got round to the Ga language as there is a lot more tongue rolling than the twi, but it is next on my agenda.

In the meantime, his name will be mentioned a lot in the next few weeks if you are following African football. His name is pronounced A-sam-wa jann, and not geeyann as those that don’t know how to say it claim it is.

Good night x

About efiasworld

A British Born Ghanaian navigating her way through life.
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