Effects Of Pidgin English In Standard English Usage Among Students In Selected Secondary Schools

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Effects Of Pidgin English In Standard English Usage Among Students In Selected Secondary Schools


The use of Pidgin English in the Nigerian context has gone beyond verbal communication to become more of a mode of behaviour as its expression has moved from informal conversation to formal situations. This above scenario necessitated this study which investigates the effects of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu in Isi-Uzo L. G. A. Using the descriptive research design and the questionnaire as the research instruments, data were collected from a sample of 200 students and 35 teachers from four selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu. Also, copies of the written essays of the selected students were analysed to complement results from the questionnaire.

Findings reveal that the use of Pidgin English is traceable to the students’ homes. However, the finding that students do not use Pidgin English in their written essays were largely contradicted by the avalanche of Pidgin English usage found in the written essays of the students which also reveal an adverse effect of Pidgin on Standard English both in spelling and contextual usage. The researcher, therefore, concludes that the use of Pidgin English creates a form of identity among students and hence recommends that constant monitoring and evaluation of language use in teaching and learning in Nigeria will help check the trend of usage of Pidgin English which will guide policy making aimed at addressing this ugly trend.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Language in multilingual societies such as Nigeria has always been a matter of concern to educators, educational planners and parents especially with regard to its appropriate use in communication. The English language is the medium of instruction in all Nigerian educational institutions at all levels. This is the basis for Olaore’s comments, “… in the countries language policy, the fact that for a long time to come, English will continue to play a prominent role in the socio-economic and political development in Nigeria as the language of administration, politics, industry, education, science and technology is of paramount importance,’ (21). The English language, to a large extent, functions as a second language in Nigeria. Although Nigeria is believed to have more than four hundred (400) languages with over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups, (Emenanjo, 73), the English language is the only language used for all forms of official transaction. Despite the central role the English language has been playing in communication process nationwide, the language excludes the majority of uneducated Nigerians who live in rural communities. Some Nigerian communities have more than six distinct but mutually unintelligible languages. This makes communication among neighbours difficult. Emenanjo cited in Otagburuagu and Okorji (2003) notes that Nigerian linguistic geography is so complex that language communities can fall into small language groups called chontonolects. The convolutions in the Nigerian linguistics ecology as Otagburuagu (99) noted, has made the use of Nigerian Pidgin a more universal and inconclusive language, inevitable in both formal and informal domains.Tracing the history of Pidgin English, Quirk et al pointed out that “Pidgin historically began as simply a language marked by traditional interference used chiefly by the prosperous and privileged section of a community represents by the unskilled and illiterate class of the society”. This situation, however, is not so with the Nigeria Pidgin. Studies have shown that the Nigeria Pidgin began as an English-based Pidgin and later metamorphosed into various forms and patterns in its usage, (Obiechina, 85;Elugbe, 285 and Egbokhare, 21-40).

Nigerian Pidgin English is seen as a version of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of Lingua Franca across the country especially among students. In an attempt to define Nigerian Pidgin English, Elugbe and Omamur (48), see it as ‘some kind of a marginal language that arises to fulfill specific communication needs in a well-defined circumstance.’ Furthermore, Nigerian Pidgin is a somewhat pejorative label used by native speakers of English to describe the often hysterical violations of the basic rules of Standard English syntax by non-native speakers of the language. Kperogi (4) further describes Pidgin as a technical term in linguistics that refers to a “contact” or “trade” language that emerged fromthe fusion of foreign, usually European, language and indigenous, usually non-European languages. Here, the European language provided most of the vocabulary and the indigenous languages produce the structure of the language. The cultural language which language emanates from has far reaching influences on its predominant usage as is the case with Nigerian Pidgin. Its variation, no doubt is not unconnected with the culture of its users. It is in the light of this that Abdullah – Idiagbom in his study on “TheSociolinguistic of Nigerian Pidgin (English) on University Campus” quoting Brooks, N (1969) Posits: ‘It is through the magic of language that man comes eventually to understand to an impressive degree the environment to which he lives and still more surprising, gains an insight into his own nature and his own condition.’ (2) The teachers and students are victim of these observations about Nigerian Pidgin. And perhaps the cultural influence of the native language on the teacher is largely reflected on the students since no student is believed not to be greater than his/her teacher. In view of this, Akujobi and Chukwu(57), quoting Ashby submitted that ‘the quality of English used in the classroom is such that all pupils are to a serious disadvantage. It cannot be doubted that thousands of the most gifted are unable to further their education because they were not taught well the language in which they were examined.’ They further pointed out that ‘according to the canons of the discipline for language pedagogy, the more the difference between the system of the target language, the more difficult learning invariably becomes and the smaller the difference, the easier the learning.’

The above assertion gives credence to the difficulty faced by students who grew up in an environment where native language is widely used than Standard English in teaching and learning. This will make their learning of the Standard English a herculean task. Students’ daily use of their native language in communication within and outside the school has further enhanced the use of Nigerian Pidgin which is derived from a blend of the morphology of the native language and the syntax of the Standard English in its usage.

In real sense, no language is inferior or superior to the other. But what enhances its continuous usage is the specific communication needs that it serves and competence attained by its users over a long period of time whichalso makes it a norm among a well-defined group of users. It is also true that where two or more speech communities come in contact, a lingua franca or common language of communication tends to emerge (Stockwell, 18). The distortion which Nigerian Pidgin has on the Standard English is in varying degree and magnitude. Looking at this Nigerian Pidgin sentence: “Wetindeyhapunnau?” one knows that it is a derivative of the Standard English equivalent – “What is happening now?” Now we see that the expression “Wetindey’ is a distortion of “What is”; “hapun” is also another distortionof “happening” while “nau” is a corruption of “now”. Other examples are as follows:

Examples Meaning

  • Long throat glutton
  • Bad belle envy
  • Busy-body loquacious
  • Shine your eye be smart or clever
  • Country people citizens
  • Wetin I deyyan? What am I saying?
  • E don tey it’s been long
  • Kpafuka spoil
  • Olokpa police

1.2 Statement of the Problem

There is a general belief among students that Pidgin English serves as a variety of English that facilitates communication though it is a deviation from the norm. The above assumption provided the basis for the use of Pidgin especially among students. The use of Pidgin goes beyond verbal communication and has become more of a verbal behavior as its expression has moved from the boundaries of informal conversation to formal situations. Scholars have called for the urgent consideration and pronouncement of Nigeria Pidgin as co-official language with English, (Balogun, 2012; Amao, 2012; Uguru, 2003; Elugbe and Omamor, 1991). According to Uguru (43), ‘Nigerian Pidgin plays a very important role in communication in Nigeria. If it will be recognized as a co-official language with English, it will enhance the participation of all citizens in the economic,social and political development of the country.’ Party to this assertion are Elugbe and Omamur (48) who want the use of Pidgin in the classroom especially in Edo and Delta states where virtually everybody speaks the language with proficiency. Now, it is a known fact that what one reads regularly influences the way one speaks and writes. Students regularly expose themselves to songs with lyrics written in Pidgin, magazines and jokes written in Pidgin as well as movies with Pidgin as their predominant language of communication. All these influence students’ predominant language of communication especially among themselves within and outside the school. ‘The argument,’ according to Onuigbo and Eyisi, ‘in favour of Pidgin as a compromise language and that which could foster unity among the diverse ethnic groups has some surface attraction but many have not paused to consider the possible negative effects on the standard usage of English among pupils and students in Nigerian schools,’ (141). It is an established fact that Pidgin English exists in Nigeria which linguists call the Nigerian pidgin and that studies have been carried out on itseffects on Standard English (Oko, 2013; Agbo, 2008) among others. The researcher observes that no special attention has been given to assess the level of the damage done on Eha-Amufu students’ use of the Standard English by constant use of Nigeria Pidgin English. The problem which this research therefore seeks to investigate is the extent to which Pidgin Englishhas affected the use of Standard English among students in selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu, Isi-Uzo L.G.A. of Enugu State.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

This study intends to:

  1. Find out the extent of Pidgin English usage among secondary schools in EhaAmufu.
  2. Determine the factors that inform students’ usage of Pidgin in secondary schools in Eha-Amufu.
  3. Ascertain the extent of harm done by Pidgin English on the written works of secondary school students in Eha-Amufu.
  4. Find out ways to mitigate the effects of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among secondary schools students in Eha-Amufu.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions will guide this study:

  1. To what extent is Pidgin English spoken by students in secondary schools in Eha-Amufu?
  2. To what extent does Pidgin English affect the written essays of secondary school students in Eha-Amufu?
  3. What can be done to mitigate the effects of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among secondary school students in Eha-Amufu.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

  1. H0: Pidgin English is not spoken among secondary school students.
    H1: Pidgin English is spoken among secondary school students.
  2. H0: Pidgin English does not affect the students’ written essay.
    H1: Pidgin English do affect the students’ written essay.
  3. H0: Pidgin English does not affect the Standard English spoken by secondary school students.
    H1: Pidgin English affects the Standard English spoken by secondary school students.

1.6 Significance of the Study

Professionally, the findings from this study will serve as a useful guide to language planners and policy makers on the educational sector to trace the trend and come up with a policy framework to enrich the use of Standard English as against Nigerian Pidgin.

To the academia, the study will serve as a springboard upon which further research can be carried out, possibly to explore new ways where Nigerian Pidgin can be a useful learning tool. Also the findings in this study will further enrich the body of knowledge already tapped on the use of Nigerian pidgin and its effects. Students will use the findings and recommendation from this study to examine the extent of the danger which the use of Pidgin have meted on their usage of the Standard English and ways and approaches to avoid further harm.

The teacher on the other hand, will use the findings to evaluate their method of teaching and interaction with the students. This they will do when they read from the findings the dangers Pidgin English usage have done on their writing and speaking skills.

1.7 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study is delimited to assessing the effects of Nigerian Pidgin English in written and spoken conversation of students in selected secondary schools in Eha-Amufu, Isi-Uzo L.G.A. of Enugu State.

However, this study is not without limitations. A research like this requires re-evaluation after some time to know whether the percentage of those affected is increasing or decreasing. The researcher could not reevaluatethe results from one study to another within this study because of the time frame given for this work. Secondly, responses from the students are likely to be subjective because they will like to please the researcher through their answers. Finally, some of the facts cannot be substantiated because they emanate from students.

1.8 Definition of Terms


The language that is spoken in the UK, the US, and in many other countries


The body of words used in a particular language.


A language is a system of communication which consists of a set of sounds and written symbols which are used by the people of a particular country or region for talking or writing.

Nigeria Pidgin:

Nigerian Pidgin is an English-based pidgin and creole language spoken as a lingua franca across Nigeria. The language is commonly referred to as “Pidgin” or Broken (pronounced “Brokin”).

1.9 Organization of the Study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to reiterate that the objective of this study was to assess the effect of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among students in selected secondary schools.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in supporting the view that there huge benefits are accrued to the establishment and management of small scale poultry farm.

5.2 Summary

During the investigation to find out the extent to which Pidgin English has affected the use of Standard English among students in Eha-Amufu, the study found out the extent of Pidgin English usage, the factors that informstudents’ usage, the extent of harm done on their use of Standard English and outlined some ways to mitigate these effects. Based on these, the study addresses the research questions.

The findings from this study reveal that students’ use of Pidgin English is traceable to their homes. They use it often at home. Their responses showed that they rarely use Pidgin English in other areas such as; with classmates, during class activities and with some teachers. Students use Pidgin English more at home or outside school activities like in the market and in the church than during school activities. Furthermore, most of them do not use the social media because if they do, that would have ranked highest. If they find themselves in a social gathering, they seldom use Pidgin. This finding agrees with the assertion by Amao (4) and Fasan (24) who noted that ‘Nigerian Pidgin is a predominant language of expression and a form of solidarity or mark of identity among the various multi-ethnic groups of young people who crave to create effective urban culture in their respective locations.

It is also acknowledged as a formidable stride in the recreation of Nigerian and African socio-cultural identity.’ This underscores the prevalence of the use of Pidgin English among the sampled respondents, especially at their home.
Also, from the results in their written essays, Pidgin English has affected the writing style of students. This finding contradicted the result which shows the response on the extent of harm done by Pidgin English on students’ academic performance. All respondents disagree with this researcher that Pidgin English has an adverse effect on their use of the Standard English. But when given a simple essay on ‘How I Spent My Last Holiday’, the effects were quite obvious. This corroborates with the assertion that Pidgin is a fundamental simpler form of communication and that the grammar and phonology are usually as simple as possible consisting of uncomplicated grammatical structure, reduction of syllabus codas and reduction of consonant cluster. On the factors that determine their usage of Pidgin English, this study found that most of the respondentsenjoy using Pidgin English, even though a greater percentage denied they prefer using Pidgin English when compared to Standard English usage. There appear to be some form of contradiction in these statements because one cannot claim to prefer what he/she does not enjoy using.

This study also found that more respondents claim that Pidgin English conveys what they want to say better than Standard English. This agrees with what Balogun found out in his study entitled In Defense of
Nigerian Pidgin.According to him: “Nigerian pidgin serves as a convenient form of communication in reaching targeted audience in the informal setting,” It has been established that Pidgin is a simplified language and itsconstant use results in the inability of students to make a complete sentenceand spell a word correctly in the Standard English. This has been a majorproblem that has always resulted in mass failure in the English Language inWAEC as seen in the findings recorded in, even though the sampled students in this study claim that Pidgin has not affected their written andspoken English in any way. However, confirmatory findingsfrom the marked students show a preponderance of indiscriminate use of
Pidgin in their work.

5.3 Conclusion

From the findings in this study, it can be inferred that there is relativeinfluence on students’ use of Pidgin from their home and since parentsappear not to take it up with the students at home, the effect has now beenfelt in the school.

Also, Pidgin English (as was found in this study) was used to create a formof identity for the students who find it convenient to express themselves easier in Pidgin than in Standard English when communicating with theirpeers. There is a sense of denial in young people when confronted with their weakness as regards the use of Pidgin. No student will want to give an impression of himself or herself as one that uses Pidgin in examination or inwriting assignments. But a closer scrutiny will reveal the true nature of one who pretends over issues of this magnitude.

Using outright ban or prohibition of Pidgin English in schools does not seem to stop its usage but a deliberate and conscious effort at instilling in the mind of the students the knowledge of Pidgin’s adverse effect on their academics and the danger of its persistent use will go a long way in mitigating the adverse effect of using Pidgin in schools.

5.4 Recommendations

From the foregoing, the researcher makes the following recommendations:

  1. There should be constant monitoring and evaluation of language usein teaching and learning in Nigerian schools to check the trend ofusage of Pidgin.
  2. Teachers should always caution students each time they use Pidgin informal school settings.
  3. Students should be constantly exposed to debate competitions and other activities that will help improve their use of Standard English.
  4. Parents should be made to know the negative effects of Pidgin on students’ academic performance. Once this is done, students’ use of Pidgin English at home will be minimized. Using Pidgin English at home is like a ‘mental block’ that prevents them from fully using the Standard English correctly. Once the students are motivated from the home, they will have a lower affective filter which allows more input into their language acquisition device (LAD).
  5. Teachers should also be exposed to seminars and workshops to train them on how they can help improve students’ usage of Standard English and ways to mitigate the incessant use of Pidgin by students.

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