THE EFFECT OF THE NIGERIAN PIDGIN ENGLISH ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS IN NIGERIA
Background of the study
Attitudes towards language or language behavior implicate social meanings relative to social norms in a given speech community. As demonstrated in the literature, language attitude study is not only a way of understanding how language is used, for example, as a symbol of identity or in-group membership, it also helps to illuminate the social importance of a given code or language (see Adegbija, 1994; Ihemere 2006; Salami 1991). Attitudinal studies of language are also important to linguistics because they could help to explain language maintenance and shift, which are apparently influenced by whether the change or maintenance is favored or disfavored by members of the speech community (Mann 1993; 1998).
In Nigeria, Nigerian Pidgin used to be seen generally as the code of the non-literate as well as a bastardization of English and its use was, therefore, considered a mark of the level of one’s proficiency in English. Akande (2008) has noted, the sociolinguistic reality in Nigeria today is such that Nigerian Pidgin is spoken by university graduates, professors, lawyers and journalists. It has also been demonstrated that Nigerian Pidgin is not used only in informal settings but also in offices and other formal settings (Akande 2008). In other words, the claim that Nigerian Pidgin is the code of the non-literate does not seem to have validity as there are a lot of educated speakers in Nigeria who can use both Standard English and Nigerian Pidgin proficiently (Akande 2008).
It is quite interesting to note that what actually started as a contingency language between the white merchants, who later turned colonial masters, and their black traders has now become an elitist campus language-spoken among the teeming population of the Nigerian students in higher institutions of learning. Thus, at common rooms, kiosks, gossip centres, viewing centres, play grounds, rally grounds, relaxation joints, movie grounds and a host of other meeting points where and when students are relieved of their academic routines, they are seen interacting lively in Nigeria pidgin.
Nigeria as a multilingual nation is made up of different speech communities and diverse ethnic groups. Past studies on linguistic situation in Nigeria have brought to the fore the complexity of the native languages in the country. Bamgbose and Okike cited in Ndiemele (2) put the figures of Nigerian indigenous languages to three hundred and seventy-four (374) and four hundred (400) languages respectively.
Adegbija claims that there are over five hundred (500) languages spoken in Nigeria (75). The glaring fact, therefore, is that Nigeria is a community made up of different ‘tongues’, and this, to a great extent, necessitated the adoption of the English language, a colonial legacy, as both the official and second language of the country. Predominant among these languages are Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Nigerian Pidgin/Creole. Apart from the first three major languages, Pidgin/Creole is very popular in Nigeria. Ndimele estimates that Nigerian Pidgin now serves as a native language to approximately three to five million people in Nigeria and it is a second language (L2) for another 75 million people (4). Jowit confirms the popularity of Nigerian Pidgin thus: “The situation today is that pidgin flourishes as a medium of inter-ethnic communication, especially in the large cities with many non-indigenous residents (Bendel, Benin, Port Harcourt e.tc) or throughout states with small many ethnic groups.
Nigeria as a multilingual nation is made up of different speech communities and diverse ethnic groups. Past studies on linguistic situation in Nigeria have brought to the fore the complexity of the native languages in the country. Bamgbose and Okike cited in Ndiemele (2) put the figures of Nigerian indigenous languages to three hundred and seventy-four (374) and four hundred (400) languages respectively. Adegbija claims that there are over five hundred (500) languages spoken in Nigeria (75). The glaring fact, therefore, is that Nigeria is a community made up of different ‘tongues’, and this, to a great extent, necessitated the adoption of the English language, a colonial legacy, as both the official and second language of the country. Predominant among these languages are Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Nigerian Pidgin/Creole.
Furthermore, it could be argued that Nigerian Pidgin has enhanced the propagation of national ideas, socio-cultural, linguistic and political developments as well as peace and unity in the country since it is the only language that both the educated and the uneducated, irrespective of their ethnic affinities, can identify with. The use of Nigerian Pidgin by Nigerians, however, has led to the growing status of the code in the country. In other words, Nigerian Pidgin has remained one of the languages with vitality in the society despite its unofficial recognition. Nonetheless, it has been observed that a large number of people across various sectors of the society including particularly those parents who are highly placed government officials, teachers, students in the universities tend to express disgust at its use by youths at home and school premises.
Pidgin is a contact language, and like all contact languages comes into being under conditions of interaction among people of different linguistic backgrounds. Pidgins usually evolve from the fusion of foreign languages and indigenous languages. Crystal explained that most of the present day pidgins grew up along the trade routes of the world especially in those parts where the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch built up their empires. At the outset of pidgin, it has few words and few simple constructions. Interestingly, the syntax of pidgin can be quite unlike the languages from which terms were borrowed and modified
The objective of the study is to find out the extent to which Nigerian Pidgin is used or spoken among the students of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in Benin Study Centre.
Statement of the problem
Students discuss or communicate very often among themselves just as lecturers do while imparting knowledge. In the university campuses therefore, a lot of communication take place. The language of communication is also as diverse as the many tribes of students that are present. It will be expected therefore that different mother tongues will be employed in so doing. It is however known that students often make use of peculiar means of communicating such as the use of Nigerian Pidgin, code-switching and code-mixing which results from their bilingual nature.
To solve these lingering problems of the use of Nigerian Pidgin among students in higher institution, there is need to limit the use of Nigerian Pidgin in official communication which affects academic performance. The study will exploit how students use Nigeria Pidgin in their communication and studies.
To guide this study, the following questions will be answered;
- How frequently do NOUN students use Nigerian Pidgin English?
- Under what circumstances do NOUN students frequently use Nigerian Pidgin English?
- To what extent do NOUN students use Nigerian Pidgin English in communicating with staff and students of NOUN?
- Is there a gender difference in the use Nigerian Pidgin English among NOUN students?
Objectives of the Study
This work intends to examine how frequent NOUN students use Nigerian Pidgin and under what circumstances do NOUN students frequently use Nigerian Pidgin. Also the study seeks to find the extent Noun student’s use of Nigerian Pidgin in communicating with staff and students.
The study will also examine the gender difference in the use Nigerian Pidgin among NOUN students and determine if there is any significant difference among male and female students in the use of NP in communication.
Significant of the Study
This study is important because its results can go a long way to finding out the causes of students’ negative or positive academic performance and if Nigerian Pidgin contributes negatively or positively to the students social interaction.
This work will in no doubt contribute to one’s knowledge and it will highlight some issues in educational planning. It will be a guide for the Federal Government in planning for an effective educational system.
Scope and Limitations:
The scope of this project is on The Effect of the Nigerian Pidgin English on the Academic Performance of University Students in Nigeria. It will assess the extent NOUN students use Nigerian Pidgin English in communicating with staff and students. This research is limited to National Open University, Benin Study Centre even though the findings might be generic.
Definition of terms
Use: take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing or achieving something; employ; the action of using something or the state of being used for a purpose.
Student: is a learner, or someone who attends an educational institution; children, teenagers, or adults who attend a school, but it may also be other people who attend a school.