ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION ERRORS AMONG ELECTRONIC MEDIA PRACTITIONERS IN SOUTH EASTERN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
As the world advances technologically the task of communication becomes deeper ever more complex and subtle. Development in communication takes place not only because of technological discoveries but also because there are conscious opportunities and social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual needs. The gap is growing between minorities which control communication and public which is exposed to its impact. At the same time, government agencies and the media encroach on what had been the domain of private life. As a matter of fact, there is great need for contact and sufficient exchange of knowledge and ideas within, between and amongst nations in order to improve communication system.
Nigeria is an information society. An information society is a society where the creation, distribution, use of integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political and cultural activity. The aim of information society is to gain competitive advantage internationally through using information technology (IT) in a creative and productive way.
There is currently no universally accepted concept of what exactly can be termed information society. It goes beyond internet. The growth of technologically mediated information has been quantified in different ways including society’s technological capacity to store information, to communicate and compute information.
An information society is the means of getting information from one place to another. Works, S (1997:22) put it’
“As technology has become more advanced over time so too has the way we have adapted in sharing this information with each others”.
From sharing information such as talking Online, Social Conversation, interviews, press release, these have all become habitual process that the Society has become acquainted with.
The information and communication technologies (ICTs) have come to be regarded as the mainstay of information dissemination. Any electronic media practitioner who is deficient in using ICT cannot fit well in the media profession. Yausbau and Reismun (2000:12)highlights the importance of three aspects in the application of new communication and information technology. They are people, software, and hard work. The permutation and combination with regards to the three variables create different implication for the growth and application of ICT devices. James Taylor (2008:18) remarked that among these variables, the most difficult aspect to address would be the human element. He further stated that as access to information and communication technologies (ICT) become more extensive, the linguistic phenomenon is required for its clear understanding and comprehension.
There is no gain saying that information and communication technology has within the context of globalization to connect the global divide. Electronic media, that is (Radio and Television)is known as one of the arms of the mass media that have the capacity of transmitting messages and information from one part of the world to another. Transmission of messages and information through television and radio create the awareness that strengthens the feelings of togetherness. The invention in information technology especially in the areas of radio and television has been described as a potent enable of globalization.
For the continued survival of human society, effective communication is essential and anything that serves to enhance the effectiveness of communication is a positive development. The media positively influences the public and how to use the media constructively may thus be an essential tool for those who advocates for the public good. Rayner (1996:50) argues that media has a central role in mediating information and forming public opinion. The media casts an eye on events that few of us directly experience and renders remote happenings, observable and meaningful.
Mass media present the opportunity to communicate to a large numbers of people and to target particular group of people Gamble and Gamble (1999:470) remark,
“ Mass Media (Electronic media) is significantly different from other forms of communication because it has the capacity to reach simultaneously many thousands of people who are not related to the sender”. It depends on technical devices or machines to quickly distribute messages to diverse audience often unknown to each other. it is accessible to many people and it is orchestrate by specialists whose intent is to persuade potential audiences of the benefits of their attention. Wellings and Macdowall (2008:23) States “
The strength of the mass media has in helping to put issues on the public agenda, in reinforcing local effort, in raising consciously about issues, and in conveying simple information.
All these roles are possible when appropriate linguistic tools are employed and correct pronunciation of words are articulated.
To communicate, we employ language. Language is one of the factors that hinder the assimilation of information and communication technology (ICT) by many developing nations. This hinders transfer of technology. The radio and television programmes, computer software and printed texts are produced in different countries bearing different cultural background. As such, such tools may fail to impress audience in another region or across the country. When presenters fail to grasp the coded symbols, signs and articulate the words explicitly, it would affect the target audience negatively.
Brown N.D. (2006:20) posits”
“It is the novelty that attracts the attention of policy makers. For example, sports commentaries, news release, press conference require the use of correct pronunciation and eloquent presentation”.
According to Salau Suleiman (2001:3), “The development of language is a turning point in the evolution of communication”. Language made human communication particularly powerful and gave human beings unique position different from the animal world. Suleiman said that the development of language was important because it gave scope and depth to the content of communication and allowed for precision and detail of expression in communication.
Language is a principal medium for transmission of ideas in communication. The product of language analysis, principles and theories can be applied in communication Onuigbo S (2002”15) describes language as,
“A unique feature of man, a feature which results as much from human interaction as it generates the same interaction”
The electronic media as agents of information dissemination use language in the process of message transfer, documentaries and other programmes.
In Nigeria, the use of English language as a second language (L2) according to Otagburuagu (2002) dates back to the Phelps stokes commission report of 1922 on English language. He maintained that even after the British Advisory Commission on Education in Africa in 1927 recommended the use of the local language and the English language in the education of the Nigerian child along the line suggested by the Phelps-stokes commission. English language remains a language in use in politics, commerce, industry, legislative affairs and media. Eyisi, J. (2003) States that English is a adopted as official language because there are hundreds of languages in use in Nigeria. Ifechukwudi (2009) explicates that this complex nature of Nigeria language spurred the use of English, as the official language.
English as a second language (ESL) is the use of English by speakers with different native languages. It is also known as English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) or English as an additional language (EAL). Those who are learning English are often referred to as English language learners. English is a language which has great reach and influence, it is taught all over the world under many different circumstances. In English speaking countries, English language teaching has essentially evolved in two broad directions; Instruction for people who intend to live in an English speaking country and for those who learn it for other purposes. These divisions have grown firmer as the instructors of these two industries have used different terminologies.
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in the Nigerian Constitution (1999:108) chapter V sub section 55 States:
“The business of the National Assembly shall be conducted in English and Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba when adequate arrangement have been made thereof”.
English language emanates as Nigerian’s lingua France as a consequence of the complex situation earlier earmarked by Ifechukwudi. English language provides a channel for mutual intelligibility. To this assertion, Dale (2005:10) says English unites Nigerians and provide mutual cohesion.
In his own contribution, Obanya (2002:3) Opines:
“English language fills a huge communication gap. It helps to facilitate contact between Nigerians of diverse language background”.
In his own view, Ayodele (1999:16) put it in this way, “it is a language of science and technology and a passport to educational advancement and prestigious employment, as the language of commerce, and administration a means of national and international communication it is, therefore important that products of our schools are proficient in English”. As for economic functions, El Yakub and Shuaibu (2005) point out that English is a tool for social mobility. This dates back to the colonial periods when people were trained as clerks, accounting assistants, interpreters and managers. Paramount to this discourse is the role of English in education, Soneye (1992) recognizes this when he says: the instruction and learning in Nigeria from primary to tertiary institution is in English language” so the students are expected to be well groomed and efficient in the use of language. In specific terms, educational books, instructions, examinations are conducted in English. Jegede (2005) adds that
“The importance attaches to the knowledge that a pass in the subject is compulsory for admission into Nigeria higher institution strengthened the place of English in our affairs”.
Uche Azikiwe (2006:30) contends that the popularity of English language in Nigeria will continue to grow so long as it is the language of public and professional life, technology and commerce and in many cases, the easiest medium of communication with many foreign countries”. On the media scene, print and electronic activities are mostly covered and aired in English. It serves as a tool for information dissemination. For instance, network news, social engineering and mobilization, lectures, advertisements are broadcast in English. For the time being, English remains the national language which the users are expected to communicate fluently within in order to achieve the set objectives or serves the societal needs.
In the light of the above functions of English language in Nigeria, it stands to reason therefore that we must have a thorough grounding in both the written and spoken aspect of language. There are four language skills which are listening, speaking, reading and writing. The writing aspect is more emphasized in the scheme of language studies than the spoken aspect but a greater part of individuals everyday activities involve speech. Whatever one’s age, calling in life and wherever one may be, one talks more of the time than writing or reading. This makes speech as the primary form of language.
Jenkins J. (2003) says that speech sounds are produced for the purpose of communication and good knowledge of speech sounds enhance proper articulation of ideas and views”. On the contrarily, it has been observed that the standard of spoken English is low among all the sections of our community especially among the electronic media practitioners. This has greatly affected channels of communication. For an Electronic media practitioners who communes with the publics on daily basis the spoken English can create barrier or enhance one’s success in the media industry.
Daugh in Otagburuagu (2007) reference on modified received pronunciation posits that ones verbal behaviour is part of ones total behaviour but it is a part which is subjected to constant social pressure and it is ‘Constantly being subjected to modification in order to improve its adequacy”. This view becomes imperative considering the position of Electronic media practitioners in society. As long as English language is the language of communication the media English should be influenced by received pronunciation (RP) model in order to conform with and command the international intelligibility.
It has been established that every language is determined by sound. For any decoder to encode what a source is saying, the decoder must be well acquainted with the sound system. It is obvious that sound differentiate similar words that may or may not have the same spelling. Hence it is through sound that the message is conveyed effectively. However, English language has several wordings whose forms are different from the way they are pronounced unlike several Nigerian languages which have words whose forms are closely related to their pronunciation.
The act of speaking or communication starts in the brain of the speaker. For media practitioners, it is necessary to understand the mechanism of pronunciation in order to achieve proficiency in the use of language. As Adetugbo (2001:3) put it
The speaker encodes the message in a linguistic form in the brain. His brain then signals his vocal organs to transmit the linguistic form into appropriate sound as sound waves in the air”.
These sound waves transmitted by the vocal organs of the speaker impinge on the ears of the listener who with the
help of this brain converts them back into linguistic from which he encodes.
Speech is generally conceived as the expression of ideas and thoughts by means of articulate vocal sounds. And if we are thinking in terms of human language, it will be necessary to add that such articulate vocal sounds are conventional when we talk, we do not only make meaningful noises and sound, the media helps the speech to be come meaningful and even arouse strong feeling. However, the native speakers of any language do not face a Herculean task of manipulating these sounds in order to convey comprehensible message unlike the second language users (L2). The second language users (L2) are often confronted with problems in the spoken form of the language. These problems are more noticeable among the Electronic media practitioners due to their conspicuous role in the society. They interact, talk and dialogue with the public virtually everyday.
It should be noted that the more complex the society, the more socially and technologically sophisticated man gets and the more communication problems he is confronted with. Atolagbe (2000) identifies problems Nigerian users of English especially electronic media practitioners have with their spoken English to include the areas of phonemes, syllables, foot, tone group and supra segmentals. Osoba (2002) while discussing the problems of pronunciation among the Nigerian speakers, identified three areas to include phonemic, suprasegmentals and orthographic. The acquisition first language imposes on second language (L2). Secondly, the acquisition of features of the language such as lexis, syntax, and morphology with lack of complete mastery of phonological, Lexical and syntactic rules of English.
In a survey research carried on problems faced by electronic media practitioners in making public speech in some selected media Houses in Lagos state, Akindele (2001) lamented that out of 200 media practitioners who present programmes on English language in public and private stations, 80% of them lacked basic knowledge on spoken sounds while just 20% had little knowledge of it.
In their own postulation, Ayotunde et al (2004) identified the phonological problems of programme presenters on English language in our media houses to include stress, syllable and intonation units. They noted that the Nigerian English bilingual obliterates the distinction in vowel quality between long vowels and short ones. For Osoba, the English orthography is not consistent and this tends to create problems to Nigerian speakers of English language.
An Electronic Media Practitioner operating within the Nigerian context behaves like an average Nigerian user of English. In an attempt to examine the factors that reflect in the spoken English of Nigerian speakers, (Akindele and Adegbite (2001) classified it into two dimensions: The first has to do with the nature of linguistic interference which the instance, /S1:t/ is pronounced/ Sit/while beat is pronounced (bit/ instead of/bi:t/.
In spite of these problems, the place of electronic media as a model for proper speech development can not be emphasized. Oyinloye (2010) sees media as a vital source whereby good speaking can be learnt. According to him, “Virtually all of the programmes broadcast on radio and television are through speech. Some programmes broadcast on the radio can easily influence the oral skills of listeners.
The electronic media – radio and television could improve listeners’ speaking skill as these media stations have programmes such as news, debate and comments on public affairs. Most of these talks are given by experts and highly educated individuals whose spoken skills are near-native speaker’s skill. These experts speak very good English which can influence listeners.
Adeosun in Oyinioye (2010) identifies another electronic media model for speech development i.e the education programmes broadcast through the radio. These education programmes are advantageous for many reasons it stimulates imagination as many people hear but do not see the speakers. For students, it enables them to listen to experts on the subject through the education at programmes. They also acquire listening skills, which help them in the classroom when the teacher is teaching. Moreover, if properly harnessed, it could complement the teacher’s role in the class and in long run, help future electronic media practitioners.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Most of our television and radio houses no longer live up to expectation in their spoken English which is the language of communication with their esteemed large audience. The negative effect is that the majority of the target public is not carried along with the programme presentation.
The electronic media practitioners are not just role models but also public servants. The public expects a lot from their professional communication skill. On the contrary the electronic media practitioners in south eastern Nigerian are faced with problems like inappropriate use of intonation, mother tongue interference, confusion inherent on differences in the use of orthography, poor articulation of speech sounds and lack of knowledge of other suprasegmental features such as; the stress, rhythm and intonation.
These features or language problems bring about mis information, misrepresentation, misinterpretation, disruption of communication and also hinder audience participation in radio and television programmes. This research intends to investigate English pronunciation errors among electronic media practitioners in the South Eastern Nigeria especially as very little work has been done in this area.
Broadcasting has played an important though often controversial, role in the development of the English language. Language change is, on the one hand, recorded by broadcasters who hear new forms and use them in their programmes; on the other hand, broadcasters themselves promote that change by letting millions of people hear neologisms that might otherwise have developed at a slower place.
The BBC’s involvement in defining and teaching “standard” English began in the early 1930s with an experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of speech training lessons –delivered by radio. The experiment proved inconclusive, in part due to a perennial problem for all long-term investigation into the effectiveness of broadcasting and learning ; the role of other factors when weighed against a short weekly broadcast. In the early years of the BBC, decisions concerning appropriate and inappropriate usages were made by the BBC’s advisory committee on spoken English which included among its members Danid Jones, and A Uloyed James of University College, London.
Broadcasting therefore interact with English in a variety of ways:
- In assisting in the standardization of a particular variety of English
- In maintaining standards of English within and among nations where English is considered as first or second language. Here it is Jubril (1991) standards English help newsreaders in promoting good quality spoken English and the way in which training a small group of broadcasters with tower standard could have a major impact on maintaining standard of spoken English generally.
BBC English Radio is a good medium for the autonomous learner and is able to provide a variety of syllabuses and methodologies, thereby attempting to satisfy individual learning styles and personal learning agencies. Making programmes fro learners and teachers of English in West Africa provides an interesting challenge for producers, newscasters.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
Adequate information dissemination is the essence of electronic media. The availability of information is one thing and the use of proper speech sound is another thing for communication to have its desired result. The objectives of the study are:
- To examine the role standard spoken English plays in electronic media for effective dissemination of information.
- To determine the extent the English phonemic sounds and orthography which media practitioners employ in their professional duties affect effective communication between the press and the public.
iii. To determine the extent to which the segmental features hinder the proper dissemination of information to the public especially in this period of information communication Technology (ICT) revolution.
- To determine whether the teeming public are carried along in the pronunciation of English words considering the illiteracy level among the target audience.
- To find out if the electronic media practitioners are current with the national policy on Digital communication system with the attendant linguistic problems.
- The study strives to analyze the speech problems associated with television and radio broadcasters in order to see how common errors or wrong pronunciation can be corrected so as to enhance effective communication. In all, the general aim is to identify the errors of pronunciation among the electronic media practitioner in South Eastern Nigeria.
1.4 RELEVANCE OF THE STUDY
Language is a means of communication between one person and another. It is often defined as an organized arbitrary sound and an essential tool for the advancement of knowledge, promotion of progress and transmission of information. By language here, we mean spoken English, It is of great significance to broadcasting media in the sense that it helps the viewers and listeners to actively participate and contribute to issues being discussed in the studies.
The finding would help our electronic media practitioners to improve upon their spoken English, communicate well, deliver accurate information and create rapport as well as mutual understanding between the press and the public. This of course would boost their professional practice.
The outcome of the study would enable national policy makers and government to begin to develop interest in our radio and televisions programmes likes documentaries. So, it would foster co-operation between government and the press when appropriate spoken language is used.
The result of the study would enable the proprietors of private and public media houses to be conscious of the quality of the programmes aired in the studio.
Information communication technology (ICT) offers potent opportunities for empowerment as long as you have equipment and you understand the language of communication.These tools would help to communicate, disseminate, assimilate, store, retrieve, manipulate or manage information in a manner that would bring improvement in the socio- economic and democratic lives of those who use them.
In the Nigerian context, English language is one of the most potent variables in acculturation. Information communication technology (ICT) is conveyed to Africans mostly in western language and it has therefore become a vehicle of cultural emasculation as it offers the platform for indigenous commitment to western ways of meaning and value information system.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The research is limited to some broadcasters drawn from selected radio stations is southeastern Nigeria. This is because Nigerian broadcasters often conduct their programmes in English in order to reach out to a large percentage of their audience who are of diverse linguistic background but have English as their common language.
The broadcasters under focus are actually only those who transmit in English. These serve as role models to a vast majority of their audience who emulate their pronunciation in the belief that they must have undergone adequate training in both the grammatical and phonological aspects of the English language.
Because of time and financial constraints, the researcher visited five state radio stations where he verbally interviewed the news reporters and newscasters. It is however hoped that on the basis of the data collected in these radio stations, valid generalization could be made on English pronunciation errors among the electronic media practitioners.
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Some existing scholarly books and academic papers on phonology and some basic pronunciation errors in English shall be consulted and discussed. These works shall be used as the theoretical basis of analysis.
The extracts from the recoded newscast and news report of the broadcasters will be played back and analyzed. This analysis will be done within the framework of the Received Pronunciation (RP) since this is the most socially acceptable worldwide.
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