Written by Annette van der Merwe
Twi is a Niger-Congo language and a member of the Kwa family, spoken by up to 8 million people in Ghana, the Ivory Coast and some parts of Togo. Twi is also referred to as Akan. It is not an official language in any of these countries but is an important lingua franca in the region.
Akan or Twi, like most other African languages, have various dialects. Ashanti Twi is the most dominant in Ghana and spoken by about 7 million people. The other two major dialects are Fante Twi and Akuapem Twi. All of the dialects are mutually intelligible, but some, due to different cultural and literary traditions, can be considered as separate languages. About 44% of Ghanaians speak one or other Twi dialect as a first language and there are also a great number of second language speakers.
Although English is the official language of Ghana, there are 9 regionally government sponsored languages which include the three major Twi dialects, Anshante, Fante and Akuapem. Ashanti has been established as the proper base for a national literary language since the first half of the 20th century. Twi uses the Roman alphabet, and has been standardised by the Bureau of Ghana Languages since 1961. Twi, like many other West African languages, is also a tonal language. It utilises three major tones – high, middle and low – which are phonemic.
DID YOU KNOW?
English is the official language in Ghana, but Ghanaians speak over 40 languages throughout its 10 regions! Twi is the most popular Akan language, spoken by about half of Ghanaians.