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Friday, January 10, 2014

"Branch Here? " - Welcome to Ghana's World !

 By Stephen Kwabena Effah

Ghenglish is what I call it. Yes! Ghenglish, the Ghanaian version of the Queen’s English language.

To any foreigner, it may sound outlandish and difficult to comprehend but to the ordinary Ghanaian, that is what has become the everyday English used mostly in everyday conversations.

While these plethora of words, expressions and phrases are used understandably among Ghanaians and foreigners living in the country, they leave new foreigners pondering considering that the meanings are not always implicit.

After all, just as some of the Queen’s English were either derived or borrowed from French, so have Ghanaians explored their linguistic creativity to come up with these phrases. has been sampling some of these expressions and phrases.

“Can you hear the smell?” that’s how some Ghanaians would ask you if they want to inquire whether you smell something. Perhaps, it is only in Ghana that one can ‘hear’ a ‘smell’. Funny huh? Well, wait till you walk with an average Ghanaian who would want to exhibit his grasp with the Queens language around Accra’s smelly area- Lavender Hill.

In Ghana, it is now a phenomenon to hear people say, “I’m going to come” when in actual sense they would want to mean, “I will be right back”. In some cases, when someone is going and you call that person, he usually responds, “I’m coming” meanwhile he will be going.

In a country where popular landmarks have become compass in giving direction, many average Ghanaians use the expression “branch at the next junction” to mean “turn at the next junction”

And there go the MCs at various events and functions! Whenever a programme is delayed, you usually hear these MCs plead with the audience/ patrons to pardon organisers and that “It will start in 10 minutes time” instead of “It will start in 10 minutes”

Ghanaians love courtesies and as such whenever they are handing something to someone with their left hand, they usually say “sorry for the left” to mean “sorry for using my left hand”. Interesting huh! Perhaps that’s a shortcut to that.

It is even interesting when you patronise public transport, especially tro-tro and taxis. You usually hear passengers tell the drivers and their mates either “drop me here” or I’ll drop here”. All what that means is “I will alight here”.

Even more outlandish is the expression one hears in trotros and at market places or shops, which is: “give me my balance,” when actually they are requesting for their “change”.

And if you found yourself in the midst of some gossiping Ghanaian ladies, you would usually hear Ghenglish like either “she is another ooo” or “don’t mind her, she is someway”– one would ask, which way? Basically, all what that means is “they don’t seem to understand the behaviour of the (she) person”

It is more interesting to be in a market like the Katamanto in the Accra Central Business District. You will be delighted to watch buyers bargain with sellers in pidgin English and Ghenglish.

Hear the buyer: “What’s your last price?” What! last price? Yes, you heard right! That is to mean “the lowest price in bargaining change”. Again, shops and market centres, you will hear people using the expression “home use”. Any foreigner to Ghana will wonder what means but that is to refer to second hand items usually from Europe, America and Asia.

And hey! don’t be surprised if you’re a foreigner and gave your number to a local who then told you: “let me flash you so you store my number” or “I will flash you for you to call me”. That sounds confusing eh?  Simply, all what that means is he will leave a miss call on your phone, usually cellular phones.

Ghana being arguably synonymous with blackout, one usually hears spontaneous shout of  “light-off!” to mean blackout, whenever electricity power is cut off, plunging their homes into total darkness.

Another common Ghenglish phrase one would find an average Ghanaian use is “repeat again”. I’m sure you’re saying that’s tautology. Yes, it is and also that’s Ghenglish for you. Simply, that means, “repeat”

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