The capacity to vocally communicate via language is the major difference between us and lower animals. In speech groups, language acquisition often begins with the mother tongue. It’s common to presume that a child’s mother tongue is their parents’ native tongue. The child often learns their mother tongue before starting to acquire a second language as a consequence.
When learning a language, the phonetic system is often taken into account. Segmental phonemes are the vowel and consonant sound segments that make up this. The distribution and makeup of the segmental phonemes may, however, differ from language to language. Because mother tongues are frequently used as resources for learning a second language, studies have shown how crucial it is for kids to learn them. However, since the phonological systems of any two languages are never exactly the same, a second language learner may start to substitute some elements of his second language’s (L2) phonological system with those of his first language (L1). The native speaker might have trouble understanding some of the second language learner’s utterances as a result of these phonological conflicts, which could obstruct meaning. Language transfer theorists claim that when a learner’s first language’s lexicon, grammar, and phonology impose themselves on their second language habits, interference problems result. According to Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik, we frequently impose our native phonological pattern on any foreign language we learn (1974:26). Based on this linguistic principle, the researcher is convinced that it is impossible to dismiss the possibility that Idoma English learners will be influenced phonologically by the Idoma language. Evidently, when developing the oral English curriculum for secondary schools in Nigeria, the fundamental assumption that influences the content of the senior school certificate oral English syllabus appears to be the notion that mother tongue interference negatively affects students’ speaking abilities. In recognition of this fact, the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) syllabus (2004-2008:191) states explicitly that the examination seeks to evaluate candidates’ ability to “use an acceptable pronunciation that can be understood by others.” The focus on English segmental phonemes in both teaching and learning is emphasized by this goal statement. Ironically, though, spoken English as a language ability has constantly been underestimated in our schools throughout the years. The majority of our students’ verbal accuracy and fluency have been significantly harmed by this tendency, much to the dismay of parents, teachers, the government, and other stakeholders in the nation’s educational system. This is a result of the significant role that English has played in the economical and political life of Nigeria, our nation. For instance, Mazrui (1971) in Uzo claims that the English language is “the vehicle of intellectual change, vocational and social mobility, and the crystallization of national consciousness” (1999:2). Therefore, the researcher believes that the trend toward declining spoken English among our children is a negative development that portends negative outcomes for our educational system. The declining performance of students in oral English in particular is evidently due to a number of factors, including poor attitudes toward the second language, low investment in education, poor teacher training, a lack of teaching aids, poor teaching methods, government takeover of schools leading to poor supervision and lowering of standards, a poor social environment, low learner motivation, and more (Akwanya, 2007). Records show that students’ declining English proficiency in external exams like WASSCE and NECO (National Examinations Commission) has persisted unabatedly, despite studies’ attempts to address these issues by offering practical solutions. For instance, the applicants’ performance was very poor, according to the WAEC Chief Examiner’s assessment of English for the May/June session (2007:7). Due to their inability to submit an answer that could have earned them even one point in any part of the exam, some applicants received a score of 0 for the entire test. For this exam, it appears that many schools enrolled unqualified and illiterate students. The researcher has decided to investigate a crucial linguistic idea in response to the data in this report because he believes it could have a big impact on students’ oral English proficiency. This idea is the prevalence of mother tongue interference and how it impacts English segmental phoneme teaching and learning. The researcher thinks that in order to address the issue at hand, a comparison of the segmental phonemes of English and the indigenous language (Idoma), as well as an examination of the parallels and discrepancies in the phonemic inventories of the two languages, would provide a way to address the pronunciation issues that students encounter. As a result, the theories of contrastive and error analysis will serve as the work’s theoretical compass.
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