This film is held by the BFI (ID: 453828).


An instructional film made on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare, demonstrating a new technique to teach English to illiterate adult audiences in the Gold Coast.

The film's title appears on a blackboard, as an African instructor points at each word as they are spoken. The African instructor then walks on screen and talks directly to the camera - 'I want to tell you of a new method of teaching simple English' - as a group of adult African students sit outside behind desks. A close-up reveals three pamphlets on a table as the instructor points at 'I will Speak English', and explains that 'this is the book that is used to teach the first words in English'. The instructor introduces his class who are going to 'help me by demonstrating this method of teaching English'. After instructing the class to open their books - they all appear to understand his instructions - he starts the class with the words 'me' and 'you', which are acted out, written on the board and then recited by the whole class. The lesson continues - 'This is me, that is you' - as an African student demonstrates with the teacher. The teacher explains to the viewer that he makes 'use of the students whenever possible' and takes 'great care to speak slowly and clearly'. At the end of the class, the teacher repeats the whole lesson again.

He uses a family of four to illustrate lessons 'four and five of the book' - 'man, woman, boy, girl'. From the POV of the students, the teacher is next shown writing the word 'canoe' on the board, which he indicates with a drawing. He takes the class to the beach to teach them further words, such as 'fisherman'. A mass education lorry arrives and the teacher indicates 'that is the driver. That is the driver's mate'. He then uses notices, such as 'No Vacancies', 'Parcel Post Delivery Office', and extracts and pictures from the newspaper. The teacher writes 'My name is Kofi' on the board and explains the importance of being able to read and write simple sentences. The students trace over writing in their book. All of the students are given a pencil so that they can practice at home. They role play ('how do you do?') before the teacher holds up the book in close up to the camera. The film ends with the teacher writing 'The End' on the blackboard.



The annual report of the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development in the Gold Coast in 1954 noted the production of ‘an instructional film “I will Speak English”’, which it explained ‘was scripted by the Visual Aids Officer and produced by the Gold Coast Film Unit’. The report stated that the film related to the English primer and books one and two in a series prepared by I. A. Taylor and R. Prosser as part of the mass education campaign in the Gold Coast (‘Report on Department of Social Welfare and Community Development’, 1954, 16).

The Gold Coast Film Unit’s catalogue further noted that the film was completed in August 1954 and was intended to demonstrate ‘a new technique to teach English to illiterate adult audiences’ (Gold Coast Film Unit Catalogue of Film – New Films Completed, 2). The course was based on the ‘sentence pattern technique’ and was initially organised for instructors drawn from the Police, Prisons Department and the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development. The courses were ‘provided only for functional groups whose occupations demand at least spoken English’ such as the Police (‘Report on Department of Social Welfare and Community Development’, 1954, 15). The film indicates the import of education in the socialisation of colonial populations, as education programmes within the colonies served partly as a mean of controlling and visualising a homogeneous imperial citizenship.

The film was made ‘with the co-operation of the Mass Education Section’. The first intensive Mass Education Campaign had begun in 1952 and ‘by the end of 1954, the Mass Education staff covered the entire country, with the exception of some areas of the Northern Territories and the Ashanti’ (1954, 31). Government reports noted that ‘Twenty six thousand two hundred and eighty one persons obtained Gold Coast Literacy certificates in 1954’. The government suggested that these figures indicated that ‘there is still a great demand for literacy, and the Mass Education Section is implementing the Government’s policy of placing the attainment of literacy within the reach of all’ (Gold Coast Report, 1954, 88).

By 1954, when I Will Speak English was produced, the Department of Information Services had vastly expanded the distribution and exhibition of films within the Gold Coast. From the outset of the First Development Plan in 1951 until 1955, there were 21 new cinema vans operating in the Gold Coast. A ‘Development Progress Report’ from 1955, which was reported in Gold Coast Today, claimed that in this period 12,281 towns and villages were visited, and 11,343 cinema shows and 3,535 talks were given to a total audience of over 3½ million people (Gold Coast Today, 11 April 1956). I Will Speak English was available to hire on 35mm and 16mm.



As a film made ‘on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare’ and as part of the Mass Education campaign, I Will Speak English offers further evidence of the varied ways in which the government sought to utilise film in the years leading up to Independence. The film here is used as part of a broader social campaign, and as such relates closely to the ‘I Will Speak English’ textbooks. The teacher urges viewers to turn to specific pages and the close-ups of the books that frame the film serve almost as advertisements for these books. It appears that the film itself is intended for instructors – rather than students – as the instructor constantly shifts from addressing the students on screen to the potential teachers viewing the film.

The representation of the class within the film indicates the diverse audiences that these teaching programmes sought to reach. The film does not show a traditional classroom setting, but rather a class assembled outside – with a few tables and a blackboard – with most of the students in traditional dress. The film constantly displays and reiterates the approved teaching methods, although the progression of the programme is not entirely clear. In terms of essential vocabulary, it is questionable if after teaching the words ‘man, woman, boy, girl’, the class needs to learn the word ‘canoe’, while the Mass Education lorry is used merely as a prop to teach the word ‘driver’.

This is a film with an almost entirely African cast, depicting an African teacher instructing a group of African students, produced by a predominantly African crew. Yet, the subject of the film – encouraging the widespread teaching of English – jars with this image of a modern Gold Coast. Just as the Gold Coast Film Unit was overseen by British figures – such as Sean Graham and, in this case, George Noble – this film also endorses the retention of British influence within a new national identity. Produced just three years before independence, the film acknowledges, in its representation of the African teachers and students, a new emerging African independence. Yet in its subject matter, the film supports a continued British influence within this changing society. Once more then, the film indicates the ways in which colonial governments used language education as a means of promoting and reinforcing colonial agendas. 

Tom Rice (August 2008)


Works Cited

Colonial Office, ‘Report of the Gold Coast for the Year 1954’ (1954).

Colonial Office, ‘Oversea Education: A Journal of Educational Experiment and Research in Tropical and Sub-Tropical Areas’, (1954-1956), 117.

Colonial Office, ‘Report on Department of Social Welfare and Community Development in the Gold Coast for the Year 1954’ (1954).

Gold Coast Film Unit, Gold Coast Film Unit Catalogue of Films 1954-1955 (1955).

Gold Coast Today, Vol. 1 No. 7, 11 April 1956.




Technical Data

Running Time:
14 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
593 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
NOBLE, George
Production Company
Gold Coast Film Unit
Production Manager
Sound Assistant
Sound Assistant
TAGOE, Tonisha





Production Organisations