This profile was prepared when Kwesi Prah was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Kwesi's goal is to harmonize dialects into mutually understandable languages, thereby creating "economies of scale" in teaching and learning literacy.Kwesi's groundbreaking research reveals that 75 to 80 percent of all sub-Saharan Africans speak one of twelve root languages: Nguni, Sotho, Tswana, Swahili, Amhara, Eastern Inter-Lacusterine, Western Inter-Lacusterine (Kitara), Haura, Yoruba, Igbo, Bambara, FulFul, Oromo, and Berber. Dialects within each root grouping are mutually intelligible.The idea is timely in the Pan-African context because of the current shift away from written colonial languages as a basic building block of an educated citizenry. Kwesi's approach will create a new kind of literacy base, linguistically uniting people who live in different countries. For example, speakers of Gbe, a common root language in West Africa, would be able to communicate in writing with other native speakers in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.