The Effect Of Pidgin English On The Academic Performance Of Tertiary Students In Nigeria

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The Effect Of Pidgin English On The Academic Performance Of Tertiary Students In Nigeria


The subject matter of this research work is to examine the effect of Nigerian Pidgin English on the academic performance among Adeyemi college of education Students in Ondo state. The main objective of this research work was to find out the impact of Nigerian Pidgin English on students communication and academic performance. The design used for the study is a descriptive survey method. The numbers of students used are one hundred and twenty-five (125) from Adeyemi college of education Ondo. Four research questions were formulated to guide the study, from which the questionnaire was designed.

From the analyzed data, it showed that students frequently use Pidgin in their daily communication within the school premises, lack of effective usage of English language has prompted student to use Pidgin in their communication and the use of Nigeria pidgin by male and female students has encourage wrong use and expression of English language. It was recommended that Staff and students in tertiary institution across the federation should engage the use of Standard English language in the communication rather than use of Nigeria Pidgin. In addition, the use of Nigerian Pidgin by students during official communication should be discouraged by implementing laws that can combat wrong use of English Language in the school environment.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background Of Study

The advent of the colonial master in African presumably marked the beginning of the use of the English language in the West Africa sub-regions. In other words, English which is also Nigeria’s official language was brought to Africa by her former colonial masters. Nigeria, being a multilingual nation, is one of the reason why English is accepted as the language of official communication. The fact that most Nigerians are illiterate and semi-illiterate made the using of English language as the language of official communication a big problem. As a result, the English language started having varieties, among which is, Pidgin English also known as Nigerian English.

Adedoyin (2009. 40) is of the opinion that Pidgin English is developed from a contact English (ce). He sees it as a first variety of the Nigerian English. He stressed that when two people come in contact, the necessity for communication would necessitate the evolvement of a language of communication, a kind of inter-language, which will be a mixture of the two languages in contact. He stressed that Nigeria Pidgin English is a variety which is very strong among the less educated and educated people too. Pidgin English is therefore defined as a language variety used for inter-ethnic context. The oxford advance learners dictionary defines pidgin as any of several languages resulting from contact European traders and local people, for example, in West Africa and the far east, containing elements of the local language(s) and French or Dutch, still used for internal communication.

Yule (2006.) is of the view that it is a variety of a language which was developed for some practical purposes, such as trading among groups of people who had a lot of contact, but who do not know each other’s language. According to Opara (2009.52), pidgin English in Nigeria originated as a trade language that is made up of foreign language and the local language. It also originated as a result of the need for communication among Nigerians living in towns and cities from different ethnic groups who have no common language. Spencer (2001) opined that Nigerian pidgin English developed as a result of intertribal marriages. The importance of Pidgin English in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized.

This version of English cuts across institutions, establishments and societies yet it remains the unofficial lingua-franca in Nigeria. It is the most effective means if interaction among the illiterate servants of the learned masters, the market women, and several other groups of people. The popularity of Pidgin English can be seen in the various ways in which Nigerian business world and the media use it. Apart from using pidgin English for advertisements on radio and television, some bill boards disseminate their information using the pidgin English to communicate to their readers.

For example, Ken Saro Wiwa (2005) in his work, Sozaboy (2005) used pidgin English. Also the work of Amos Tutuola, the Palm Wine Drinkard is also written in the Pidgin English. Soyinka (2004.65) in his work, The Trial of Brother Jero and The Road respectively used the pidgin English to accent the socio-economic aspects of Nigeria of them. In most of his works, the level of pidgin compared with English seems to increase in favour of the former with the degree of informality of its speakers particularly worth mentioning is the road. Notwithstanding, pidgin English though plays an important role in Nigeria, it also has some adverse effects on students’s learning of the English language. They learn this language early in life too. They may learn it from their parents of within the environment which they live. Subsequently, they carry the language to school where it becomes difficult for them to learn the proper language.

Often, several families live in the same compound or in a geographical area who do not understand one another’s language; Pidgin becomes a convenient means of communication among them. Children growing up in such area use the Pidgin English officially and do not anything wrong in it. At school, especially in the southern Nigeria, where we have different ethnic groups residing in same settlements, for instance, cities like Lagos, port Harcourt, Warri and other urban areas, Pidgin English is the commonest means of communication especially outside the classroom.

This makes it difficult for the children of such settlements to use the correct or proper English in the class room because they have learnt Pidgin early in life. It is against this background that analysts have expressed concern over its continued use. They believe that students who speak the Nigerian Pidgin English stand the risk of losing fluency in the standard English going by the fact that the English language is not just Nigeria’s official language but an internationally recognised medium of communication in the contemporary world.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Nigerian Pidgin is a language just as English and there is enough room for both languages to co-exist and be mutually enriching. Despite this – and the fact that Nigerian Pidgin English appears to be the most popular means of communication among diverse groups and is easier to learn than any other language in the country today. The problems that could lead to poor performance of students as regards to the use of pidgin English could be that that was the language they grew up to learn maybe depending on the environment they found themselves and so could be difficult for them to differentiate between pidgin and standard English both in their spoken and written form.

Another could be that the use of pidgin impeded proper communication in the sense that the students have limited language as a means of communication in the country. Finally, several researches carried out on the effect of Nigerian Pidgin English on Nigerian students, but not even a single research has been carried out on the effect of pidgin English on the academic performance of tertiary students in Nigeria (A case study of Adeyemi college of education Ondo).

1.3 Aims And Objectives Of Study

The main aim of the study is to determine the effect of pidgin English on the academic performance of tertiary students in Nigeria. Other specific objectives of the study include;

  1. To determine the extent to which pidgin English affect the academic performance of tertiary students.
  2. To determine the factors enhancing pidgin English amongst tertiary students.
  3. To determine the relationship between pidgin English and standard English and its effects on the academic performance of tertiary students.
  4. To proffer possible solution to the problems.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the extent to which pidgin English affect the academic performance of tertiary students?
  2. What is the factors enhancing Pidgin English amongst tertiary students?
  3. What is the relationship between pidgin English and standard English and its effects on the academic performance of tertiary students?
  4. What is possible solution to the problems.

1.5 Statement Of Research Hypothesis

  • H0: Pidgin English does not have any significant effect on the academic performance of tertiary students.
  • H1: Pidgin English has a significant effect on the academic performance of tertiary students.

1.6 Significance Of Study

The study on the effect of pidgin English on the academic performance of tertiary students, will be of immense benefit to the entire students of Adeyemi college of education, Ondo state in the sense that it will enable them discover that pidgin English has some limitations; for instance they cannot write their examination using pidgin English, they cannot also communicate their ideas in the midst of educated people. It will help them begin to use Standard English so as to be conversant in it and at the same time meet their academic attainment.

This study will benefit the teachers in that it will move them to use simple and correct English in teaching instead of Pidgin English. The school management board will also benefit from this study since it will help them to understand the causes of failure in their written examinations. The authors of textbooks at all level of learning are not left out among the beneficiaries. This study will enable them to realize that using Pidgin English to express themselves will not in any way build up the students whom they are trying to build.

1.7 Scope Of Study

The study on the effect of pidgin English on the academic performance of tertiary students in Nigeria is limited to Adeyemi college of education.

1.8 Limitation Of Study

Financial constraint

Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint

The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.9 Definition Of Terms


A change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

Pidgin English

Is an English-based pidgin and creole language spoken as a lingua franca across Nigeria.

Academic Performance

Performance is the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their short or long-term educational goals

Tertiary Students

These are set of people that acquire knowledge in the third stage, third level, and post secondary education.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion And Recommendation

5.1 Summary

Nigerian Pidgin bridges communication gap in certain sociolinguistic situations where there are no other mutually acceptable language of communication. Nigerian Pidgin is spoken more widely than the Standard English, though the Standard English is the official language and language of education in Nigeria. It belongs strictly to the elites. It is inaccessible to illiterate member of the society but an appreciate number of uneducated Nigeria can speak or at least understand Nigerian Pidgin.

Nigerian Pidgin is widely used in Nigeria. It is used as the first language, second language and lingua franca. It is virtually used in all spheres of life. It is used in schools, media, business circles, church programmes, advertisement etc. it is used by literate, semi-literate and illiterate member of the society. The language expands on daily basis. In-spite of this wide converge, Nigerian Pidgin is mostly used in informal settings and non-governmental transaction. It is not recognized in any of the language policies made in Nigeria. Hence, official documents are not recorded in the language. Undergraduates of various higher institutions in Nigeria hold the highest percentage of Nigerian Pidgin usage. It is now fashionable for students to communicate with their course mates or peers in Nigerian Pidgin.

They equally use it in social network; this of course is mixed with a lot of jargons which are popular among the youths. Most of them speak Standard English in their formal academic pursuit. An appreciate number of the students prefer Nigeria pidgin to English in informal discourse. They claimed that Nigeria pidgin is easier to speak than English language.

5.2 Findings and Conclusion

From the research, findings showed that Nigerian Pidgin is gaining strong ground in educational environment instead of standard use of English language. Though people have conflicting attitude toward Nigerian Pidgin but the attitude is more positive than negative.

The study also revealed that Nigerian Pidgin is substantially being used in communication between staff and students on a daily basis. This in essence has an effect on the flow of fluent English language communication in learning environment in and out of lecture rooms. Also the study unveiled that students frequently use Nigeria pidgin more than Standard English. The lack of effective usage of English has prompted students to use Pidgin in their communication which has negative effect on students’ academic performance. The use of Nigerian Pidgin by male and female students varies from one form to another. From the data analyzed, it is found that male students practically engage in Nigeria pidgin more than female students. This indicates that the Nigeria pidgin is more communicated by the male counterpart. The Nigerian Pidgin as a language is no doubt widely spoken, understood by the people and accepted for effective communication by all classes, illiterate and literate, all over Nigeria. By this, one cannot but agree that Nigerian Pidgin English has an advantage over any other language to be officially adopted as a lingua franca for Nigeria and Nigerians.

In order to attain this height, it is strongly suggested that language planners must work on its codification, which will assist it in serving wider part of the populace, since it is not ethnically bound. When language planners and government indicate practical interest, the attitude of different people towards Nigeria pidgin will change drastically. To gain the proposed ground, it will be pertinent to include it in the National Policy on Education.

5.3 Recommendations

Based on the findings of this study, the following were recommended to enhance proper use of language which can promote positive communication within learning institution;

  1. The Nigerian government should improve on his language policy and accommodate Nigerian Pidgin as Nigeria’s lingua franca and a second official language of the country.
  2. Nigerian Pidgin has no stable orthography. There are different variants of the language. Linguists should endeavor to collate these variants and developed a standard form of the language.
  3. Staff and students in tertiary institution across the federation should engage the use of Standard English language in the communication rather than use of Nigerian Pidgin.
  4. The use of Nigerian Pidgin by students during communication should be discouraged by implementing laws that can combat wrong use of English in the school environment.
  5. 5.Students should positively engage in the use of standard English more often than the use of Nigerian Pidgin in order to improve the right usage of language in communication
  6. The National Orientation Agency, the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education will also play significant roles in propagating, mobilizing and re-orientating the populace on the imports and rationale of using Nigerian Pidgin.

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