Nigeria’s Linguistic Policy: Why Not Try Pidgin (2)

(By Femi Oni) 

Pidgin is a language that has brought Nigerians together in spite of their differences in ancestral culture and language by creating a local culture for itself which blends ideas from different cultures. It is the most effective means of communication and interaction among the illiterate and even the literate people of different ethno linguistic backgrounds. It is also the only language possessed in common by all-people and their families. It is a language that is good for cracking jokes.

Continued from yesterday

LOCAL knowledge (indigenous/traditional knowledge) has a part to play in development interventions. It should be the basis for building local capacity and competence. China is recognised internationally in the field of complementary medicine with acupuncture, acupressure, and Chinese herbs, all developed using the Chinese language. Indigenous knowledge represents an important component of global knowledge of development issues yet it is an underutilised resource in the development process. There is currently a renewed interest in Nigeria biodiversity and the indigenous knowledge that abound therein, especially pharmaceutical companies. Many companies employ scholars to learn Nigerian languages then go to the hinterland as researchers, to gather information about what local communities know and have-intellectual property – that can improve understanding of local as well as global conditions. But as luck would have it, many of our local researchers that should have suggested policies to reverse this trend are busy agitating for pettifogging remuneration increment and downing tools at the slightest provocation (ASUU Strike)! Local languages can be empowered by utilising them more widely in the education process, utilising the knowledge of how the elders in the society have dealt with development issues and incorporating that knowledge into the education of its young people.

  State governors need to have a better understanding of the range of knowledge systems in their respective states and how they can be harnessed for the development of the educational system of its state. Once scientists, agriculturalists, etc. learn more about the indigenous/traditional practices in their respective local communities, they will be better able to adapt global knowledge to local conditions and to design activities to more effectively serve the needs of their local communities. Kudos should be given to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of the State of Osun for the giant strides recorded in the education of the state through the integration of study of ifa in the state educational curriculum. Governors of other state should endeavour to emulate this too.  Local, indigenous knowledge—sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings that encompass language, naming and classification systems—is a key resource for empowering communities to combat marginalisation, poverty and impoverishment. An indigenous language enables Nigerians to participate in globalisation on its own terms. As part of the vision for Nigerian educational advancement, technological and scientific discourse should be conducted in indigenous language.

  With the foregoing, the acceptability and recognition of Pidgin English as Nigerian lingua franca is long overdue. It is of interest to note that if there is any language to be suggested for adoption as a lingua franca or national language for Nigeria, the current popularity of Nigerian pidgin has made it the only one. In fact, Pidgin English is fast becoming very popular in the country, especially in the secondary schools and in the universities; even at public functions as well as in the offices. Nigerian Pidgin is a situation where normal language pattern is altered, but generally accepted to convey meaning. The language does not only evolve but also has its origin from a mixture of other languages. Pidgin is a language of its own and not just a supplementary tongue as some people tend to see it, since it serves as an unlimited instrument of social communication especially in a multilingual community. Pidgin is a language that has brought Nigerians together in spite of their differences in ancestral culture and language by creating a local culture for itself which blends ideas from different cultures. It is the most effective means of communication and interaction among the illiterate and even the literate people of different ethno linguistic backgrounds. It is also the only language possessed in common by all-people and their families. It is a language that is good for cracking jokes.

  Today, the functions of Nigerian Pidgin have become more extensive. Apart from expanding its territorial spreads as a lingua franca on ethnically heterogeneous areas it is now used in radio and television broadcasts and in poetry and drama. It is certain that no other language, be it indigenous or foreign, has the number of speakers that Nigerian pidgin has (it is clearly the most widely spoken language in Nigeria today. The level of popularity of Pidgin in Nigeria is not only overwhelming but convincing, such that, among many Nigerians most especially in rural areas where communication could have become a problem, it is spoken and understood. It is, however, a pity that in spite of the seeming importance of Pidgin in a heterogeneous and multi-lingual state like Nigeria, a lot of people still do not accept it. Even those who helped to sustain it by speaking it refused to recognise it. One meets highly placed government officials who speak Nigerian Pidgin but do not believe it should be allocated a prominent role in language policy in Nigeria. Nigerian Pidgin is like a child nobody wants to claim but who is sent on errands by everybody. It is surprising that no language is widely and better used than Pidgin, yet, on official ground, it does not exist. The negative attitude towards Pidgin English and its use in formal settings is as a result of the misconception people have about it. Its simplicity has been misconstrued over the years. If Nigerian Pidgin is taken through all necessary processes of standardisation, codification and modernisation, it is likely to gain more prestige and win better recognition in all quarters. Nigerian Pidgin can attain standardisation by encouraging more textbooks and written materials (especially scientific and technological materials) on Pidgin English since it is obvious that the language is gradually taking over from English Language.

    Over the years, Pidgin in Nigeria has expanded, stabilised and probably creolised. This is because at times, linguistic resources like borrowing and coinage are resorted to in order to cope with day-to-day emerging functions and concepts. For instance, the word “askari” is an Arabic word for police while the word “solo” is a coinage used to mean “calm down”. These have been introduced by the Nigerian youth to swell up the lexical register of their Pidgin typologies. Examples of usage of Pidgin English in our daily activities includes if you wan scope that chick, make you first download the babe’s data meaning If you want to woo that lady you should first get information about her. Also, come wack meaning come and eat. Also Pidgin English can also be used for casual greetings or asking for favour, for instance, How runs? Meaning How is work?

   In conclusion, it should be noted that against the widely held belief of the ethnical neutrality of the Pidgin English, it needs to be stressed that the language is however not ethnically neutral but rather ethnical balanced. By this, the writer means by ethnical neutrality a language that does not identify with any ethnic group (which of course is not true), while ethnically balanced signifies that the language accommodates contributions from other substrate languages.

Concluded.

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