Language shift is the process where a speech community in a contact situation (i.e. consisting of bilingual speakers) gradually stop using one of its two languages in favour of the other.
Several reasons may account for the why people shift to speaking another language;
First of all, parents who push their children to learn another language they deem prestigious are one of the causes of language shift. This may be because they perceive an economic or educational advantage for their children in adopting a second language and decide not to speak their mother tongues to their children. They do not want their children to suffer from not speaking that language well, as they did. They mistakenly think that children can learn to speak only one language well.
Inter-marriage may also be a cause of language shift. When people of different language backgrounds marry, they need a common language with which to communicate. One spouse may shift to the other’s mother tongue or they may both shift to a third language they both understand, say English. The couple may then have children and these children would be brought up with this language being spoken at home.
Another reason for language shift may be migration outside of or into a traditional territory. When people move out of their homeland, be it voluntary or forced, they are forced to adapt to the new community they may find themselves in. Examples of reasons why people migrate are trade and seeking greener pastures. One way of adapting is to learn to speak the language of their hosts .The language of the indigenes could also shift to that of the immigrants it theirs is deemed more preferable. An example of such a situation can be found in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. This Region has Ga and Dangme as its native languages. Social, economic and political factors have accounted for the migration of different ethnic groups especially the Akan ethnic group into this region. The Akan tongue, especially the Twi dialect is slowly killing off these indigenous languages.
Another cause of language shift is the National language policy. In building a strong and well developed nation where there are a lot of different languages, one language needs to be acknowledged as the official language. In Ghana over the past few years, the Government has decided to use English as the medium of instruction right from the time children start school.
The language used in school for teaching plays a major role in influencing language shift. The languages the media also choose to use play a role in language shift. For example in Ghana now, it seems there is a conscious effort to promote English and Akan (especially Twi) over the other languages. According to Professor Akpanglo-Nartey in his lecture on the topic “Ga-Dangme: Endangered languages of Ghana”, most programs on the television are in English. He also said that about ninety percent of all non-English medium programs on television are in Akan, especially Twi.
In conclusion, it would be of great importance to note that for an individual or group of people to change their language, it must be gradual and deliberate. Breaking habit is difficult especially when it comes to language. No one wakes up one day and decides to change a language he is accustomed to for no reason.