‘Bra, Sɛn, Yɛnkↄ... That is All I Know in Akan’: How Female Migrants From Rural North Survive with Minimum Bilingualism in Urban Markets in Ghana

  • Gladys Nyarko Ansah Institutional Affiliation: University of Ghana, Legon Current Status: Senior Lecturer Mailing address: Department of English
  • Jemima Asabea Anderson Institutional Affiliation: University of Ghana, Legon Current Status: Senior Lecturer Mailing address: Department of English
  • Suleman Alhassan Anamzoya Current Status: Senior Lecturer Mailing address: Department of Sociology Email address: asanamzoya@yahoo.com
  • Fidelia Ohemeng Current Status: Lecturer Mailing address: Department of Sociology Email address: fohemeng@yahoo.com
Keywords: Language and Migration, female migration, incipient bilingualism, Ghana

Abstract

In this paper, we explore the language-migration nexus among female migrants, Kayayei, in three urban markets in Accra, Ghana. We assume in this paper that first time migrants from northern Ghana will face lin-guistic challenges in these markets because the linguistic situation in ur-ban centres in Ghana is very diverse and complex. Typically, first time migrants from northern Ghana may hardly speak the major languages that are spoken in Accra: Ga, Akan, Ewe and English. Nevertheless, they have to learn to negotiate fees with the clients (whose luggage they carry) as well as tax officers who chase them all over the market to collect the daily income taxes from them. How do the migrants cope in such com-plex linguistic situation of the host community? What strategies do these migrants resort to in coping with the linguistic challenges they face in their new (host) communities? We investigate the linguistic challenges that migrants face in their new environment, and identify the coping strategies the migrants employ to meet these linguistics challenges. We first identify the dominant language(s) of the markets to see if it is/they are indeed different from the languages spoken by the migrants. We then examine the language (s) migrants select for business transactions in these markets. Finally, we attempt to evaluate the level of competence the migrants have in the selected language for business and explore why migrants choose to do business in the particular language (s) irrespective of their level of competence in the selected language. Our investigation revealed Akan as the dominant language of all three markets. It also re-vealed that very minimum linguistic exchange is required in the line of business of the Kayayei. This implies that very little linguistic knowledge in the market language may be sufficient to conduct business in their line of business. Incipient bilingualism, learning the appropriate registers (key vocabulary) needed to transact business in the markets, emerged as the most employed coping strategy among the migrants.

Author Biographies

Gladys Nyarko Ansah, Institutional Affiliation: University of Ghana, Legon Current Status: Senior Lecturer Mailing address: Department of English

Dr. Gladys Nyarko Ansah is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon. She has about 15 years of teaching experience. She has taught a wide range of courses such as Semantics, Stylistics, Applied Linguistics, English as a Second Language, Bilingualism and English Language in Communication leading to her development of research interest in a wide range of areas in language studies including: language and cognition, language, culture and cognition, the sociolinguistics of bi/multilingualism, language policy, language and politics, and second language acquisition. Her current research interests focus on Language and Migration, and Culture and Politics, and language and health delivery.

Jemima Asabea Anderson, Institutional Affiliation: University of Ghana, Legon Current Status: Senior Lecturer Mailing address: Department of English
Dr. Jemima Asabea Anderson is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Ghana, where she teaches courses in Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, English in Ghana and World Englishes. She holds an MA in General Linguistics from Indiana University, Bloomington and an MPhil and a PhD in English from University of Ghana. Her research interests include Codification of Ghanaian English, Language and Migration in Ghana, Cross-cultural Pragmatics, Pragmatics of non-native varieties of English, Politeness/Impoliteness in English in Ghana, and Language Choice and Usage in Ghana. She is co-editor of Crossing Linguistic Borders in Post-Colonial Anglophone Africa. Some of her articles have appeared in Journal of Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, Legon Journal of the Humanities and Linguistic Atlantica.
Suleman Alhassan Anamzoya, Current Status: Senior Lecturer Mailing address: Department of Sociology Email address: asanamzoya@yahoo.com
Dr. Sulemana Anamzoya Alhassan is a Senior Lecturer of Sociology. His research interests include: Sociology of law and legal anthropology, especially, access to justice, judicial process and legal pluralism. He is also interested in chieftaincy (conflicts, chieftaincy and law), mixed government, and, migrant chiefs.
Fidelia Ohemeng, Current Status: Lecturer Mailing address: Department of Sociology Email address: fohemeng@yahoo.com
Dr. Fidelia N. A. Ohemeng is a Lecturer of Sociology. Her research interest includes Gender, Death and Dying, Aging, and Health with interests in local interpretation of diseases and the health seeking behaviour of people. She is currently collaborating with others on Dynamic Drivers of Diseases in Africa Consortium (DDAC) working on the interaction of human beings and the ecosystem and the drivers of diseases in Africa. She is also collaborating with some colleagues from the English Department of the University of Ghana examining how migrants with little language cope and interact in their host communities
Published
2017-06-30
Section
Articles

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print ISSN: 2026-6596