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Twi phrasebook

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Twi is a language spoken in most regions of Ghana. Although it is not a state-sponsored language, Twi is the most widely spoken language in Ghana. Please note that in the "Grammatical points" below, the pronunciation is British, not American. For example, *ɔ as "pot": an American says the "o" in pot like the "a" in aha. The Brits say it like the "ou" in ought.

Grammatical points[edit]


  • a as "rat"
  • e as "seat"
  • ε as "set"
  • i as "sit"
  • o as "Kuala Lumpur"
  • ɔ as "pot"
  • u as "Kuala Lumpur"


  • b as "bats"
  • d as "dog"
  • f as "fog"
  • g as "goat"
  • h as "hire"
  • k as "cat"
  • l as "log"
  • m as "man"
  • n as "nap"
  • p as "pin"
  • r as "cramp"
  • s as "suit"
  • t as "tomb"
  • w as "wood"
  • y as "yemen"


  • dw as "j" sound inthe beginning of "dreams"
  • gy as "judge"
  • hw as "whew"
  • hy as "shirt"
  • kw as "equip"
  • ky as "chap"
  • nw is pronounced as "nyw" with rounded lips at the end. For example: Nwunu (to leak)
  • ny as "Español"
  • tw as "trip"

Akan, also known as Twi [tɕɥi] and Fante, is an Akan language that is the principal native language of Akan lands in Ghana, spoken over much of the southern half of that country, by about 58% of the population, and among 30% of the population of Ivory Coast. Three dialects have been developed as literary standards with distinct orthographies, Asante, Akuapem (together called Twi), and Fante, which despite being mutually intelligible were inaccessible in written form to speakers of the other standards. In 1978 the Akan Orthography Committee (AOC) established a common orthography for all of Akan, which is used as the medium of instruction in primary school by speakers of several other Akan languages such as Anyi, Sefwi, Ahanta as well as the Guang languages.

The Akan people and those who have either lived around Akans or have absorbed Akan people into their population speak Kwa languages, of which Twi/Fante is just one. Twi–Fante consists of the following dialects: Asante (Ashanti), which together with Akuapem and Akyem is commonly called Twi Akuapem (Akwapem) Akyem Agona (commonly considered Fante) Kwahu Wassa Fante (Fanti or Mfantse:Anomabo, Abura, Gomua) - Spoken in east coastal Ghana. Brong - Spoken in west central Ghana and along the border in Ivory Coast

The Akan Orthography Committee has compiled a unified orthography of 20,000 words.

The adinkra symbols are old ideograms.

The language came to the Caribbean and South America, notably in Suriname spoken by the Ndyuka and in Jamaica by the Jamaican Maroons known as Coromantee, with enslaved people from the region. The descendants of escaped slaves in the interior of Suriname and the Maroons in Jamaica still use a form of this language, including Akan naming convention, in which children are named after the day of the week on which they are born, e.g. Akwasi (for a boy) or Akosua (girl) born on a Sunday. In Jamaica and Suriname the Anansi spider stories are well known.Contents [hide] 1 Relationship to other Akan languages 2 Phonology 2.1 Consonants 2.2 Vowels 2.2.1 ATR harmony 2.3 Tones 2.3.1 Tone terracing 2.4 Important words and phrases 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

Relationship to other Akan languages

According to work done by P K Agbedor of CASAS, Mfantse (Fante), Twi (Asante and Akuapem), Abron (Bono), Wassa, Asen, Akwamu, and Kwahu belong to Cluster 1 of the speech forms of Ghana. Clusters are defined by the level of mutual intelligibility.

Cluster 1 may better be named r-Akan, which do not explicitly have the letter “l” in their original proper use. On the other hand l-Akan, refers to the Akan cluster comprising Nzema, Baoule, Anyin and other dialects spoken mainly in the Ivory Coast, whose use of the letter “r” in proper usage is very rare.


Because the Akan dialects' phonologies differ slightly, Asante dialect will be used to represent Akan. Asante, like all Akan dialects, involves extensive palatalisation, vowel harmony, and tone terracing.


Before front vowels, all Asante consonants are palatalized (or labio-palatalized), and the plosives are to some extent affricated. The allophones of /n/ are quite complex. In the table below, palatalized allophones which involve more than minor phonetic palatalization are specified, in the context of the vowel /i/. These sounds do occur before other vowels, such as /a/, though in most cases not commonly.

In Asante, /ɡu/ followed by a vowel is pronounced /ɡʷ/, but in Akuapem it remains /ɡu/. The sequence /nh/ is pronounced [ŋŋ̊].

The transcriptions in the table below are in the order /phonemic/, [phonetic], ⟨orthographic⟩. Note that orthographic ⟨dw⟩ is ambiguous; in textbooks, ⟨dw⟩ = /ɡ/ may be distinguished from /dw/ with a diacritic: d̩w. Likewise, velar ⟨nw⟩ (ŋw) may be transcribed n̩w. Orthographic ⟨nu⟩ is palatalized [ɲᶣĩ]. labial alveolar dorsal labialized voiceless plosive /p/ [pʰ] ⟨p⟩ /t/ [tʰ, tçi] ⟨t, ti⟩ /k/ [kʰ, tɕʰi~cçʰi] ⟨k, kyi⟩ /kʷ/ [kʷ, tɕᶣi] ⟨kw, twi⟩ voiced plosive /b/ [b] ⟨b⟩ /d/ [d] ⟨d⟩ /ɡ/ [ɡ, dʒ, dʑi~ɟʝi] ⟨g, dw, gyi⟩ /ɡʷ/ [ɡʷ, dʑᶣi] ⟨gw, dwi⟩ fricative /f/ [f] ⟨f⟩ /s/ [s] ⟨s⟩ /h/ [h, çi] ⟨h, hyi⟩ /hʷ/ [hʷ, çᶣi] ⟨hw, hwi⟩ nasal stop /m/ [m] ⟨m⟩ /n/ [n, ŋ, ɲ, ɲĩ] ⟨n, ngi⟩ /nʷ/ [ŋŋʷ, ɲᶣĩ] ⟨nw, nu⟩ geminate nasal /nn/ [ŋː, ɲːĩ] ⟨ng, nyi, nnyi⟩ /nnʷ/ [ɲɲᶣĩ] ⟨nw⟩ other /r/ [ɾ, r, ɽ] ⟨r⟩ /w/ [w, ɥi] ⟨w, wi⟩


The Akan dialects have fourteen to fifteen vowels: four to five "tense" vowels (Advanced tongue root, or +ATR), five "lax" vowels (Retracted tongue root, or −ATR), which are adequately but not completely represented by the seven-vowel orthography, and five nasal vowels, which are not represented at all. (All fourteen were distinguished in the Gold Coast script of the colonial era.) An ATR distinction in orthographic a is only found in some subdialects of Fante, though not in the literary form; in Asante and Akuapem there are harmonic allophones of /a/, but neither is ATR. The two vowels written e (/e̘/ and /i/) and o (/o̘/ and /u/) are often not distinguished in pronunciation.Orthog. +ATR −ATR i /i̘/ [i̘] e /e̘/ [e̘] /i/ [ɪ~e] ɛ /e/ [ɛ] a [æ~ɐ] /a/ [a] ɔ /o/ [ɔ] o /o̘/ [o̘] /u/ [ʊ~o] u /u̘/ [u̘]

ATR harmony

Twi vowels engage in a form of vowel harmony with the root of the tongue. −ATR vowels followed by the +ATR non-mid vowels /i̘ a̘ u̘/ become +ATR. This is generally reflected in the orthography: That is, orthographic e ɛ a ɔ o become i e a o u. However, it is no longer reflected in the case of subject and possessive pronouns, giving them a consistent spelling. This rule takes precedence over the next one. After the −ATR non-high vowels /e a o/, +ATR mid vowels /e̘ o̘/ become −ATR high vowels /i u/. This is not reflected in the orthography, for both sets of vowels are spelled <e o>, and in many dialects this rule does not apply, for these vowels have merged. [edit] Tones

Twi has three phonemic tones, high (/H/), mid (/M/), and low (/L/). Initial syllable may only be high or low.

Tone terracing

The phonetic pitch of the three tones depends on their environment, often being lowered after other tones, producing a steady decline known as tone terracing.

/H/ tones have the same pitch as a preceding /H/ or /M/ tone within the same tonic phrase, whereas /M/ tones have a lower pitch. That is, the sequences /HH/ and /MH/ have a level pitch, whereas the sequences /HM/ and /MM/ have a falling pitch. /H/ is lowered (downstepped) after a /L/.

/L/ is the default tone, which emerges in situations such as reduplicated prefixes. It is always at bottom of the speaker's pitch range, except in the sequence /HLH/, in which case it is raised in pitch but the final /H/ is still lowered. Thus /HMH/ and /HLH/ are pronounced with distinct but very similar pitches.

After the first "prominent" syllable of a clause, usually the first high tone, there is a downstep. This syllable is usually stressed. [edit] Important words and phrases Akwaaba – Welcome Aane – Yes Yiw (Akuapim) - Yes Daabi – No Da yie – Good night (lit. sleep well) Ɛte sεn/Wo ho te sɛn? – How is it going/How are you? meda wo ase – Thank you Mepa wo kyew – Please/excuse me Dwom/nnwom - Song/songs or music Wo din de sεn? - What is your name? Me din de ... - My name is ... Wadi mfeɛ ahe/sɛn? - How old is he/she? Woadi mfeɛ ahe/sɛn? - How old are you?

learning Twi : People tend to say good morning / afternoon / evening and numbers in English in the cities.


Twi uses open vowel sounds as in Spanish In the following examples: 'o' & 'Ɔ’- like the 'o' in orange 'ε’ - like the 'E' in Eric

Stress indicated in bold.

The 'e' on the end of words is pronounced.

Intonation in questions does the opposite to English: instead of rising it falls. Greetings and Responses

How are you? Wo ho te sεn? (pron. Woho te-sain)

 	 Often shortened to εte sεn? (how is it?)

I'm fine. Me ho ye. (shortened to εyε) Thank you Meda ase (pron. Meh-daa-se) Please Mepa wo kyεw (pron. Meh-paw-chow) Yes Aane (often shortened to a word that sounds like 'eye') No Daabi OK Yoo (pron. elongate the 'o' sound) Some Pronouns Me - Me You - Wo Ɔno (animate) He/she/it εno (inanimate) We / they Yεn


Give Ma Buy TƆ Go KƆ Want/like Pε Alight Si


How much? Sεn? (pron. Sain) or εyε sεn? How much is the apple? Apple sεn? Or Apple εyε sεn? Once you know a few words you can fit them together like building blocks. I'll give you Me ma wo You give me Wo ma me I'll buy Me tƆ I'm going Me kƆ Are you going? Wo kƆ? Where are you going? Wo kƆ he? (pron. woko hε?) Shall we go? Yεn kƆ? (remove the ‘?' to make it a statement.) I'll alight here Me si ha

I'm going to buy Me kƆ tƆ I want to... Mepε se me... I want to buy water Me pε se me tƆ Nsuo. (lit. I want that I buy water)

 	[Nsuo pron. en-sue-oh]

I want to go to Accra Me pε se me kƆ nkran. [en-kran] I don't understand Mente Aseε (pron. Men-ti-a-say)

Twi Lessons 2

Stress indicated in bold. Pronunciation

Intonation in questions does the opposite to English: instead of rising it falls. Alternatively you can add ‘Anaa’ on to the end of a phrase to turn it into a question. ‘Anna’ means ‘or’. In Accra some people are now saying ‘or’ at the end of a question in Twi! Questions you are likely to be asked

Yε frε wo sεn? (sεn pron. sain) What is your name? [lit. they call you how?] Yε frε me Susan. They call me Susan. Another way of asking is: Wo din de sεn? Your name is what? Me din de Susan My Name is Susan

Wofiri he? Where do you come from? (When pronounced by a native speaker it sounds more like wufri hε?) Mefi America ( pron. meh-fee) I come from America

A common one you are going to here all the time is: WorekƆ he? (sounds more like wo-coy) Where are you going? In Ghana people don’t give too much detail: Me kƆ krum I’m going to town

A Ghanaian will then say KƆ bra = Go come. (The equivalent of come back safely.)

Wo te Twi? = Do you speak Twi (lit. You hear Twi?) Anne, me te Twi = Yes, I speak Twi Dabi, mente Twi = No, I don’t speak Twi Kakra kakra = Small small (a little) Phrases This = Wei I like this = Me pε wei How much is this? = Wei yε sεn? Or just Wei sεn? If you’re buying something in the market you might like to be cheeky and say: Mepa wo kyεw. To so. (pron. Meh-paw-chow & don’t forget to use open ‘o’ sounds for ‘to so’). Please dash me some (add some extra asa gift). Very useful Twi learning resource Though learning those basic phrases will help you to understand some twi expressions. However if you want to learn more Twi and become very fluent like a native speaker, then you should get this amazing Twi learning prgram called Nkyea Twi Primer by Nkyea Learning Systems. It gives you the ability to hear how the words are pronounced and even record and compare your own pronunciations with the software. Get it here:

[edit] See also

Common Twi phrases[edit]

How are you?/

  • Wo ho te sεn? (Formal)
  • εte sεn? (Informal)
  • Mpɔ mu te sεn? (Optional meaning "How is life")
  • Na Wo nso ε?' (Formal meaning "And you")

Fine (Informal)

  • εyε
  • "Bɔkɔɔ" (This is optional. Literal meaning is "soft". The "ɔ" is pronounced like "o" is rot, but the "ɔɔ" means that the sound is extended.)

I am fine (Formal)

  • Me ho yε (Literal meaning is "My body is fine")

I am fine, thank you (To be more polite)

  • Me ho yε, me da ase (mi-dah-si)


Good morning

  • Me ma wo akye (Mi-Maa-waa-chi)
  • Maakye(Maa-chi). This is the shorter version and the most common.

Good afternoon

  • Me ma wo aha (Mi-Maa-Waa-ha)
  • Maaha (Maa-chi). Shorter version

Good Evening

  • Me ma wo adwo (Mi-Maa-jo) The "o" in Adwo (Aa-jo)is pronounced similarly to a quick "ou" sound in "cous cous"
  • Maadwo (Maa-jo). Shorter version

Note: The responses to the greetings above are said according to the age category of the person you are speaking to.

  • Yaa nua (Response to a person who is of similar age to you, i.e. a friend or brother/sister)
  • Yaa εna (Response to an elder female, usually one or more generations above you)
  • Yaa agya (Response to an elder male, usually one or more generations above you) The first letter of agya, "a", is pronounced like the first "e" in "edge" Therefore it is pronounced as "Edga"
  • Yaa asɔn (Response to a younger person or a very young person, usually one generation or more below you.)

Good Night

  • Da yie (Da-yey) or (Da-yeh)


  • A comprehensive course in twi(Asante) for the non-twi learner. By Florence Abena Dolpyne. Associate professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Ghana, Legon.

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