This research work centres on Problem of teaching English as a second language in Nigeria, a case study of selected secondary school in Nigeria. The study identifies the causes of failure in English Language in secondary schools, the factors responsible for the inability of students to learn English language as a second language and  the effect of  mother tongue interference on the performance of students in English language in the study area. Data for this study were collected through the use of structured questionnaires. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive statistical tools. On the basis of the findings, the study suggested  that English language teachers in secondary schools endeavour to avoid the use of vernacular in the teaching of English language. Also, well equipped  libraries and other necessary materials that would assist the students in learning English language should be provided.


1.1 Background to the Study

English language plays a very important role in Nigeria. Apart from being the official language, it is also the language of instruction in our institutions of learning. In a country like Nigeria where English language is the lingua franca, the barrier its learners face is a serious problem that should be investigated. This is why we cannot but link the failure of our students in their process of learning English with the challenge of language barrier.

A child who learns English at school but always speaks his mother tongue at home will seldom have occasions to discuss any topic in the English language at home and whenever he/she has the opportunity to do so, it will be difficult. Another challenge that confronts second language learning and teaching in our schools is lack of oral practice by the students in different language situations. However, second language learning problems arise from “interference”. This means the effect of transferring the habits associated with the learners’ own mother-tongue to the target language (second language). According to Tiffen (1968), “An English man learning Igbo language is likely to ‘carry over’ the phonetic, lexical and grammatical features of his own language when he speaks Igbo, in the same way that a Igbo man does when he speaks English”.

Language barrier is a term used to imply all the problems faced by an individual as he tries to communicate with a group of people who speak a tongue other than his own. It is prevalent in settings which involve the conglomeration of people from different cultures, speaking different languages. It is also used as a blanket term for all the difficulties associated with the learning of a foreign language (Wikipedia, 2006).Over the years, there have been various steps taken by administrators in both, academic and business worlds, to eradicate or at least minimize this problem in English speaking environments by providing courses, workshops and training. Yet, this problem is persistent, if not widespread, in schools across the nation. With a thorough understanding of the situation, we hope to find a solution that will overcome this issue, and at the same time work best to help students find resources to be proficient in oral English.

All over the world, there is a growing interest in language as a communicative instrument. The incidence of the Second World War accentuated this interest. In America and Europe, the war brought about the urgent need to teach soldiers as many foreign languages as possible and by the fastest method feasible. There was the realization that competence in a second language depended mainly on the habitual manipulation of the sentence pattern of that language. There was the awareness that the time spent on traditional pronunciation rules and analysis was time wasted because those who could use a language were unable to recite its rules and those who could recite its rules could not use it.

Wang, 2002 suggests that Language reflects culture and tends to control or influence processes used to think and to perceive. Thus, sometimes, the barriers are not due to the use of words in the language, but the ways the speakers speak or how the listeners perceive. In addition, cultures also shape the way students communicate with others. For example, Asian international students are particularly sensitive to the issue of “save face”. In providing assistance or instruction to an Asian student, if the teacher asks the student, “Do you understand?”, the student is likely to respond that he/she understands, even if he/she does not. Such an attitude would generate a barrier in communication.

Olagoke D.O (1979) explains that parents are naturally anxious that their children should become doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on; as such, parents in an attempt to make their children learn English early in life sacrifice a large part of their income in sending them to nursery and other fee-paying private schools, where they are usually taught by qualified and well paid teachers. As a result, children from such schools come home after one or two terms speaking good English. This is unlike what obtains in most of the government owned schools, where parents cannot provide their children with the required textbooks.

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