THE EFFECTS OF PIDGIN ENGLISH ON STANDARD ENGLISH USAGE AMONG SELECTED SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
Background to the Study
The English language has attained an international acceptance due to globalization. Most of the learners need to write and speak English fluently and accurately in the general and academic domains. To use English effectively, it is important to master the four language skills, namely listening, speaking, reading and writing (LSRW) of all the four language skills, writing is considered a complex process and the most important skill for the second language learners to master. The ability to communicate ideas and information effectively through the global network is crucially dependent on good writing and speaking skills. Although, learning of another language, referred to as second language acquisition (SLA) can take place either in the classroom or in a more ‘natural’ exposure situation Gass, Torres and Jose(2015) found that the complexity and abstractness contribute to the differential effects on language areas, where learners make use of externally driven enhancement devices.
Language in multilingual societies such as Nigeria has always been amatter of concern to educators, educational planners and parents especiallywith regard to its appropriate use in communication. The English language isthe medium of instruction in all Nigerian educational institutions at alllevels. This is the basis for Olaore (2012) comments, “… in the countrieslanguage policy, the fact that for a long time to come, English will continueto play a prominent role in the socio-economic and political development inNigeria as the language of administration, politics, industry, education,science and technology is of paramount importance,’ (Abdullahi-Idiagbon, 2010).
The English language, to a large extent, functions as a secondlanguage in Nigeria. Although Nigeria is believed to have more than fourhundred (400) languages with over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnicgroups, (Emenanjo, 2010), the English language is the only language used forall forms of official transaction. Despite the central role the Englishlanguage has been playing in communication process nationwide, thelanguage excludes the majority of uneducated Nigerians who live in ruralcommunities. Some Nigerian communities have more than six distinct but mutually unintelligible languages. This makes communication amongneighbours difficult. Emenanjo cited in Otagburuagu and Okorji (2003)notes that Nigerian linguistic geography is so complex that languagecommunities can fall into small language groups called chontonolects. Theconvolutions in the Nigerian linguistics ecology as Otagburuagu (2003) noted,has made the use of Nigerian Pidgin a more universal and inconclusivelanguage, inevitable in both formal and informal domains.
Tracing the history of Pidgin English, Quirk et al (2013) pointed out that“Pidgin historically began as simply a language marked by traditionalinterference used chiefly by the prosperous and privileged section of acommunity represents by the unskilled and illiterate class of the society”(Wardhaugh, 2010). This situation, however, is not so with the Nigeria Pidgin. Studies haveshown that the Nigeria Pidgin began as an English-based Pidgin and latermetamorphosed into various forms and patterns in its usage, Aziza, (2010);Elugbe (2015) and Egbokhare (2013). Nigerian Pidgin English is seen as aversion of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of LinguaFranca across the country especially among students. In an attempt to defineNigerian Pidgin English, Elugbe and Omamur (2011), see it as ‘some kind of amarginal language that arises to fulfill specific communication needs in a well-defined circumstance.’
Furthermore, Nigerian Pidgin is a somewhat pejorative label used bynative speakers of English to describe the often hysterical violations of thebasic rules of Standard English syntax by non-native speakers of thelanguage. Kperogi, (2019) further describes Pidgin as a technical term inlinguistics that refers to a “contact” or “trade” language that emerged fromthe fusion of foreign, usually European, language and indigenous, usuallynon-European languages. Here, the European language provided most of thevocabulary and the indigenous languages produce the structure of thelanguage. The cultural language which language emanates from has farreachinginfluences on its predominant usage as is the case with NigerianPidgin. Its variation, no doubt is not unconnected with the culture of itsusers. It is in the light of this that Abdullah – Idiagbom (2010) in his study on “TheSociolinguistic of Nigerian Pidgin (English) on University Campus” quotingBrooks, N (1969) Posits: ‘It is through the magic of language that mancomes eventually to understand to an impressive degree the environment towhich he lives and still more surprising, gains an insight into his own natureand his own condition.’
The teachers and students are victim of these observations aboutNigerian Pidgin. And perhaps the cultural influence of the native languageon the teacher is largely reflected on the students since no student is believed not to be greater than his/her teacher. In view of this, Akujobi and Chukwu(2012), quoting Ashby submitted that ‘the quality of English used in theclassroom is such that all pupils are to a serious disadvantage. It cannot bedoubted that thousands of the most gifted are unable to further theireducation because they were not taught well the language in which theywere examined.’ They further pointed out that ‘according to the canons ofthe discipline for language pedagogy, the more the difference between thesystem of the target language, the more difficult learning invariably becomesand the smaller the difference, the easier the learning.’
The above assertion gives credence to the difficulty faced by students whogrew up in an environment where native language is widely used thanStandard English in teaching and learning. This will make their learning ofthe Standard English a herculean task. Students’ daily use of their nativelanguage in communication within and outside the school has furtherenhanced the use of Nigerian Pidgin which is derived from a blend of themorphology of the native language and the syntax of the Standard English inits usage.In real sense, no language is inferior or superior to the other. But whatenhances its continuous usage is the specific communication needs that itserves and competence attained by its users over a long period of time which also makes it a norm among a well-defined group of users. It is also true thatwhere two or more speech communities come in contact, a lingua franca orcommon language of communication tends to emerge (Stockwell, 2012). Thedistortion which Nigerian Pidgin has on the Standard English is in varyingdegree and magnitude. Looking at this Nigerian Pidgin sentence: “Wetin deyhapun nau?” one knows that it is a derivative of the Standard Englishequivalent – “What is happening now?” Now we see that the expression“Wetin dey’ is a distortion of “What is”; “hapun” is also another distortionof “happening” while “nau” is a corruption of “now”. Other examples are asfollows:
Long throat – glutton
Bad belle – envy
Busy-body – loquacious
Shine your eye – Be smart or clever
Country people – citizens
Wetin I dey yan? – What am I saying?
E don tey – It’s been long
Kpafuka – spoil
Bone that levels – Ignore that one
I go halla you – I will call you
U dey feel me? – Do you understand me?
U don chop? – Have you eaten?
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the vocabulary is mostly English butthe structure is largely African or better still, Nigerian.Students have shown that among the reasons why they communicate withNigerian Pidgin are as follows:-
- They are a product of their environment.
- It is an easier form of communication among them.
- To bridge the gap between the literate and illiterate students livingwithin a particular community.
- Nigerian Pidgin is used not as a communicative need but as a meansof expressing group solidarity and intimacy with peers
- It may serve as an identity in opposition to non-group members,especially teachers and adults.
- The absence of a widespread proficiency in Standard English usage.Akinjobi (2012); Elugbe (2015); Elugbe and Omamor (2011)
Interestingly, Nigerian Pidgin is characterized by a simple, often anarchicand rudimentary grammatical structure, a severely limited vocabulary and isused for the expression of really basic thought processes (Kperogi, 2019). Theabove situation is a result of the fact that Nigerian Pidgin emerged more as“emergency” language for casual, shot-term linguistic encounters. Hence, itcannot be used to express high-minded thought processes and are usually notanybody’s primary or first language.
Statement of the Problem
There is a general belief among students that Pidgin English serves asa variety of English that facilitates communication though it is a deviationfrom the norm. The above assumption provided the basis for the use ofPidgin especially among students. The use of Pidgin goes beyond verbalcommunication and has become more of a verbal behavior as its expressionhas moved from the boundaries of informal conversation to formalsituations. Scholars have called for the urgent consideration andpronouncement of Nigeria Pidgin as co-official language with English. ‘Nigerian Pidgin plays a very important role incommunication in Nigeria. If it will be recognized as a co-official languagewith English, it will enhance the participation of all citizens in the economic, social and political development of the country.’ Party to this assertion areElugbe and Omamor (2011) who want the use of Pidgin in the classroomespecially in Edo and Delta states where virtually everybody speaks thelanguage with proficiency. Now, it is a known fact that what one readsregularly influences the way one speaks and writes. Students regularlyexpose themselves to songs with lyrics written in Pidgin, magazines andjokes written in Pidgin as well as movies with Pidgin as their predominantlanguage of communication. All these influence students’ predominantlanguage of communication especially among themselves within and outsidethe school. ‘The argument,’ some scholars ‘in favour ofPidgin as a compromise language and that which could foster unity amongthe diverse ethnic groups has some surface attraction but many have notpaused to consider the possible negative effects on the standard usage ofEnglish among pupils and students in Nigerian schools.
It is an established fact that Pidgin English exists in Nigeria whichlinguists call the Nigerian pidgin and that studies have been carried out on itseffects on Standard English (Oko, 2013; Agbo, 2008) among others. Theresearcher observes that no special attention has been given to assess thelevel of the damage done on students’ use of the StandardEnglish by constant use of Nigeria Pidgin English. The problem which this research therefore seeks to investigate is the extent to which Pidgin Englishhas affected the use of Standard English among selectedsecondary schools in Ado local government area of Ekiti State.
Purpose of the Study
This study intends to investigate the effects of pidgin English on standard English usage among selected secondary students. Specifically, the study tends to:
- find out the extent of Pidgin English usage among selected secondary school students in Ado local government area of Ekiti State.
- ascertain the extent of harm done by Pidgin English on the usage of standard English among secondary school students in the study area.
- find out ways to mitigate the effects of Pidgin English on StandardEnglish usage among secondary schools students in study area.
Significance of the Study
Professionally, the findings from this study will serve as a usefulguide to language planners and policy makers on the educational sector totrace the trend and come up with a policy framework to enrich the use ofStandard English as against Nigerian Pidgin.
To the academia, the study will serve as a springboard upon whichfurther research can be carried out, possibly to explore new ways whereNigerian Pidgin can be a useful learning tool.
Also the findings in this studywill further enrich the body of knowledge already tapped on the use ofNigerian pidgin and its effects.
Students will use the findings andrecommendation from this study to examine the extent of the danger whichthe use of Pidgin have meted on their usage of the Standard English andways and approaches to avoid further harm.
The teacher on the other hand, will use the findings to evaluate theirmethod of teaching and interaction with the students. This they will do when they read from the findings the dangers Pidgin English usage have done ontheir writing and speaking skills.
Scope and Limitation of the Study
This study is delimited to examine the effects of pidgin English on standard English usage among selected secondary students in Ado local government area of Ekiti State. However, this study is not without limitations. A research like thisrequires re-evaluation after some time to know whether the percentage ofthose affected is increasing or decreasing. The researcher could not reevaluatethe results from one study to another within this study because of the time frame given for this work. Secondly, responses from the studentsare likely to be subjective because they will like to please the researcherthrough their answers. Finally, some of the facts cannot be substantiatedbecause they emanate from students.
The following research questions will guide this study:
- To what extent is Pidgin English spoken by students in secondary school students in Ado local government area of Ekiti State?
- To what extent does Pidgin English affect the usage of standard English among secondary school students?
- What can be done to mitigate the effects of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among secondary schools students?
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