The use of Pidgin English in the Nigerian context has gone beyond verbal communication to become more of a mode of behaviour as its expression has moved from informal conversation to formal situations. This above scenario necessitated this study which investigates the effects of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu in Isi-Uzo L. G. A. Using the descriptive research design and the questionnaire as the research instruments, data were collected from a sample of 200 students and 35 teachers from four selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu. Also, copies of the written essays of the selected students were analysed to complement results from the questionnaire. Findings reveal that the use of Pidgin English is traceable to the students’ homes. However, the finding that students do not use Pidgin English in their written essays were largely contradicted by the avalanche of Pidgin English usage found in the written essays of the students which also reveal an adverse effect of Pidgin on Standard English both in spelling and contextual usage. The researcher, therefore, concludes that the use of Pidgin English creates a form of identity among students and hence recommends that constant monitoring and evaluation of language use in teaching and learning in Nigeria will help check the trend of usage of Pidgin English which will guide policy making aimed at addressing this ugly trend.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Language in multilingual societies such as Nigeria has always been a matter of concern to educators, educational planners and parents especially with regard to its appropriate use in communication. The English language is
the medium of instruction in all Nigerian educational institutions at all levels. This is the basis for Olaore’s comments, “… in the countries
language policy, the fact that for a long time to come, English will continue to play a prominent role in the socio-economic and political development in Nigeria as the language of administration, politics, industry, education, science and technology is of paramount importance,’ (21).
The English language, to a large extent, functions as a second language in Nigeria. Although Nigeria is believed to have more than four hundred (400) languages with over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups, (Emenanjo, 73), the English language is the only language used for all forms of official transaction. Despite the central role the English language has been playing in communication process nationwide, the language excludes the majority of uneducated Nigerians who live in rural communities. Some Nigerian communities have more than six distinct but mutually unintelligible languages. This makes communication among neighbours difficult. Emenanjo cited in Otagburuagu and Okorji (2003) notes that Nigerian linguistic geography is so complex that language communities can fall into small language groups called chontonolects. The convolutions in the Nigerian linguistics ecology as Otagburuagu (99) noted, has made the use of Nigerian Pidgin a more universal and inconclusive language, inevitable in both formal and informal domains.
Tracing the history of Pidgin English, Quirk et al pointed out that “Pidgin historically began as simply a language mar ked by traditional interference used chiefly by the prosperous and privileged section of a community represents by the unskilled and illiterate class of the society” (28). This situation, however, is not so with the Nigeria Pidgin. Studies have shown that the Nigeria Pidgin began as an English-based Pidgin and later metamorphosed into various forms and patterns in its usage, (Obiechina, 85; Elugbe, 285 and Egbokhare, 21-40). Nigerian Pidgin English is seen as a version of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of Lingua Franca across the country especially among students. In an attempt to define Nigerian Pidgin English, Elugbe and Omamur (48), see it as ‘some kind of a marginal language that arises to fulfill specific communication needs in a well defined circumstance.’Furthermore, Nigerian Pidgin is a somewhat pejorative label used by native speakers of English to describe the often hysterical violations of the basic rules of Standard English syntax by non-native speakers of the language. Kperogi (4) further describes Pidgin as a technical term in linguistics that refers to a “contact” or “trade” l anguage that emerged from the fusion of foreign, usually European, language and indigenous, usually non-European languages. Here, the European language provided most of the vocabulary and the indigenous languages produce the structure of the language. The cultural language which language emanates from has far-reaching influences on its predominant usage as is the case with Nigerian Pidgin. Its variation, no doubt is not unconnected with the culture of its users. It is in the light of this that Abdullah – I diagbom in his study on “ The Sociolinguistic of Nigerian Pidgin (English) on University Campus” quotingBrooks, N (1969) Posits: ‘It is through the magic of language that man comes eventually to understand to an impressive degree the environment to which he lives and still more surprising, gains an insight into his own nature and his own condition.’ (2)
The teachers and students are victim of these observations about Nigerian Pidgin. And perhaps the cultural influence of the native language on 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 (57), quoting Ashby submitted that ‘the quality of English used in the classroom is such that all pupils are to a serious disadvantage. It cannot be doubted that thousands of the most gifted are unable to further their education because they were not taught well the language in which they were examined.’ They further pointed out that ‘acco rding to the canons of the discipline for language pedagogy, the more the difference between the system of the target language, the more difficult learning invariably becomes and the smaller the difference, the easier the learning.’
The above assertion gives credence to the difficulty faced by students who grew up in an environment where native language is widely used than Standard English in teaching and learning. This will make their learning of the Standard English a herculean task. Students’ daily use of their native language in communication within and outside the school has further enhanced the use of Nigerian Pidgin which is derived from a blend of the morphology of the native language and the syntax of the Standard English in its usage.
In real sense, no language is inferior or superior to the other. But what enhances its continuous usage is the specific communication needs that it serves and competence attained by its users over a long period of time which also makes it a norn among a well-defined group of users. It is also true that where two or more speech communities come in contact, a lingua franca or common language of communication tends to emerge (Stockwell, 18). The distortion which Nigerian Pidgin has on the Standard English is in varying degree and magnitude. Looking at this Nigerian Pidgin sentence: “Wetin dey hapun nau?” one knows that it is a derivative of th e Standard English equivalent – “What is happening now?” Now we see th at the expression “Wetin dey’ is a distortion of “What is”; “hapun” i s also another distortion of “happening” while “nau” is a corruption of “now” . Other examples are as follows: