THE EFFECT OF PIDGIN ENGLISH ON UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS COMPETENCE
Background to the Study
During the European quest for new markets and raw materials in the 17th Century, many Portuguese missionaries and traders arrived on the shores of Jamaica and West and Central African countries like: Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Nigeria were largely visited by the missionaries. Akinmade and Oladipo (2010). For trade and religious purposes with no language in common they created a form of communication with bases from the European language, giving birth to most African languages: such as Creole, Pidgin, and Patois. These languages came to serve the linguistic need there, by giving birth to the Cameroon Camfranglais (mixture of French and English) spoken by the youth today.
Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE), originated as a lingua franca for trade purposes amongst the Nigerians and the Portuguese merchants during the 17th century. Onguene (2012). It is broken English like Patois and Creole, spoken along the coast of West Africa and it has extended to the diaspora, due to Nigerian migrants. After the departure of the missionaries, this lingua franca did not go with them but remained and is the most widely spoken language in Nigeria today compared to English. There are still Portuguese words present in the NPE such as : “ Sabi (to know) and Pikin (child)”
NPE is regarded as a bastardization of the English language used by the non-literates, though it is highly spoken in Nigeria by every individual starting from an early age. In the country, both the literates, such as the president, campaigning politicians, lawyers, doctors, and non-literates speak and understand pidgin, though it is mostly used in informal situations and English is used for official purposes and the medium of education. NPE is the most widely spoken language as it is not a native language of any tribe in Nigeria but the only language everyone understands and regards as the easiest form of interaction amongst the population.The Federal Republic of Nigeria has three major languages namely: Igbo in the (East), Yoruba in the (South) and Hausa in the (North ) having English as the official language alongside other 500 different spoken dialects Sumaila (2008). Indeed, NPE is considered as a bastardized language as it is yet to have a standard written form. University in Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria both undergraduate and postgraduate levels , department of English and Drama are now offering it as a course and many struggles are being put up for NPE to be considered Nigeria’s official language as it is highly used by the masses, high school students, postgraduates and undergraduates, politicians and business people.
NPE is not only spoken in Nigeria, it is widely used by the diasporic communities in America, England, and Canada. In addition, a large group of the Nigerian community in Luxembourg use Pidgin as a means of communication, these diasporic communities use pidgin among themselves as a means to feel at home Brubaker (2005).
NPE varies in written and spoken form depending on which part of the country the speaker is from, as the language is spoken differently in each state of the country. Each State tends to add words from their dialect into Pidgin making it more interesting for the ears and understood by everyone. Nigerian Pidgin English remains the only language that unifies the 186 million population.