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Twi is the common name for a family of mutually intelligible dialects used mainly in central and southern Ghana. This language comes from the Akan people, the largest ethnic group in Ghana. Moreover, Twi is a first or second language for over 80% of Ghanaians and is also used in the Ivory Coast. Therefore, totaling over 17 – 18 million speakers.
As Twi is so popular, it is an essential language to learn for those planning to travel or work in Ghana. In this article, we go over the basics of this dialect and share tips on becoming fluent. Let’s get started!
Understanding the Basics of Twi
Like many languages in Ghana, Twi is tonal, meaning it has two basic tones, high and low, that alter the definition of a word. For example, the meaning of the Twi word papa changes with the tone, such that:
- Two low tones, papa means palm leaf fan
- Two high tones, papa means good
- A low tone followed by a high tone, papa, means father
For writing, the Twi alphabet is Latin-based, with 22 letters: 15 consonants and 7 vowels. The table below lists these letters and similar English sounds to help you understand the pronunciation. Note that certain vowels have two sounds for a total of 10 vowel sounds in this language.
|Similar English Sound
|b as in book
|d as in do
|f as in fish
|g as in go
|h as in hat
|k as in car
|l as in loud
|m as in moon
|n as in name
|p as in purse
|r as in round
|s as in sing
|t as in teach
|w as in we
|y as in yam
|a as in bath
|æ as in man
|e as in hate
|i as in dip
|e as in set
|ee as in feet
|o as in old
|oo as in good
|a as in all
|oo as in moon
Common Twi phrases include:
- Agoo – generally greeting
- Me ma wo akye – good morning
- Me ma wo aha – good afternoon
- Me ma wo adwo – good evening
- Wo ho te sεn? – how are you?
- Yɛferɛ wo sɛn? – What is your name?
- Meda wo ase – thank you
- Yɛbɛhyia bio – a goodbye that means we shall meet again
- Aane – yes
- Daabi – no
Exploring the Twi Language Family
While Twi is not the official language or even the lingua franca of Ghana, it does have a government-sponsored status. However, it is important to note that Twi is not a single dialect. Twi is actually the name for three dialects in the Akan language family: Bono, Asante, and Akuapem.
These languages are so similar that people who speak any of these dialects can communicate with one another. Still, for decades they had different writing systems. So, in 1978, the government unified all these dialects under one writing system.
The Akan people are among the oldest inhabitants of present-day Ghana, and historical writings about their great kingdom go as far back as the 11th century. Despite having different branches in their family tree, the Akan people consider themselves one nation and are very proud of their family traditions.
One interesting feature of this community is its naming system. Akan families name their children based on the day of the week they were born. For example, a child born on a Friday (Akan: fiada) often gets a name derived from fiada, such as Kofi (male) or Afia (female).
Tips for Learning Twi
Tonal languages can be challenging to learn. Therefore it is important to be patient and diligent when you start learning. The first step is to learn how to distinguish the different tones. This is because you won’t be able to produce the sounds until you can tell the difference.
So, start by watching Ghanaian TV shows, movies, and music. Here, the focus is not on understanding. Instead, it is about training your ear to pick out the tonal shifts. This strategy improves and makes it easier to learn new words.
With this, you can start practicing by recording yourself as you speak. This technique gives you the chance to listen to yourself and catch any mistakes. Try to make this exercise a part of your routine, even if it’s just 15 – 20 minutes daily. It is important to fully commit to learning because it is all about consistent practice.
Other ways you can immerse yourself include:
- Reaching out to a local native Twi speaker
- Connecting with online Twi-speaking communities.
- Writing down phrases and words
Resources for Learning Twi
As Twi is a widely-spoken language, it has a large community, and many resources are available. You can reach out to the local language learning center or go online, where you can find the following:
Learning the Twi language is a fantastic way to connect with Ghana and its incredible people. While it may be challenging initially, the more you learn, the more you will fall in love with this melodic dialect. Moreover, it is a practical language for those who plan to interact with native speakers.
If you want to become fluent in Twi, Cee Koko’s interactive books and instructional videos are the perfect choice. These materials are an excellent educational foundation for Twi and other popular African languages and dialects.
So visit our official online shop today to explore our collection and begin your language-learning journey!