The Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, has called on Parliament to reinstall translation equipment in the chamber to enable Members of Parliament (MPs) to freely make contributions.
He said such equipment would enable MPs to table their views on the floor in their mother tongues or common local languages and not limit them to the lingua franca, the English Language.
Prof. Yankah, made the call on the sidelines of a durbar to celebrate this year’s International Mother Tongue Day at the College of Languages Education, University of Education, Winneba, Ajumako last Friday.
It was on the theme: “Languages Without Borders.”
The International Mother Tongue Day is observed on February 21 worldwide with the prime goal of promoting awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multi-lingualism.
The official recognition of the day was first announced on November 1999 by UNESCO and was formally accepted by the United Nations General Assembly with the adoption of UN resolution 56/262 Multi-lingualism in 2002.
Professor Yankah said as far back as 2002 when all cubicles to translate local languages had been destroyed as a result of the expansion work in the chambers, no efforts had been made to reinstall the equipment, saying “it is unfortunate decentralisation is lost on us in Parliament.”
He said the use of the English Language as the medium of expression was disenfranchising some members and their constituents stressing, “We must allow people to express themselves freely.”
The minister said in the light of globalisation and the promotion of western culture and overriding of social media, there was the need for institutions of languages to serve as bulwark to stem their tide else “we risk being wiped out”.
Prof. Yankah said the fact that there was a mixture of ethnicity from the north and south, as seen in the culture displayed by the various departments, and nobody was at each other’s throats, indicated a diversity in unity.
The Principal of the college, Prof. Avea Nsoh, underscored the need for the people to become active agents in the global fight for equal treatment of the languages in a multilingual context like one spoken in Ghana.
“Given the events that gave birth to this day, it is important that we reflect on our roles in promoting diversity and mutual respect for the linguistic complexity of mother Ghana,” he said.
Language profile of Ghana
He said the language profile of Ghana could only be respected if students and teachers of indigenous languages began to appreciate and adore the various languages and treat the languages and their users with mutual respect and dignity.
“This is, therefore, a task on all of us not to make this day, a ‘ritual’ but our conscious quest for language maintenance in Ghana, and also to ensure that our deeds beyond this gathering are reflections of this celebration” Prof. Nsoh said.
Unity in diversity
The Safaliba Language Project Manager at the Ghana Institute of Linguistic, Literacy and Bible Translation, Dr Paul Schaefer, stressed the need to work together, saying it was people who spoke one language that had problem with people with culture diversity.