A course in Twi, the most widely spoken language in the West African nation of Ghana, will be taught at Fordham next summer.
Fordham will be the only New York City university to teach this language of the Akan people, the largest single linguistic group in the country. The official language of Ghana, where hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken, is English.
The Bronx has the highest concentration of African immigrants in the United States, said Mark Naison, Ph.D., chair of the Department of African and African-American Studies at Fordham. There are about 36,000 Africans in the Bronx, as assessed by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005-2007 American Community Survey, a large percentage of whom are Ghanaian. There are also significant numbers of Nigerians, Malians, Guineans and Gambians.
That number is likely higher, according to Jane Kani Edward, Ph.D., director of African Immigration Research and a postdoctoral fellow at Fordham. She based that assessment on her team’s interviews with Bronx Africans in places such as mosques and churches, as well as at Fordham.
Ghanaians comprise a major portion of the labor force in health care, particularly nursing homes, Naison said. That fact, and the number of first-generation Ghanaian-American children enrolled in the public school system, contributed to the decision to teach the language at Fordham.
“Twi is for people wanting to teach, and for people working in health care, in the Bronx and Westchester,” he said. “Teachers will be able to talk to their students’ parents and health care workers will be able to communicate with patients.”
The teaching of the language is one example of a greater prominence to be given to Africa at Fordham in the coming year. The African Cultural Exchange, a two dozen-strong student group led by Kojo Ampah, a junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, plans to hold an African festival in February as one way to “bring Africa to the fore,” he said. Eventually, Ampah hopes that the cultural exchange will grow to become a resource for African issues.
“Fordham is a place where African culture and history is going to be discussed on a regular basis,” he said.