Pronunciation Errors Committed By Igbo Users Of English Language (A Case Study Of Schools In Owerri Municipal)

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Pronunciation Errors Committed By Igbo Users Of English Language (A Case Study Of Schools In Owerri Municipal)


This study deals with the pronunciation errors in the spoken English of Igbo students, using secondary schools as a case of study.

In pursuit of this preoccupation, this study is divided into five chapters. The first chapter deals with the introduction of the study or background knowledge, the issues under study generally and the contrastive analysis of both languages was looked upon.

In chapter two, we look at literature review.

In chapter three, we look at the research methodology employed in this study. Here, the questionnaire was used to get the data for this study.

In chapter four the researcher looked at the presentation and analysis of data. The data was presented in a tabular form and analyzed by using percentage technique. In chapter five, we looked at the research findings, summary and conclusion of the study.

Table Of Content

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Title page
  • Certification
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgment
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

  • 1.1 Statement of the Problems
  • 1.2 Purpose of Study
  • 1.3 Research Question
  • 1.4 Significance of Study
  • 1.5 Limitation of Study
  • 1.6 Delimitation of Study
  • 1.7 Contrastive Analysis of English and Igbo

Chapter Two

2.0 Literature Review

Chapter Three:

3.0 Methodology

  • 3.1 Population of Study
  • 3.2 Testing instrument/Sample Technique
  • 3.3 Location/Area Of Study
  • 3.4 Method of Presentation and Analysis

Chapter Four:

4.0 Research Findings

  • 4.1 Preamble
  • 4.2 Data Presentation/Analysis

Chapter Five:

Summary, Conclusion And Recommendation

  • 5.1 Discussion of Findings from Inquiry/Interpretation
  • 5.2 Summary of Research Findings
  • 5.3 Conclusion
  • 5.4 Recommendation
  • 5.5 Suggestion for Further Research
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

English as first language (L1) refers to the variety of English spoken and used by people whose mother tongue is English. These people are regarded as native speakers of English and they include the British, Canadians, Americans, Australians and new Zealanders. Children born in these countries acquire the language naturally as they grow up and do not make any conscious effort to learn the language. These people posses the native speaker competence which makes it possible for them to make an infinite number of utterances from a finite set of phonological rules; distinguished between meaningful and meaningless utterances, and to make ambiguous from unambiguous utterances.

English as a second language (L2) is a technical term used to refer to English spoken and used by people who are non- native speakers of the language. It is English spoken in countries such as India, Ghana; Nigeria etc. these people have their own native languages as their first language (L1), which they acquire from childhood easily and unconsciously. English to them is a second language because it is learnt after acquiring the native language.

Also, English can be seen as a foreign language in some other countries. These countries have their official languages but learn and use English for carrying out certain specialized activities such as tourism and diplomatic relations. Such countries may have indigenous languages as mother tongue and other languages as official language.

The English language has attained a high status in Nigeria. In the colonial days, because English was the language of administration of government business, it was highly rated by Nigerians. This was especially so because the colonialists convinced Nigerians that the English culture was superior to the indigenous culture and the opinion was accepted as valid.

Today, the situation is no less different since English occupies a dominate position in Nigeria that is even higher than our indigenous languages. This is so because English plays certain important roles which the indigenous languages are incapable of playing at the moment. English plays the crucial role of forging unity among various ethnic groups since Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society. English is the official language in Nigeria and the language of international relations. English is used for mass media purposes. The transmission and acquisition of knowledge and skill is done in English and English is also seen as the vehicle for the upward movement in social ladder, because it is a necessary requirement for those seeking admission into institutions of higher learning such as universities and polytechnics.

However, there are constraints and impediments in the process of using or speaking English as a second language (L2). This has given the cultural activities an added voice to their claim, that user of English as L2 cannot achieve the competence of native speakers and therefore, should speak it with local innovations. A contrary view is held by the linguistic activities. They maintained that a language is made up of specific sound segments and users should learn to produce them distinctly as produce by the native speakers.

Igbo on the other hand is made up of a variety of dialects which emerged as a result of village isolations of the past, caused by fear and insecurity, geographical factors such as dense forest, hills, rivers and total absence of means of communication such as roads. As a result some communities speak their own dialect of Igbo.
One feature of the language is that it has peculiarity like the lack of consonant clusters and also words ending in vowels. The dialect of Igbo that will be used in this work will be the standard Igbo dialect known as central Igbo.

1.1 Statement Of Problems

Problems in pronunciation errors committed by Igbo users of English language could be categories as linguistic, pedagogical and organizational.

Linguistic problems refer to the problems that are observed by looking at the structural differences between the mother–tongue (L1) and the target language (L2). The difference constitutes learning problems. Difficulties vary between mother tongue acquisitions and the target language learning, especially if the target language and the mother tongue do not belong to the same family of languages.

English and Igbo do not belong to the same group or family. Some of the problems arising from the linguistic differences are both segmental and supra-segmental. Such as differences in the quality and length of vowels, and the peculiar nature of consonants, problems arising from analogy and problem of stress, rhythm and intonation. Most Igbos find it difficult to use English effectively because of mother tongue interference.

Pedagogic problems of English language learning refer to the problems relating to the act of teaching and learning, as they affect the differences in the mother tongue and English language learning situations. One of the differences can be looked at from the perspective of the learner. Where the learner is young with a very fertile and flexible mind, it is easier for him to grasp the language quickly.

The learner at this stage has the capacity to play without fatigue; he is less conscious of himself and therefore, learns by imitating, repeating, copying and memorizing what he is taught. By the age of four or five, every normal human child has acquired his mother–tongue. It is at this age that effective teaching of English should start with emphasis on the phonology.

Furthermore, social attitudes towards the language determine the level of competence. Some Igbos today, still do not see the importance of English as second language (L2), they feel it is the language of the colonial masters.

Lastly, is the organizational problems in English language teaching, which are appreciated in terms of what to teach, what aspect of the language to teach, whom to teach and how to teach. These have to be approached and tackled in an appropriate organizational framework. On the whole, they relate to what should go into the classroom teaching.

Answers to organizational problems will depend on the educational system of the country and on the planning, the learning and teaching of the L2. It is suggested that English should be taught by competent professional qualified teachers.

1.2 Purpose Of Study

The purpose of this study or a study of this kind is necessary in that it helps in the identification of Igbo speakers or users of English who as linguistically handicapped. However, the work is simply aimed at the study or evaluation of the deficiencies or difficulties encountered by the Igbo speakers or users of English language as a second language.

The study is designed to enhanced the teaching and learning among the Igbos of the spoken form of English. It is also designed to help Igbo users or speakers of English in the acquisitions of rudimentary elements of pronunciation and improve upon it for an intelligible communication.

Finally the study will suggest ways of eliminating these specific problems and remedy the defect that result form them.

1.3 Research Question

  1. Do secondary school students study pronunciation in English?
  2. Are there common pronunciation errors among Igbo students’ users of English?
  3. Does the student environment or home background affect performance in the pronunciation?
  4. Are government and teachers to be blamed for students’ errors in pronunciation?
  5. Does mother tongue interference affect students’ pronunciation?

1.4 Significance Of Study

This work is restricted to the Igbo people. The world “Igbo” is used interchangeably to refer to the language and the people who speak it. This long essay is important because it will enable students, graduates, teachers and people of Igbo communities, who want to speak English as L2, see some if the areas of contrast between English and Igbo phonology. It will enable them identify areas of difficulty likely to be encountered during communication

Every human society has a language with which the people inhabiting the place interact. Language is purely a human of activity. There are many other forms of communication apart from speech. These are the written medium, drum, whistle, signals etc but speech is the most convenient and efficient of all the forms of communication.

1.5 Limitation Of The Study

This research work is limited to time and money. One of the outstanding problems in the course of carrying out this research will be financial problem; transportation will pose a problem as there will be needs to travel to the different secondary schools in Owerri municipal in other to dispatch the questionnaires and to get in touch with them. This militated against the work as fares will be high. And again almost every item needed for this work will be bought with money.

It is not just enough to do a work of this nature within a very short period of time. Similarity, the space given for it does not give room for an elaborate work, which is the work, is too vast to be exhaustively dealt with.

1.6 Delimitation Of Study

This work is delimited to the Igbo speakers of English. It means that these speakers are bilinguals having Igbo as their L1 or mother tongue. They learn English and do not acquire it, that is English is not the bilinguals first language.

The case study is delimited to three secondary schools in Owerri municipal, in order to enable me do a thorough investigation. The schools used are; a boy’s secondary school, a girl’s secondary school and a co-educational secondary school. The study will be carried out by questionnaire. Finally, this work is delimited to senior secondary school only because facilities available for teaching oral English or test of oral is done at this level of education in the secondary school.

1.7 Contrastive Analyses Of English And Igbo

It is only through phonology that proper articulation of sounds can be ensured, more so, its importance or relevance cannot be underscored to a second language learner or user. In order to achieve the aim of this work, a brief study of some of the English and Igbo phonology will be carried out for what we consider as its benefit to the study. It will also make way for the contrastive studies of the language in question.

Rodman defines phonology as the study of sounds patterns found in human language. He adds that it is also the kind of knowledge that speakers have about the sound patterns of their particular language (101). Adetugbo 1979 writes that phonology is a level of linguistic organization of significant sound for which it provides rules, not only of their phonetic realization, but also of their distribution (103). Phonology goes further to study speech sounds as constituting a system in any language. It is usually defined as the main unit in the sound system of language that can keep utterance a part.
For example:-

  1. The goat was there
  2. The boat was there

Adetugbo observes that the sentences differ only in the initial sounds of their second words, goat/boat and the differences in their meaning is noticeable by the replacement of (b) for (g) so (b) and (g) according to Adetugbo are significant sounds in English because they contrast, that is, they keep meaning apart. They are phonemes (b) and (g) (104).

Language exhibit that differences from one another in the ways which consonants and vowel sounds are grouped into syllable is words.

A phoneme is the smallest individual unit of sounds that has meaning. English phonemes are 44 in numbers out of these, 20 are vowels while 24 are consonant. The consonants are divided into pure consonant and fricatives, while the vowels are divided into diphthongs and pure vowels. The vowels and consonants represent the segmental phoneme. The stress, intonation and assimilation represent the supra–segmental phoneme.

Phonetics, on the other hand, is a systematic study of the sounds of the languages and the way in which they are produced (Christopher, 4). It also studies the characteristics of human sound making and provides a method for their description, classification and transcription. Abercrombie sees phonetics as the study of the medium of spoken language in all study of the medium of spoken language in all aspect and all aspect and all its varieties (27).

The branches of phonetics, which are interwoven, are articulatory phonetics (studies the way speech sounds are made by the speech organs). Acoustic phonetics (studies the physical properties of speech sounds) auditory phonetics (studies the perception of sounds) and instrumental phonetics.

Phonetics and phonology are related. They are concerned with sounds. But phonological acquisition deals with the study of how the speech sounds of a given language are acquired while phonetic acquisition studies how the sounds that the human vocal organs are capable of producing. In other words, phonology is language specific, while phonetics is language universal. It is outside the scope of this research work to go into the acoustic description of sound or the mechanism of sounds, which pose difficulties to the Igbo speakers of English.

Segmental Level: English Consonant

Consonant are sounds (voiced and voiceless), the production of which the movement of the air through the air passage is obstructed as a result of total or partial closure, Elizabeth Dunstan (1969:10) A.C Gimson (1980) records twenty four significance consonantal sounds in English. These consonants are distinguished by two general categories: the voiced (lenis) and the voiceless (forties).

In the articulation of the voiced consonants, there is a total closure which causes friction at the place of articulation while in the articulation of the voiceless sounds the vocal cords are open and there is no vibration. There are twenty four phonemic consonant in English as represented in the chart below. Daniel Jones (2006:10).

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion And Recommendation

5.1 Discussion Of Findings From Inquiry Preamble

The findings of this study reveal that they students speak English language as a second language. This is so because they already have their mother tongue; the students speak English because it is part of their essential colonial heritage. English in addition to their mother tongue (Igbo) makes them bi-lingual.

As Igbo student, they find it difficult to speak English like the native speakers; rather, they allow their mother tongue to influence them consciously or unconsciously. This mother tongue interference makes it possible for one to known the ethnic group or tribe of these speakers (Igbo). Again, this mother-tongue interference makes it difficult for Igbo to pronounce words in English as they are expected to. They pronounce them with high accent, so much that you can easily tell where they come from.

The pronunciation errors due to mother tongue interference greatly impede the meaning of what they Igbo student users want to convey. This is because more often than not, what they speak is not communicated because of the way it was pronounced. This is shown by the students response to question 1and 3.

The teachers on the other hand stated that the textbooks recommended for students by the government are not appropriate for teaching and learning English, they argue that some of the books are not comprehensive in the topics they treat. In addition, not many teachers have guides and reference books on the teachers of oral English. The government and education boards have failed to provide teachers with such teaching aids to facilitate language teaching.

English is a difficult language because it is learnt as a second language and therefore should be toughly daily. But because of the work load of the students and teachers alike, English is taught in schools for only forty-five minutes in a maximum of four times a week. This greatly slows down the pace of learning since not much will be taught and grasped over a short period of time.

Another factor facing the students is that some of the language teachers are not competent to teach the language. Although they all possess a minimum of the Nigerian certificate in Education. The researcher observed that some of them did not specialize in English, but are made to teach the subject because of the lack of language teachers. It was also observed that majority of the teachers admitted that they had no language laboratories in the respective higher institutions they attended and therefore find the oral aspect of teaching very difficult.

However, this pronunciation error can be eradicated if the Igbo bi-lingual students make out time to listen to ‘good’ speakers of English. This goes to say that listening is an important aspect of language learning.

Again, reading good textbooks in oral English can help to reduce pronunciation errors among Igbo students.
Moreover, speaking English regularly will help to prompted efficiency in oral speech. When the English learner engages in this project of speaking regularly, he is bound to learn how to speak.

Another thing that helps one to overcome pronunciation errors is living in an environment where English is spoken as a first language. This is to say that learning English from the native speakers helps a great deal to reduce the errors in pronunciation.

5.2 Summary Of Research Findings

The study has systematically identified, categorized and explained the aspects of English language students find difficult, they are s follows extent the learning of the English language posses’ problems to the students, the extent students. Mother tongue interfere with their learning of the English language and the extent some curricula factors have adversely affected students’ learning of the English language.

The researcher used S.S III students as her sample drawn from three secondary schools in Owerri municipal. The major instrument used for data collection is the questionnaire. Others are, test conducted by the researcher, note taking and observation out of personal experience. The analysis of the data collected and result of the analysis were presented including the interpretation and discussion of results of the analysis.

5.3 Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no doubt that students find English as a difficult subject to learn. There is equally no doubt that Nigerian student’s lack proficiency in the English language. Numerous studies have been carried out and the researchers all come up with the same conclusion. Nigerian pupils’ lack of proficiency in the English language has been confirmed by numerous studies, Tomori (1967), Afolayan (1968) and Davis (1967) to mention a few Obemeate (1984:3).

The evidence produced by the result from the questionnaire is discouraging. As noted by Broughton et al (1978; 174) English is taught in three types of situations in secondary schools. There are some students who are learning English solely because the system demands it, there are those who are strongly motivated to learn English because they realize the role of English in Nigeria while the third situation is that in which English is the medium of instruction. No matter the reasons for learning, it has been proved that students’ performance in oral English is very poor.

5.4 Recommendation

Most teachers suggest that the choice of textbooks required for teaching should wholly be the responsibility of language teachers and principles of the respective schools. If the education ministers insist on recommending textbooks for students, the opinions of language teachers should be sought before such books are recommended.
It is of primary importance that students be supplied with necessary and enough textbooks. Parents should make the provision of textbooks for their children point of duty.

Furthermore, schools need to be provided with tape recorders so that the language teachers will be able to record what the students say in oral classes, listen to the tape recordings in their private homes and be able to know and correct the students’ errors.

Other teaching and learning aids like language laboratories and radios should, if possible, be provided for the students. A language laboratory will greatly improve students’ phonetics.

Again, students should be encouraged to speak English always that is at home and in school. They should endeavor to converse in English with any educated person they come across in the villages.

The background of training given to students in primary schools influence their performance later in secondary schools. Primary school teachers should also include graduates who specialize in child development. English should be introduced to the student right from nursery school so that by the time they go into primary school, the student will be able to pronounce or speak oral English.

5.5 Suggestion For Further Research

The researcher recommends the following topics to future researchers on the area of English language. Phonon – syntactic error analysis of Igbo bi-lingual.

Such an investigation will help to establish the degree of relationship between deviance and communicative competence exhibited by secondary school students in their use of words and sound.

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