Do you have a spare language?

Have you ever found yourself in a fix and you needed a spare language to set you free? Just as you need to possess a spare tyre to use in case of an emergency, so you need a spare language to carry along with you where ever you go.

Kofi Annan’s ability to fluently speak English and French was a plus in attaining that high laurel of UN Secretary General. His other competitors were only fluent in one language or the other. Your ability to possess another language – be it local or international may be the tie breaker in your quest for employment or assistance. Investigators, business men and women, journalists, communicators and legal practitioners cannot do without an additional language.

Once I visited a communication centre to call my sister. When I entered I saw this woman who is known by my family and also came from our home town.  The message I had to convey to her was a confidential one and the presence of the woman left me wondering – if I spoke Twi, Ga, Fanti, English or Effutu she would understand my message. Immediately I remembered I had a spare language in my bag. Quickly I looked into my bag and there sat Dagbani starring into my face, I brought it out and confidently delivered my confidential message.

At another time, somewhere in 1995, Accra was hit with an acute water shortage and we had walked for several hours in search of water. When we got to a place close to the Multichoice building at Asylum Down we saw hundreds of people had gathered to fetch water.  As we drew near, I over-heard one of the owners of the place speaking Dagbani with a colleague. Immediately, I told my friends we were not leaving the place without water. They thought it was a joke because we met a lot of people already there. I meandered my way to where the gentlemen were, squat in greeting (as Dagbani custom demands when a lady is greeting an older man) and pleaded if I could get a bucket of water.  In astonishment they responded in the affirmative and also asked if I came with someone. In fact, my joy knew no bound that evening.

I speak seven local Ghanaian languages-Ga, Twi, Fanti, Hausa, Effutu, Dagbani, and Mamprusi, and a little French.  I have decided to add German and Spanish to widen my scope of languages.  How many do you have in your bag? If you don’t, then get one today because you may need it on the highway when there is no mechanic (translator) in sight.

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