THE EFFECT OF THE NIGERIAN PIDGIN ENGLISH ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF UNIVERSITY STUDENTS IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
There have been many speculations about the origin of language over the years. Jespersen (1921) proposed that human language originated while humans were enjoying themselves in one of the more enduring speculations concerning the origin of language. It remains however, a speculation. We simple do not know how language originated. However, Yule (1985 1-4) argued that the origin of language could be divine, according to one view, God created Adam and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof – (Genesis 2:9). Alternatively, following a Hindu tradition, language came from the goddess Sarasvati, wife of Brahma, creator of the universe. In an attempt to rediscover this original divine language, a few experiments have been carried out, with rather conflicting results. The natural sound was also seen as the concept of “natural sounds”. The suggestion is that primitive words could have been imitations of the natural sound which early men and women heard around them. When an object flew by, making a CAWCAW sound, the early humans imitated the sound and used it to refer to the object associated with the sound. Also, one suggestion regarding the origin of the sounds of language involves a link between physical gesture and orally produced sounds. It does seem reasonable that physical gesture, involving the whole body, could have been a means of indicating a wide range of emotional states and intentions. A quite different level of speculation on the origins of human speech comes under the general heading of gloss genetics. This focuses mainly on the biological basis on the formation and development of human language. Language origin is inconsequential though, it is one of the major distinguishing factors of man from animal because it forms the basis for communication which essentially is a human characteristic. Effective communication, is spoken of when there has been a large language well-conceived and articulated but of course fathomable by the receiver who in turn decoded and send a feedback. There is a need to note that there are different languages in the world with their attendant dialect and variety problems. The advent of the colonial master in African presumably marked the beginning of the use of the English language in the west Africa sub-regions. In other words, English which is also Nigeria’s official language was brought to Africa by her former colonial masters. Nigeria, being a multilingual nation, I suppose is one of the reasons why English is accepted as the language of official communication. The fact that most Nigerians are illiterate and semi-illiterate made the using of English language as the language of official communication a big problem. As a result, the English language started having varieties, among which is, Pidgin English also known as Nigerian English. Adedoyin (1999. 40) is of the opinion that Pidgin English is developed from a contact English (ce). He sees it as a first variety of the Nigerian English. He stressed that when two people come in contact, the necessity for communication would necessitate the evolvement of a language of communication, a kind of inter-language, which will be a mixture of the two languages in contact. He stressed that Nigeria Pidgin English is a variety which is very strong among the less educated and educated people too. Pidgin English is therefore defined as a language variety used for inter-ethic context. The oxford advance learners dictionary defines pidgin as any of several languages resulting from contact European traders and local people, for example, in West Africa and the far east, containing elements of the local language(s) and French or Dutch, still used for internal communication. Yule (1996. 223-234) is of the view that it is a variety of a language which was developed for some practical purposes, such as trading among groups of people who had a lot of contact, but who do not know each other’s language. According to Opara (1999.52), pidgin English in Nigeria originated as a trade language that is made up of foreign language and the local language. It also originated as a result of the need for communication among Nigerians living in towns and cities from different ethnic groups who have no common language. Spencer (1971) opined that Nigerian pidgin English developed as a result of intertribal marriages. The importance of Pidgin English in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized. This version of English cuts across institutions, establishments and societies yet it remains the unofficial lingua-franca in Nigeria. It is the most effective means if interaction among the illiterate servants of the learned masters, the market women, and several other groups of people. The popularity of Pidgin English can be seen in the various ways in which Nigerian business world and the media use it. Apart from using pidgin English for advertisements on radio and television, some bill boards disseminate their information using the pidgin English to communicate to their readers. For example, Ken Saro Wiwa (1985) in his work, Sozaboy (1965) used pidgin English. Also the work of Amos Tutuola, the Palm Wine Drinkard is also written in the Pidgin English. Soyinka (1964.65) in his work, The Trial of Brother Jero and The Road respectively used the pidgin English to accent the socio-economic aspects of Nigeria of them. In most of his earlier works, the proportion of pidgin compared with English seems to increase in favour of the former with the degree of informality of its speakers particularly worth mentioning is the road. Notwithstanding, pidgin English though plays an important role in Nigeria, it also has some adverse effects on students learning of the English language. They learn this language early in life too. They may learn it from their parents of within the environment which they live. Subsequently, they carry the language to school where it becomes difficult for them to learn the proper language. Often, several families live in the same compound or in a geographical area who do not understand one another’s language; Pidgin becomes a convenient means of communication among them. Children growing up in such area use the Pidgin English officially and do not anything wrong in it. At school, especially in the southern Nigeria, where we have different ethnic groups residing in same settlements, for instance, cities like Lagos, port Harcourt, Warri and other urban areas, Pidgin English is the commonest means of communication especially outside the classroom. This makes it difficult for the children of such settlements to use the correct or proper English in the class room because they have learnt Pidgin early in life. It is against this background that analysts have expressed concern over its continued use. They believe that students who speak the Nigerian Pidgin English stand the risk of losing fluency in the standard English going by the fact that the English language is not just Nigeria’s official language but an internationally recognised medium of communication in the contemporary world. The researcher is therefore out to investigate the following:
a) Whether the use of Nigerian pidgin English affect the students’ academic performance in Universities.
b) The treat the use of Nigerian pidgin English poses on academic performance of university students.
c) The role the human brain plays in language acquisition.
d) It will look into the history of the Pidgin English especially how it became so widely used.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is becoming increasingly difficult if a particular student really went to school or perhaps was well schooled in the rudiments of English. It is not an over statement if we say that most of the students cannot make simple, clear and error-free sentences in English language. This has been attributed to the frequent use of pidgin by students either by way of code switching or code mixing in communication at home, school and their neighbourhood. Though Pidgin English is fast becoming more and more important as a language but notwithstanding, English remain the only official language of communication in Nigeria. Therefore, Pidgin English, when it is first learnt by children, poses some problems in their later life. They will find it difficult to differentiate between pidgin and Standard English both in their spoken and written form. Again the use of pidgin impeded proper communication in the sense that the students have limited language as a means of communication in a country like ours. Where English becomes a problem for a child when he gets to school as he cannot understand the teacher because the only language he/she understands in pidgin English.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The general purpose of this study is to find out the effect of Nigerian Pidgin English on the academic performance of University students. Specifically, the study tends to:
- identify how Nigerian Pidgin English enhances or diminishes students’ academic performance of University students.
- ascertain the effect of Nigerian Pidgin English when used as a means of communication among students of University students.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- How does Nigerian Pidgin English enhance or diminish students’ academic performance of University students?
- What will be the effect of Nigerian Pidgin English when used as a means of communication among students of University students?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
Ho: Nigerian Pidgin English does not significantly affect the academic performance of University Students.
Hi: Nigerian Pidgin English significantly affects the academic performance of University Students.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Students and teachers, government, parents, authors, and publishers of English textbooks are expected to benefit from the findings of this study. Students are going to benefit from the study because they will discover that pidgin has some limitations. For instance, they cannot use pidgin to write internal examinations. They cannot use pidgin to communicate their ideas in the midst of educated people. This study will help them begin to use English so as to be conversant in it and at the same time meet their academic attainment. This study will benefit the teachers in that it will move them to use simple and correct English in teaching instead of Pidgin English. The school management board will also benefit from this study since it will help them to understand the causes of failure in English in the senior school certificate examinations and other unified English examinations. The authors of textbooks at all level of learning are not left out among the beneficiaries. This study will enable them to realize that using pidgin English to express themselves will not in any way build up the students whom they are trying to build.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS
The scope of this study is on the effects of Nigerian Pidgin English in university community. An assessment of its use in various forms will be carried out. This research is limited to Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka even though the findings might be generic.
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Questionnaires were distributed to hundred (100) students in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka which is my case study and these questionnaires were filled and collected and the hundred questionnaires were returned. The result/total of responses from the respondents is tabled in the yes/no format. The collection of data was done in two parts. The secondary and primary source. The primary source is the questionnaire; the secondary source includes textbooks, journals and so on. The materials were researched upon in Nnamdi Azikiwe University libraries. The total number of hundred (100) questionnaires were distributed and the percentage system is the method used in calculating the different responses.