So you have decided to teach your child Akan, Twi – that’s great. Well, in this post we will break down what Twi is, where it originates from, best practices to help your child learn and other common questions parents have when deciding to go ahead and learn or teach Twi to their child.
Teaching your child a new language is a beautiful thing.
The best part is that young children have the ability to learn two or three languages with no trouble and could be fluently multilingual by age 10.
It would all be second nature to them and despite what one might think, the knowledge of multiple languages will never confuse them or distract them from mastering any single language.
They have the brain capacity to learn multiple languages and so much more, unlike adults as it becomes increasingly difficult for us to learn multiple languages as we get older. Not impossible – just difficult!
Studies also show that children who speak or learn multiple languages, tend to score better on tests. This is due to the transferable skills they develop whilst language learning.
Observation skills, listening skills, problem-solving and critical thinking are all beneficial and transferable skills which are developed through language learning!
You may already know some of this information but it cannot hurt to have an outline of things you might want to discuss with your child if they have questions or if you wish to delve deeper into teaching them the culture behind the language.
What Is Twi?
Let’s break this down a little bit because it can get confusing…
Twi is the language of the Akan people of Ghana. Akan consists of three different dialects, Fante, Asante Twi and Akwapim Twi.
Asante Twi is the most widely used of the three and Akan, as a whole, is the most widely spoken indigenous language of Ghana. For this reason, when we talk about learning ‘Twi’ or ‘Akan Twi’, in this post, we are referring to Asante Twi.
Where is Twi spoken?
Twi is widely spoken throughout southern Ghana and neighboring areas.
How Many People Speak Twi?
There are approximately 9,000,000 native speakers and another 9,000,000 who speak Twi as a second language. This totals around 30% of Ghana’s population who speak Twi!
Is Twi Hard To Learn?
When a language is branded easy or hard to learn, it is done so coming from the perspective of an English speaker, therefore it is not universal.
Technically English speakers will find languages such as Swedish, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese easier to learn, for the simple fact that they have similar phonetic sounds and fewer language irregularities.
Likewise, one of the hardest languages to learn for an English speaker is Mandarin. Despite this, it is still the most widely spoken language in the world.
“Okay, so what does this mean for me trying to learn and teach my child Twi?”, you say.
It means that whether a language is hard or easy to learn is all relative, and, frankly, it means nothing. If you want to learn it, you will. It requires the same level of effort, time, and consistency as any other language or skill.
One thing to note, however, is Twi is a tonal language (English is not) like many West African languages, this can be a factor that increases its difficulty because it can be harder for the (adult) English speaker to detect.
You will require as much Twi learning material in audio form as possible to really master its three tones and system of tone terracing.
But, baby steps, right? … That is why we are here.
Best Practices For Teaching Children Twi
Children can learn Twi very easily with the right material. Children learn best through play, song, and imagery and this goes for any subject, including language learning.
The issue with teaching a child the Twi language specifically is the number of resources available to do so. Of course, the best way to learn any language is to take an immersive approach but this is not an oftion for everybody so the next best thing is widely available resources.
Resources such as apps, books, children’s shows, and cartoons, movies, nursery rhymes etc. With African languages, such as Twi, this content is less available and quite limited in comparison to some other languages – but, of course, this is changing fast!
Teaching Children The Twi Alphabet
Children will need to learn the 22 letters in the Twi alphabet (which uses the same Latin script that the English alphabet uses). However, Twi only uses 20 of the 26 letters in the English alphabet (listed below).
The remaining two letters are what resembles a backward ‘3’, Ɛ, and a backward ‘C’, Ɔ. Learning the Twi alphabet is one of the basic, yet important lessons available on many phone and tablet apps.
Children can use the soundboard in apps to tap, listen and repeat the sounds of the alphabet individually.
Above is the table of 22 letters, consisting of 15 consonants and 7 vowels. You can also download and print this alphabet chart for them to get more familiar and even practice writing words out.
A great idea for an exercise would be to have your child colour-code the Twi vowels and consonants:
|Twi Vowels||Twi Consonants|
|Aa, Ee, Ɛɛ, Ii, Oo, Ɔɔ, Uu||Bb, Dd, Ff, Gg, Hh, Kk, Ii, Mm, Nn, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Ww, Yy|
If at least one parent is a native Twi speaker this can be done even easier. If not, then you will need to make the most of as much audio material as possible.
Teaching children Twi with bilingual books
There is an increasing number of bilingual English and Twi children’s books showing up on the market, from stories to picture dictionaries and comics – this makes it a lot easier for parents who speak the language to teach their children Twi alphabet pronunciation and become familiar with the sound of the words.
Twi children’s books will ensure a natural grasp of the language so collect as many of them as you can find! It just so happens that I have made a few 🙂
Bilingual Twi Childrens Books
English To Twi Colour & Learn: Animals:: Bilingual Children’s Educational Colouring Book in English and Akan, Twi, 8 by 10 inch Kids Activity Book (Learn & Teach An African Language Series)
The Tale of the Three Cookie Men - English & Twi: Children’s Picture Book (Bilingual Version)
2 used from $9.99
Teaching children Twi with mobile apps
Mobile apps are one of the modern-day luxuries when it comes to language learning and education as a whole. They offer us an interactive learning experience and give children the opportunity to learn through play.
However, all apps are not created equal, you will want to research who is behind each app, especially paid apps to discern whether or not the developer or development team are authentic and truly know the language.
Is Twi on Duolingo?
Duolingo the go-to app when it comes to language learning, and it is easy to see why. Firstly, it is FREE! They make it very easy and fun to not only start learning a new language but to be consistent – as they give you daily reminders and prompts to keep your practice streak going.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing Duolingo does not offer a Twi course and, in fact, the only African language Duolingo offers is Swahili (which is a shame, but can I just add, they have done a great job with Swahili so there is hope for future African languages when they do show up).
Kiddie Twi First Words (iOS)
Kiddie Twi First Words is an iOS app with four free topics:
Twi alphabet, Numbers, Colors and Shapes.
Once your child has mastered those you have the option to purchase another 8 topics for £1.99.
Other topics: Fruit, Food, Animals, Human body, Clothes, Home, Transport and Nature.
In this app you can use the soundboard feature and tap-to-learn. And then play a basic game trying to match the Twi word (audio) with the correct picture.
Twi Junior (Android)
Is another great Twi learning app for kids. This is available on Android and has a free version, Twi Junior (with ads) and a paid version, Twi Junior Pro which is only £0.99.
Twi Junior is designed for parents who want to teach their children Twi. This app so far gives both images and pronunciations of items.
The creators at Kwasi Technology also have a Youtube channel dedicated to teaching Twi.
Teaching children Twi with audio
Audio is great for language learning and, of course, includes but is not limited to music. You can make the most of things like playing digital Ghanaian radio stations in the house or anything which displays native Twi speakers in conversation.
Modern Ghana is a great place for this. Children’s nursery rhymes and other native songs are also great ways to immerse your child in the sounds and cultures of Ghana.
Teaching children Twi with video
The combination of audio and visual learning and a huge hit with little people… Cartoons! Ideally, there would be an abundance of educational and bilingual Twi material but there is only a few. None the less we are grateful for channels like Akan Tree TV and Akan Kids Songs for filling the gap and niche.
Where Can I Get Twi Learning Material For Free?
The answer to any question about learning, ending in “for free”, is Youtube.
Youtube combines the learning requirements of visual and audio and its library is growing daily. You will certainly be able to find a variety of Twi learning supplements on Youtube. You could create a playlist and have that playing in the house in the background or in the car as you travel. The children will very quickly and naturally start to pick up on common words, songs and dialect.
Daddy & I (Twi Story)
Twi Animated Nursery Rhyme
(Head Shoulders Knees & Toes)
Twi for Kids:
Twi Alphabet Lesson
Other Twi Learning Material
Learn Akan is an online platform to help you learn Twi. This can especially be used by parents as you can formulate a solid lesson plan based on their layout and free videos (Youtube Channel).
They have resources which cover all three basis of language learning which is reading, writing and speaking.
My Twi Dictionary, as you can imagine is an online English to Twi dictionary. You can translate words both ways, from English to Twi and from Twi to English. This helps when cross-referencing something or double-checking on a singular word.
Be careful with using automated services to translate full sentences, however – as you will often find mechanical translations can be problematic at best.
They tend to fail when it comes to human dialect and phrases, especially as many words in English cannot necessarily be translated word for word and some words may have multiple meanings in Twi, depending on the situation – just as they do in most languages.
My Twi Dictionary would be a great resource for parents looking to create flashcards or lists of single words for their children.
Though these recommendations are aimed more towards adults, they are listed as resources because you can easily use them to structure your own lessons and further your knowledge at the same time.
This guide to Twi, the language of the Akan people of Ghana, incorporates Akan culture into the instruction. While primarily of use to the lay person, it will, however, also be welcomed by the more academic linguist wishing to learn more about the language’s structure.
Let’s Speak Twi:
A Proficiency Course in Akan Language and Culture
Let’s Speak Twi is an introductory language-learning textbook for speakers of English and other languages who seek proficiency in Akan Twi, the most widely used and understood native language of Ghana.
Included in the book are several practice exercises and activities; an extensive range of culturally relevant topics and dialogues; lists of idiomatic, colloquial, and euphemistic expressions; a reference glossary; and tips on culturally appropriate behavior.
Pimsleur Twi Level 1 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Twi with Pimsleur Language Programs
Pimsleur Twi Level 1 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Twi with Pimsleur Language Programs (1) (Compact)
4 used from $39.69
The Easiest and Fastest Way to Learn Twi
Whether you want to travel, communicate with friends or colleagues, reconnect with family, or just understand more of what’s going on in the world around you, learning Twi will expand your horizons and immeasurably enrich your life.
The best part is that it doesn’t have to be difficult or take years to master. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes, and we get you speaking right from the first day. Pimsleur courses use a scientifically-proven method that puts you in control of your learning.
If you’ve tried other language learning methods but found they simply didn’t stick, then you owe it to yourself to give Pimsleur a try.
– Quick + Easy – Only 30 minutes a day.
– Portable + Flexible – Core lessons can be done anytime, anywhere, and easily fit into your busy life.
– Proven Method – Works when other methods fail.
– Self-Paced – Go fast or go slow – it’s up to you.
– Based in Science – Developed using proven research on memory and learning.
– Cost-effective – Less expensive than classes or immersion, and features all native speakers.
– Genius – Triggers your brain’s natural aptitude to learn.
– Works for everyone – Recommended for ages 13 and above.