Impact of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) on the achievement of secondary school students in Igbo Language

Impact of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) on the achievement of secondary school students in Igbo Language


Background to the Study 

The field of language learning is dynamic and, so, new discoveries are emerging. The Igbo language is not left out in this trend and, therefore, requires continuous efforts to make it retain its place as one of the major languages in Nigeria. There is also the need to make it attractive as a medium of communication even on a global scale. Maduka (2007) commented on the threat of modern European languages powered by colonialism and globalisation to the continuity of Igbo and other Nigerian indigenous languages. He surmised:


Even though colonialism and globalisation have imposed western cultural values on Nigerians especially through the use of English and French as national languages, the Igbos should not fall victim to the glamorous economic and political benefits accruing from the knowledge of these languages by dispensing with the use of their mother tongue in various situations in society. They have to imitate the various people of the world for their languages‘ survival and rescue (p.15).


One of the most distinctive characteristics which set humans apart from other creatures is the highly evolved mode of communication termed language (Badiyani, 2008). Language serves as a tool for conveying functional meaning through interaction and communication. Each generation modifies, changes and adapts its language so that at any point in time, the language remains a cultural institution developed by a community, for the use or service of that community (Puloka, 2000). Adopting a new identity can be expressed as the gradual loss of unique cultural traits and the imitation of a foreign culture (Dastigoshadeth and Jalilzadeh, 2011; Grimes, 2002; Brezinger & Graaf,2005). In view of the aforementioned, Crystal (1987) predicted that up to 90% of the worlds‘ languages may well be replaced by dominant languages by the end of the 21st century which would reduce the present number of almost 7,000 languages to less than 700.

It can be adduced that the main cause of this is poor perception of the importance of the mother tongue at home, school and the community at large. Sometimes, parents decide not to communicate with or allow teachers to teach their children in their mother tongues because they perceive an economic or educational advantage for their children in speaking a second or dominant language, in most cases English or French (Grimes, 2000). For example, in Ireland, English has displaced Irish in about 97% of the population. MacNamara cited in Ohiri – Aniche (1990) observed that attempts to re-teach Irish children their ancestral language in schools fail because children have little functional needs for Irish and also Irish is not taught in situations where it can be used. This may lead to the language becoming extinct.


A language becoming extinct does not necessarily mean that the people who speak it have all died, instead, the speakers may shift to a different language over one or more generations. Moreover, voluntary and, in some cases, forced migration of a language group to a location outside their traditional territory can cause a language shift and diminish the speakers‘ size. For example, when the United States, Russian and Canadian governments moved indigenous children into boarding schools, they insisted that they should speak only the national language in those schools. This resulted in those children being cut off from their native ethnic languages  and cultures (Grimes, 2000).


Sometimes, a national language policy may cause some shift of language. An example is: when Tanzania became independent, the leaders decided to make Swahili their national language. For many years, they limited linguistic investigation and promotion to Swahili. Many individuals became more proficient in Swahili than they had been previously and some even use Swahili as their primary language (Brezinger & Graaf, 2005).


The number of Nigerian languages is put at about 397 (Crozier and Blench, 1992) and at about 527 (Lewis, 2009). Ikegbunam (2009) also gave a figure of 525 Nigerian languages. Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba are considered Nigeria‘s major languages due to their having speakers in excess of 18 million each, while the rest are referred to as minority languages. In addition, the country has English as its official language, and there are many ways and avenues for the children to learn the English language (Oyelami, 2008).Again, the situation remains that the English language which is the official language, is already entrenched in all the formal domains (education, government, commerce, media, etc). Igbo is the native language of Southeastern Nigerians. The Igbo language is estimated as having a population of between 18 and 27 million native speakers (Grimes, 2000; Lewis, 2009). Not all of these speakers however reside in the Igbo home areas. Before the contact with Western civilization, the Igbo people‘s language and a rich corpus of their literature were by and large, orally and verbally transmitted (Emenanjo, 1960). During its formative years in Igboland, Igbo made giant strides. But like any other Nigerian ‗vernacular‘ it faced the buffeting of British prejudice which saw nothing good in the indigenous languages towards the education of the British governed Nigerian child. It regarded all indigenous languages as ‗uncivilized‘, and both the 1882 Education Ordinance and pronouncements made by British colonials justified the issue (The Education Colony for Gold Coast, 1882).The Ordinance clearly stated that the subjects for teaching shall be reading and writing of English


language (The Education Colony for Gold Coast, op.cit).This preference of Igbo in favour of English accorded greater prestige and recognition on the English language due to political and economic reasons.


Nevertheless, there is every need to promote the learning of the Igbo language because it would promote viable opportunities for language immersion and acculturation for both Nigerians and foreigners, and for all Igbo both in the hinterland and in the Diaspora. The Federal government of Nigeria supports this in the NPE (2013) by stressing the importance of language as a means of promoting social interaction, natural cohesion and preserving culture. This is depicted during the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) posting, whereby every Nigerian graduate would be posted to another part of Nigeria different from the area where he/she finished tertiary education to serve the country, for one year. Even in the NYSC orientation camp, primers containing languages for everyday use that would help the NYSC members to interact and integrate within the community during the community service are distributed to them freely. For example, if you are of non – Igbo origin and posted to Igboland for one year national community service, you would be given primers written in Igbo and vice versa.


Again, the ability to study the Igbo language and speak it well will create the much needed jobs that would yield the much needed revenue that would make one self- employed.This would necessarily contribute to national development (Anyanele, Okoye & Okanume, 2014) .The situation of promoting the learning of the Igbo language would also provide the younger generation opportunities of learning the language in schools, and would offer them employment as well. The Federal Government of Nigeria supports this by expressing that it is expedient that every child be required to learn one of the three major Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo and


Yoruba (1998). Thus, the view of every child being required to learn one of Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba is a laudable statement by the government in its effort to see that these languages are taught as second languages in Nigeria. This will contribute a lot to the production of graduates of Igbo needed in the labour market since various graduates of Igbo are needed for filling vacant positions left from time to time in different fields of life (Ani, 2012). Other positions for graduates of Igbo include culture officers, research assistants, administrative officers, writers and editors, broadcasters, fashion modelers, artistes, and so on.Better still, such graduates can teach Igbo online; as well as be employed in the Nigerian film industry- Nollywood. Nollywood employs more than twenty million Nigerians who act as actors, actresses, producers, distributors, promoters, marketers and are dominated by the Igbo. The graduates of Igbo can also belong to the music and entertainment industry just like Onyeka Onwenu, Oliver De Coque, Stephen Osita Osadebe, etc. They can even become translators and interpreters both nation wide and internationally. It could be deduced that the Igbo language learning has the potentials to create many jobs if well planned and undertaken by the native and non – natives of the Igbo language.

Due to its status, the Igbo language is taught and learnt in schools and in academic institutions (FRN 1998; 2004; 2013). Even though Igbo is now studied in the primary, secondary as well as the higher institutions of learning both at home and abroad, yet all is not well with it, as there are some set- backs recorded. A paucity of human and material resources and apathy of the Igbo people towards the language were major factors responsible for the slow development of Igbo as a language for modern education (Ubahakwe, 1977; Nwadike, 2002).

Many concerned stakeholders have put great efforts to improve the Igbo language learners‘ competence. However, the students‘ achievement in the Igbo language especially in national examinations (e.g. West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examinations


Council (NECO) or any standardized tests has been far from satisfactory. WAEC (2012) reported that candidates‘ performance in French and Yoruba languages fluctuated, while performance in Hausa and Igbo languages dropped steadily within the 3-year period of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Ohiri – Aniche (2008) found that most of the Igbo parents interviewed in Igboland and outside Igboland conversed with their children mostly in English or a mixture of English and the Igbo language. This has great implications for the home language of the Igbo families.The result is that an increasing number of children do not understand or speak Igbo, or do so with difficulty. This is particularly with children raised in families outside Igboland, including urban cities and Southwestern states of Nigeria. According to Linguistics Association of Nigeria (LAN) (2011), many schools ban the speaking of Nigerian languages in schools. This is deleterious both from the point of view of diminishing the opportunities pupils have to learn and speak their indigenous languages and also from the point of view of developing negative motivations about their indigenous languages. The above situations bring about the erosion of the functional roles of Nigerian languages (including the Igbo language) in the informal domain (especially in the home) which has important and remarkable consequences both for the long-term survival of indigenous languages as their home language, and, for the motivation of students in the classroom learning of these languages (Ohiri-Aniche, 1990; 2002; Jibril, 2003).

However, some language groups in the world are attempting to increase their speakers‘ population by publishing pedagogical grammars (with audio tapes, programmes on the radio and television, dictionaries, newspapers), organizing evening classes for adult literacy and having courses taught in schools and community colleges. These are yielding some successes in many cases.


The conviction, therefore, is that if there is a way out for some languages outside Nigeria, then, there should be a way out for the Igbo language at home. For instance, there are some Igbo language   websites   on   the   internet   such   as   enhancing the teaching and learning of the Igbo language in the mainstream classrooms especially in relation to the content of the Junior Secondary School approved curriculum. Nevertheless, there is hope for Nigerian indigenous languages (the Igbo language in particular) if increased effort is put into in-depth literacy activities in those languages, and of course, with the support of technology.

Alexander and Busch (2007) stressed the importance of solid grounding of the learner in his/her indigenous language. Alexander and Busch suggested that children can learn to read and write in two or even more languages at the same time. Bilingual education was also recommended by Ateequ (2010) for controlling the decline in knowledge and use of indigenous languages.

Orji (2002) reported that academic achievement and language development of a child in Igbo depend to a large extent on home –related factor (parents‘ home language use). Orji advocated that parents should enhance their children‘s performance in the Igbo language through adequate enlightenment and the use of Igbo at home during interaction. Students‘ academic achievement is the process whereby students‘ educational activities are measured by examination within the context of curricular (Datol, 2005). Akinsola and Popoola (2004) noted that poor teaching leads to poor learning and poor learning leads to poor academic achievement. Ugwuanyi (1998) maintained the view that poor teaching is one of the factors that account for poor academic


achievement and high school dropouts. Ugwuanyi added that to reduce the persistent failure of students, the introduction of test and other methods of teaching/and learning are needed.

Learning achievement and language performance have been proven to be enhanced through the applications of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (Chapelle, 2001; Gambari, 2010; Warschauer, 2001; Yusuf & Afolabi, 2010). ICTs have become an integral part of most educational landscape, and many educators in developing countries like Nigeria are cognizant of the benefits of integrating ICTs into learning (Adeoye, 2010). Adeoye added that the use of ICTs in education can facilitate effective teaching and learning. Adeosun (2010) also agreed with this view by pointing out that individuals are required to be efficient and effective ICT users to be successful in the continuously evolving and competitive economy of today that requires ICT skills and knowledge. According to Achukwu and Nnajiofor (2012), educational systems around the world are under increasing pressure by UNESCO to use the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to teach students the knowledge and skills they need in the 21st century.

Teaching all over the world is being supported with ICTs, and the use of computer in teaching and learning has been an effective means of enhancing academic achievement (Adekunle, 2006). Chapelle (2001) asserted that the use of computer technology in classrooms is generally reported to improve academic achievement and the mastery of basic skills. Chapelle added that it is also more student-centered and more active processing, resulting in better recall and gaining of confidence in directing students‘ learning for both language and non-language classrooms.


Recent research has shown that human language is much more complex than it was previously thought (Okonkwo, 2012). Montazeri and Hamidi (2013) added that computers play a pivotal role in the field of language instruction nowadays and Computer Assisted Language Learning


(CALL) is now an integral part of language learning classrooms. According to Rau, Yang and Dong (2007), applied linguists no longer question whether it is necessary to the use computer to assist in language teaching and learning but debate on how to effectively make use of this technology to enhance learning. The evolution of language teaching has traditionally been influenced by the advancement of new language teaching pedagogies and more recently, by technological changes of CALL which explore the potential of technology applications to language teaching (Hardisty & Wineatt cited in Basoz & Cubukcu, 2014).CALL is an approach to language teaching and learning in which computer technology is used as an aid to present, reinforce and assess the material to be learned which usually includes a substantial interactive element (Bax, 2003). Nonetheless, Bax cautioned that except for self-study software, CALL is meant to supplement face to face language instruction and not to replace it.

Also, Dhaif (1989) claimed that computers can never replace the ‘live’ teacher, especially in language teaching and learning, where the emphasis is on mutual communication between people. Moreover, Warschauer (2001) reinforced the aforementioned caution by asserting that CALL programmes can be a motivating tool that enhanced language students‘ learning interests; and also intended to make learning more effective rather than easier. Additionally, in utilizing CALL during learning, students must learn basic technology knowledge and skills to cut down their learning loads.


Informed by the reviews on the accrued benefits of CALL in language learning, this study, therefore, assessed the effect of CALL on the motivation and achievement of junior secondary school students in Igbo in the direction of improving their performance in Igbo and further motivating them to learn the language.


     Statement of Problem


There is clear evidence that a great deficiency exists in the teaching and learning of the Igbo language at the junior secondary school level of education in Lagos State.This has been attributed to the traditional teacher – centred instructional mode which is prevalent in the teaching of Igbo; resulting in the unsatisfactory achievement of students in Igbo examinations and consequently, the lack of motivation to learn the language (Umo, 2001; Ohiri-Aniche, 2003; Omeje 2009 and Okodo, 2012). If this scenario continues unchecked, the Igbo language may gradually be moving towards extinction, coupled with the fact that urbanization and migration, which are very inevitable in the present era, have also put pressure on many Igbo families to bring up their children to speak English or the dominant language rather than Igbo. The trend has implications not only for the young generation of Igbo speakers, but also to the continuity of the Igbo language and invariably, its culture.

Again, the Nigerian National Policy on Education (NPE) emphasizes the importance of learning through the ICTs in the 21st century technology driven era. Yet, despite the popularity of ICT in educational institutions, little is known about the use of Computer Assisted Language Learning in teaching and learning of Nigerian languages especially Igbo. If the teaching and learning of the Igbo language are left with only traditional instructional techniques and materials while the teaching and learning of other languages like English and French continue to be assisted with computer, it is evident that the Igbo language would not survive extinction in this technology driven era. Therefore, there is a need to modernize the teaching and learning of Igbo through digital practice in order to maintain its status, preserve, and develop the language.

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