Multilingualism and Language Barriers in Health Delivery system in Ghana


  • Gladys Nyarko Ansah University of Ghana
  • Elizabeth K Orfson-Offei Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon


multilingualism, Ghana, healthcare, language barriers


In this paper, we explore language differences in health worker-patient interaction as a potential barrier to quality and safe healthcare delivery among urban populations in Ghana. Two sets of data were collected through survey to identify the language (s) of health communication in urban Ghana where linguistic diversity is densest. While the first set of data were collected from a cross section of urban patient population in Ghana (Accra and Kasoa), the second set of data were collected from an online survey of health workers across a number of regions in Ghana. The data which were analyzed mainly using descriptive statistics revealed that even though both patient and health worker participants self-reported as coming from varying ethnolinguistic backgrounds (speaking many different L1s), 65% of the patient population reported as accessing healthcare in a second language, mainly English or Akan, while 70% of health worker participants reported as using only two languages, English and Akan, in providing health care services to an obviously highly multilingual population. This situation has a potential to cause language barrier and raise miscommunication in the healthcare delivery process in urban Ghana. This paper, therefore, calls on the health authorities in Ghana, e.g. Ministry of Health, Department of Public Health, in Ghana to pay (more) attention to the language needs of urban/multilingual populations in ensuring quality and safe healthcare delivery in Ghana.

Author Biographies

Gladys Nyarko Ansah, University of Ghana

Department of English

Senior Lecturer

Elizabeth K Orfson-Offei, Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon

Dr. Elizabeth K. Orfson-Offei is Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon.


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Ansah et al Multilingualism and Language Barriers in Health Delivery system in Ghana




How to Cite

Ansah, G. N., & Orfson-Offei, E. K. (2022). Multilingualism and Language Barriers in Health Delivery system in Ghana. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 11(2), 43–73. Retrieved from