This Day (Lagos)

5 January 2008

Nigeria: Putting a Leash on Pidgin

opinion

Lagos — Tony, how far? Where you dey go? I dey come, make I go buy wetin I go chop. How will the Nigerian youth survive the growing competition with the Pidgin English as its lingua franca?

How long will this thing which has become a bane in the Nigeria educational system continue to stunt the growth of our system?

But how this means of expression get its name? The pigeon is a bird with a small head, plump body and short legs. The similarities in the pronunciation and the meaning of the words "pidgin" and "pigeon", makes one wonder if really the word "pidgin" was got from "pigeon" .

Actually, Pidgin English is a simplified form of English intermixed with any jargon. The history of Pidgin English in Nigeria can be traced to the colonial days when Nigerians were learning to speak the Queen's English. Our forefathers experienced difficulties and so adopted their own style of speaking English, which was a corrupted form of English infused with slang.

The use of Pidgin English is at its peak in the old Bendel and Niger-Delta region of Nigeria .

Nigeria 's official lingua franca (a language which all Nigerians can relate with), English language, has suffered certain disability as the language of colonialism. Since, Pidgin English has been able to bridge the communication gap between the educated and uneducated who cannot speak English, its acceptance and common use continues to rise fast.

Pidgin English has no rules, no lexis and structure. It is flexible and very easy to speak. It's ease is made more so because while speaking it, anything goes . No wonder it is widely spoken by the market women, pupils, students, peer groups and others . Many who speak the language say that it makes communication more colourful .

Gone are the days when those who speak Pidgin English were called illiterates and uncivilized people. Now it is very common to see even presenters on Nigerian TV stations flowing in Pidgin English. Even majority of our music today are delivered in free flowing Pidgin English. Artistes like the late Afro beat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, 2Face Idibia, D'banj, Faze and many more are into the trend of Pidgin English. The rate of acceptance of pidgin in Nigeria has unofficially made it our lingua franca.

It is discouraging to see many Nigerian university graduates who cannot get a simple sentence right in English language. This is due to the frequent usage of Pidgin English within and outside the university campus.

The Nigerian Pidgin English has no official status whatsoever. It is a debased version of English , which makes its possible role in national development unrecognized.

Youths, who are the future of a country, cannot excel if they take pleasure in clinging to a corrupted form of expression. While the gains of unofficial communication within peer group cannot be legislated against, there is a need to rein in the wild dog of "Pidgin English", which has infiltrated the academic environment and the nation as a whole.

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