Learning a foreign language can be difficult, and for people traveling to Ghana for only a short amount of time trying to become fluent in Twi, one of the country’s native languages, may be a bit farfetched. However, learning some important phrases before you go can help prepare you for a more comfortable experience.
Eti sen? How are you?
In Ghana, the people are extremely friendly, and everyone, even complete strangers, is going to ask you this. Greetings are very important in Ghana, and if you don’t want to be seen as impolite then be sure to learn this phrase and use it as much as possible.
Eh ya. I’m fine.
When someone asks you how you’re doing this should always be your response, even if you’re having a terrible day. If Ghana, people don’t share these troubles in response to someone greeting them, so no matter how you are really feeling, just say you’re fine.
Ye fro wo sen. What is your name?
When you meet new people, make sure to ask them their name, even just to be polite. It is more than likely that you will also be asked what your name is, so knowing this expression ahead of time can be helpful.
Maa chi/Maa ha/Maa jo. Good morning/Good afternoon/Good evening
Politeness goes a long way, and when locals see that you’re making an effort to learn their language and greet them, they’ll respect you more and not look at you as a lost and confused foreigner. It’ll also help you immerse yourself in the culture that much more.
This is an expression you will hear a lot. And, when I say a lot, I mean at least 20-100 times a day. While it may sound offensive, as in many Western cultures shouting “foreigner!” at someone is taken rudely, in Ghana they mean it in a friendly manner as a way to say hello and try to get to know you. Even if you don’t want to respond to the shouts of the locals, it is nice to know what exactly it is they are yelling at you.
Wo bay jay sen? What is the fare?
As a visitor to the country, you most likely aren’t going to have a car (and once you see the crazy drivers, traffic congestion, and pothole filled roads in Ghana, you won’t want one). Therefore, taxis and tro-tros (kind of like a packed out mini-van) are going to be your transportation options. If you are traveling locally by tro-tro, you almost bet that the fare will be under 1 Ghana Cedi. However, if you are taking a taxi it can be helpful to know how to ask how much the fare will be.
Te so. Reduce it.
On that some token, as an “oburoni” you undoubtedly will be charged the foreigner price, sometimes as much as four times what the locals pay. Don’t feel bad about bartering the price down. And, once the taxi drivers hear you speaking the local language, they will be more likely to give you a fair price.
Wa ye sen? This is how much?
Just like with taxi fare, be prepared for hawkers and market salespeople to charge you a higher price than the locals. When shopping in the markets or buying food and items on the street, politely ask how much something is. Then, go back to the prior phrase of “Te so”, and ask them to reduce it.
Koo se. Sorry.
As a foreigner, it is inevitable that you will make mistakes along the way. If you find you have made a cultural faux pas, just be polite an apologize.
Me daa si. Thank you.
The people of Ghana are very friendly and will often help you figure your way around the area and local customs. Whether someone points you in the direction of the nearest public bathroom, serves you a delicious meal, shows you the local beaches, or takes you on a guided tour of one of the historical castles, show gratitude and thank them.
Image: Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary in the Volta Region