About three weeks into PST, we learned which languages we would be learning. This identified where we would be generally located in the country. For the Twi speakers, it was more vague because Twi is one of the more widely spoken Ghanaian languages (there are estimated to be 80!). So Twi people could have been anywhere in the Volta, Eastern and Brong-Ahafo regions. That is a large chunk of Ghana. For my language group, and there were only three of us, we knew we would be in the Mamprusi districts of the Northern region. And it ended up being that we are all in the West Mamprusi District, unfortunately shortened to WMD. Which is a difficult hashtag to use in social media. #firstworldproblems
My language group had two teachers as the first was whisked away to embark on a PhD in Tanzania. I adore him and his teaching style. I was surprised at my sulking and childish behavior – half joking and half meaning it when I said he was abandoning us. Sorry, not sorry Haruna. Wow. I am still bitter. Haha! Hassan replaced him and I became the ‘trouble-maker’ student, always trying to wind him up.
Language training is a difficult time. It is six hours of class, six days a week for about six weeks. All which culminates in a fifteen minute language proficiency oral. And one has to achieve a mid-intermediate level to pass. Not that if a PCT fails, he/she is sent home. PCTs get chances until they pass. The primary goal of language training is to help in communicating and integrating at site. Even though I am an awful test taker, I somehow managed to pass. The examination took place before the last three weeks of PST, meaning before our technical training in Tamale, Northern Region.
The ‘official-ness’ of doing this language proficiency exam made me reflect on my language capabilities. I speak English and Spanish, understand Tagalog (also known as ‘Filipino’) more than I can speak it and know survival Ifugao (the dialect of my tribe in northern Luzon). How strange that on record, I can officially say I speak a Ghanaian language better than my own Philippine languages! I am ashamed to say I cannot speak at least Tagalog coherently, seeing as I have lived the longest in the Philippines. My sorry excuse for this is that I went to an English speaking school and Filipinos generally speak English.
At the time of writing this, I have been at my site for about seven weeks and my Mampruli was better at the time of examination than it is now. Terrible, I know. I hope this confession will force me to have more discipline with my language learning. PC offers the opportunity to take a language proficiency exam at the end of service and I would love to achieve a higher level.
Before closing out, how about a short Mampruli lesson?
a, e, Ɛ, i, o, ɔ, u
The ‘Ɛ’ and ‘ɔ’ vowels are open. The only way I can describe it here is to say the vowel with a dropped jaw and a well, more open throat/voice box/wherever it is sound comes from.
Gb = The ‘g’ is not actually pronounced but the sound starts as if you will voice it and instead a ‘b’ comes out. So the b sounds…blubbery.
Kp = Like ‘gb,’ the ‘k’ is not pronounced. It is like you form your mouth to pronounce ‘k’ but instead a ‘p’ comes out.
–notice that these two digraphs cause full use of your mouth, from the back to the front. ‘G’ and ‘k’ sounds come from the back of the mouth while ‘b’ and ‘p’ sounds form with the lips.
Gy = Pronounced like the English ‘j’ as that letter does not exist in the Mampruli alphabet.
Ky = Pronounced like the English ‘ch.’ Again, letters that do not exist in Mampruli.
Ny = The only intuitive digraph! Regular ‘n’ and ‘y’ sounds together.
Mampruli is not a standardized language, so people take liberty with the spelling and I have already seen crossover of Mamprusi people spelling Mampruli words with the English alphabet, i.e. replacing the ‘ky’ with ‘ch.’ Dagbani, the main language of Tamale, the regional capital of the Northern Region, is the most similar language to Mampruli that is standardized.
I will be making an effort to throw in a few Mampruli words here and there throughout this blog. Ti kye ma! Let’s go!
**Disclaimer: The content of this blog is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Ghana Government.**