Ghana is a country with 7 major languages, Twi, Ga, Fanti, Ewe, Dangbe, Hausa and English and although you won’t be expected to understand them all it might help to know a few key words that you can use to pepper up your conversation and charm or surprise people.
Many Ghanaians speak English or Pidgin English mixed in with words from these local languages to create a distinct way of speaking that is unique to Ghana.
It is a commonly known fact that although many Africans and people of African decent speak Pidgin English it is slightly different in every country. Below is a simplified guide to some slang and tribal terms commonly used among the people of Ghana. Together with examples of how they are used:
A beg: I beg, Please:
- 'A beg no wound me'
- 'Please don’t hurt me'
See: On the English speaking West Coast of Africa people often use the word ‘see’ in place of the usual ‘look at’. ‘
- Oh chale, see the way he is dancing! He wan embarrass us oh!
- 'Oh dude, look at the way he’s dancing! He’s trying to embarrass us!'
Akata (n): a foreigner usually an African-American
Akpeteshie: This locally brewed spirit is made from highly fermented palm wine and is highly intoxicating (like moonshine) also known as Apio.
Alata: A term commonly used to describe Nigerians, to their great displeasure as it means pepper seller in their language. (Derived from the Yoruba language)
Asem: Problem(s) (Akan term)
Aunty: In West Africa the title aunty is given to any older woman to whom deference is shown.
Awam: The word awam meaning fake is derived from the abbreviation for the Association of West African Merchants that duped citizens out of their heard earned money.
Boga: A Ghanaian living abroad, this word originated from the word Hamburger after residents of Hamburg many of who are of Ghanaian origin.
Chale: Friend (Ga term)
Chalewotey: the word for Flip-flops. ‘Chale’ in Ga means friend or buddy and ‘Wote’ means ‘let's go.’ So literally the word Chalewotey means ‘my friend let’s go and is a perfect description for the ease with which flip-flops are worn. (Ga term)
Chao: a lot, plenty
- 'Where de (the) cho dey?'
- 'Where is the food?'
Chopbar: A resturant that operates mainly by the roadside and serves a variety of local dishes. A favorite for workers at lunchtime.
Eti sen: This greeting is equivalent to a 'hi, how are you?' but is literally translated as 'how is it?' to which the response would be ‘ɛyɛ’ (eh-yeh) 'it’s good' or 'it’s fine'. (Akan term)
Hot: to be underpressure
- 'Chale I’m hot!'
- 'My man, I’m under pressure!'
Kelewele: Ripe plantains diced and marinated in ginger, onions and chili and then fried. Ghana's equivalent to fast food.
Kubolor: Someone that enjoys wondering and ‘roaming’. (Ga term)
Obroni: White man or white person.
Obroni waawu: Also known as foes, meaning secondhand clothing. It literally means ‘the dead white man’ as these clothes would usually come from Europe and were known to be the old garments of Europeans that they no longer required.
Red Red: Fried ripened plantains with beans usually made with palm oil.
Saa: Really / Is that so? (Akan term)
Sakora: Bald headed; a totally shaven head.
Sankofa: A popular adinkra proverb derived from the twi language that literally means go back and get it i.e. if you’ve forgotten your roots you can always go back and retrace your steps. (Akan term)
Shitɔ: A spicy pepper sauce, which is black in color and made wit crayfish.
Skin Pain: Jealousy
Tatale: Ripe plantain crushed and mixed with flour chili, onion, ginger and spices then fried.
Trotro: Also known as trosky, a mini bus used for public transportation. Trotro drivers are notorious for their bad driving. They usually have some interesting slogan or the other inked on the rear windscreen. (Ga term)
Waatse: Black eye peas cooked with rice and served with shitɔ (Ga traditional food)