Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Nuggets of Wisdom from Writers

July 12, 2009


I have always been admiring of and intrigued by people who are able to express their wisdom and insight in a clear and pithy manner. Here are a few gems on writing.

“The total life of the writer
is the source of his work,
all of these go into his writing
in varying quantities:

the sense, as of taste and touch,
the rate of metabolism, blood pressure,
the digestion, body temperature,
the memory of things past,
perhaps going back to the childhood
not only of the writer but of the race itself.

The success of his work
depends on the liveliness
and alertness of his brain,
previous reading of books,
shrewdness of insight into human character,
his ear for the sound of language.

The writer, therefore,
must have a more than ordinary
capacity for life
and the power to retain what he experiences.”

Paul Engle

“I write for the same reason I breathe- because if I didn’t, I would die.” Isaac Asimov

“You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way … people look at reality, then you can change it.” James Arthur Baldwin

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” Saul David Alinsky

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.” Franz Kafka

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London

“You must write for children the same way you write for adults, only better” Maxim Gorky

Tales my Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me


Review of “Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me” by Dzagbe Cudjoe

June 11, 2009

A review of Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me by Dzagbe Cudjoe
Posted by: PEAdmin on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 – 11:28 AM Print article Printer-friendly page Email to a friend Send this story to someone
Reviews of Books
Reviewed by Teresa Aguilar

Tales my Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me
by Dzagbe Cudjoe
Strategic Book Publishing
Paperback: 52 pages, October 8, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-1934925874

Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me by Dzagbe Cudjoe is overall a well written collection of stories. The Author shows imagination and creativity , a natural story-teller. This is intended to be a children’s book, but I found that it was a little too detailed for a younger child to read without getting distracted. I would recommend this book for children age 9 and up.

A very nice dedication to the author’s father included, and the book design was excellent. The picture included in the first story may be too scary for some younger children but all the others pictures would catch a child’s interest. I would have liked to have read more about the author to get a sense of her connection with Ghanaian culture. I hope in her next book she includes a photo and a little background information on herself. These stories are from the mind of the Author, but reading them you would think they were really stories passed down through generations.

The first story in this book is “The Wicked Curse of Nibobobo” about a young man Fetu who wanted to marry Niniana a girl in his village but his father forbade him. The trouble that results from a curse made in revenge by Nibobobo, the mother of Niniana, affects the whole village. Fetu, Niniana, and a third character Ade then volunteer to take on the task of going to Great-Spirit-Who-Created-All-That-Is-On-This-Earth to remove the curse affecting the village. The three must pass all the trials given to them on their journey to prove themselves worthy of the great spirits help.

The next story “Akua’s Foolish Wish” went into too much detail on the making of clay pots and a child may lose interest in the story before they get to the actual story line of Akua. Once it goes into the story of Akua and her wish that the commemorative figure she has made of a great chief can speak then the story moves along well. The story is humorous and children will enjoy the rest of the tale.

“The Fingers of Fire story” is, by far, my favorite story in the whole book. A tale of Falisimu and his growing up in his Uncle Bendu’s home. The story describes how he came into his uncle’s care and met Laliya a girl close to Falisimu’s age. It goes into detail of what the lives of the children and adults were like in Northern Ghana which was interesting. It is an imaginative and spiritual story of two children creating an invention with the help of voices of fire and earth and finding out it’s use for the good of all.

The final story “Journey To The Chest Of Gold” was rather odd and out of place compared with the other stories in this book. I didn’t get the point of time traveling school trips and being invisible. Time travel can be interesting as a story in itself but compared with the other stories it did not fit with the tales a grandmother would tell about myths and legends of Ghanaian culture. The talking gold weights made no sense whatsoever to me either. A child might enjoy the inanimate objects talking to one another but overall the tale was just strange. But the last three photos at the end of this story including actual gold weights was a surprising bonus.

About the reviewer: Teresa Aguilar is a stay-at-home mom who lives near Lake Fork in Emory, Texas. Married for over 17 years with three children, the whole family shares a interest in books of all genres. She aspires to own a book shop of her own one day. Her time is spent raising her children and her miniature dachshunds and one orange tabby cat. She also tries to grow trees in clay, and finally having some success, maybe to have some shade in the future to read under. She would also like to say thank you to her cousin Jeanneta who read “The Hobbit” to her when she was a small child and started her love affair with books. compressed resized
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The Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week by Nicolette Jones

June 9, 2009

Pongwiffyt Back on Track by Kaye Umansky Bloomsbury £5.99 ages 7-10

This is the seventh tale of a smelly witch, who first appeared 21 years ago, and it is funny. Funniest, perhaps, to read aloud. In the opening chapter, the noisome witch lounges about eating toffees while her long-suffering, heavily accented familiar (and the most likeable character) Hugo the Hamster (from ‘Amsterdam) raises the idea of getting fit. From there, it is a riot of silly voices, good bad puns, daft situations and comic caricatures. Pongwiffy persuades the witches, familiars, skeletons, trolls, zombies, banshees and other supernatural types of Witchway Wood to enter an )’Lumpicks (sports day) in the reluctant king’s gardens. Added to the brew are a goblin who becomes a nanny, a preening TV star, fungus sponge, skunk stew and a lot of sweets. Everything comes together with clever timing, even if it looks like a collapsing rugby scrum, and we all learn that exercise in moderation is a “good sing”, as Hugo would say. So is this book

Tales my Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me by Dzagbe Cudjoe
Dance to Health
Dance in Our Footsteps

Which Way is West African English developing?

May 19, 2009

I have been wondering how long it will be before it’s possible to select “West African Enlgish” as the language option on a computer. After all there’s already a choice of English English, American English, South African English and Caribbean English on offer.

I’m now old enough to look quite some way back and see how many things have changed, developed and evolved. My father, who was Ghanaian , wrote and spoke Enlgish as any highly educated English person would. How one spoke English at that time reflected a person’s class and education.

English was not my father’s mother tongue. He had first learnt English at school. This was still the case when I attended secondary school in Ghana. One classmate spoke eight Ghanaian languages as well as extremely good English. His father had been a government official who had been transferred all over the country so his son had been forced to learn new languages if he wanted to fit into his new surroundings.

The syllabus in my exam years was set in England where the papers were also marked. English grammar and English Literature were two distinct subjects. Grammar and spelling had to be correct. At “A” level Chaucer’s “Pardonner’s Tale” from the “Canterbury Tales” was one of our set texts. We studied the work and quoted from it in the Middle English of Chaucer’s original work. Bearing in mind that Chaucer’s dates are c1343-1400 this was asking rather a lot from West African students who had probably never travelled very fr within their own coutries to say nothing of “overseas”.the setting up of West African Examination Boards led to a welcome and very necessary africanization of various syllabuses.

These days educated parents speak English as well as an African language to their children from their babyhood.The daughter of a friend of mine grew up speaking English, Yoruba and Ibo (both Nigerian languages) as well as Ga (a Ghanaian language) spoken by the neighbours. She was completely aware that they were separate languages and did not mix them up.

There was a peirod when it was fashionable to be introducing English words unnecessarily into conversations in the local languages. “Pidgeon” English has existed in West Africa for hundreds of years. It was a lingua france for trade for people who otherwise didn’t have a common language. It is now accepted that “pidgeon” is a language in its own right and not just a bastardized form of English. It has not been a written literary language.

West African English now has many grammatical constructions which are accepted as correct but which strictly speaking are ungrammatical. Words are also given very different meaning. I’m very interested in how this is going to impact on contemporary writing. Are some West African authors going to be forced to have their work rewritten into standard English before it is pulished for a wider audience or are we going to have books with copious explanatory footnotes.

I would be interested in wht young African authors have to say on the subject.