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Background of the Study

 Most historians and analysts agree that it is not an easy task to date or pinpoint the day the issue of Bilingualism germinated in Nigeria. However, it is speculated  that  Anglo-Nigeria contact may date as far back as the fifteenth century, Portuguese Sea merchants and pirates  in their search  for a new sea-route  to India and  for the orient arrived at  the  West-coast. Prince Henry the Navigator was said to have sailed into the Cape Verde in 1444.

Again, the early contact between the Europe and West African, Nigeria in particular involved mainly the Portuguese and West Africans. By the end of  the fifteenth century, Portugal had  established trading posts in West African, eg Gwarto  Port in the Ancient  Benin kingdom, Cape Coast  and Elimina in Ghana. That contact resulted in a warm trading relationship, mainly in Sylvan products, between the Portuguese and Benin, such that the Oba of Benin sent an ambassador  to the Portugal between 1482 and 1495, while Portugal in response, sent trading agent to Benin (see Crowther, 1962:57).

According to Christoperson (1953:57), for about  a hundred years  Portugal enjoyed a monopoly of West Africa trade. Moreover, the years of Portuguese contact  made the evolution  and development of trade  imperative, especially as Portuguese  was a  non-native to Guinea Coast. The West African’s then had to learn English and Portuguese to enhance their access  to new  European market.

According to Christopherson (1953:57), “during this period , many of the  Negroes learnt Portuguese of  a sort, and it seems that the came to regard this as the language of the white man of whatever Country. He adds further “When I talk of the Portuguese in West Africa in former countries, I mean the so called Negro-Portuguese a kind of  Pidgin Portuguese”.

Hakluyt (1599:112) commenting on such communication, remarks: And now to speak somewhat of the communication that was between the king and our men, you shall first understand that he himself could speak the Portugal tongue., which he had learned of a child. Then, from the above idea of Hakuyt(1599:112), it became known that for African to trade with the Europeans competence and performance of one’s native language and foreign language (English) began as result of trade and that was when Bilingualism started.

Furthermore, by implication, the arrival of Bilingualism can not be anchored to a particular area. When or during the Britsh rule, the major problem was communication, then English language was introduced through Christian religious activities or missionaries incursion. Initially there was slave at the end of the slave trade, a number of trained slaves settled in different parts of West Africa.

Missionaries also came with the sole aim of evangelization, an interpreter of the “Bible” was needed, but it was difficult because the people were illiterate. They established high schools to train instructors. Training was done in English language. This marked the introduction of formal education in Nigeria. The missionaries settled in   Badagry in 1842. and later moved too Abeokuta 1846 to Calabar in 1848and during  this early period according to Taiwo (1960), parents were paid money for their children to be in school.

The English language was taught as five different subjects –Dictation, Reading, Writing, Comprehension and grammar. This marked the gradual implementation of English Education (Western Nigeria) Scotish, Irish, Germans etc. there was a gradual cultural assimilation. People then spoke English and hated anything outside English language . when Efik was introduced as a subject, parents  withdraw their children from schools.

Later, the few educated Nationalist looked for ways to change the trend. This appeared in form of Ordinance on education in 1882 which English was made the language of instruction (fafunwa, 1974:89-90). Another ordinance in 1887 reorganized the use of the local languages. To reach out more, the missionaries decided that it was time to translate bible to local languages. The missionaries activities were confined to the Calabar region.

They had problems when they tried to spread to the Western Flank. Around the Delta, there were two people Jajah of Opobo and Mene of Itskiri who opposed them. The same problem was encountered in Benin until it settled by the Benin expedition. These two people from the Delta region were sent on exile and the road was opened for the missionaries. The same problem was encountered around Arochukwu area.

There was another expedition that opened the heart of Igbo land for evangelism. By 1902, they were at Lokoja and they moved to the North. Eventually, very few schools were established which centered on the Northern feudal class. By 1910, there were about 80 secondary schools in the south and one in the North (Believe college). Teachers from public schools in England were brought to teach in the colleges. The teachers were there for many years.

During the first year, many Europeans teaches had to leave. This was because the colonial master could not pay them. In 1927, we had the introduction of the Yoruba language Board and Hausa language Board. Nigerian languages competed with English language. It was during this period that Nigerians freely used their languages as well as English language. English language is also known as  “KOINE” ;language. (official language)

Again, with the propagation of English language and introduction of Western type education as indicated above, English language became a medium of instruction and communication, children who acquired the language of environment as their mother tongue (MT) were expected to learn the English language in schools. Meanwhile, the expectation for a child to learn in a second and not in the first language has created a problem.

The situation of the child learning English language  in addition to his native language becomes such that he faces problems which arises from the effect of bilingualism on his learning. For, example, Strevens (1965:11) aptly describes the thrust of the notion of interference by saying:

“ In speaking a foreign language, we commonly use, not the sounds of that language, but those sounds of our mother tongue which we imagine to be equivalent to the sounds of foreign language”.

It is, therefore assumed that Nigerians commonly use the sounds of their native languages (particularly the widely- spoken languages like Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba). When speaking in English especially for sounds not available in the native or indigenous languages. The absence of dental fricatives in most Nigerian languages is believed to be responsible for the substitution of dental and alveolar stops for such sounds in English language. For example: “The Palato-Alveolar fricative”

   Nigerian English Accents (NEA) has          which corresponds to (SBE) that is standard Britsh English           in words like shoe and short.

The slides /w/j/

the Yod, ie, /j/ has the same realization in Nigerian English accounts and RP, but it is distributionally different in the accounts for example, (NEA) operate an American-style yod dropping rule in the sequences /j/ +/u/in words like news, tube (where standard British English does not but general American. Therefore yod-drpping in NEA may be described as lexical- incidental.

According to Awonusi (1985), yod insertion has been identified in NEA. There are at least  three yods in NEA

  1. Epenthetic Yod insertion: This, according to Nutall (1962) and Jibril (1982), is fairly common in Hausa English. It is an example of interference from Hausa language where two vowels peaks never stand undivided. Hausa English language introduces the Yod as a syllabification process in such words eg. in knowing [ nojin] and doing [dujin]
  2. Orthographic Yod insertion: This is when /y/ is present in the orthography and it is so realized, eg laying, saying (standard British English treats them as the part of diphthongs
  3. Vision Yodding: This is the use of the Yod where standard British English and acrolectal NEA speakers have a phonological in words like measure and vision. Again, Hausa as a result of mother tongue (MT) interference realized their /p/ as /f/ eg deputy for defuty

Meanwhile due to the problem of mother tongue (MT) interference, it        leads to code-mixing and code-switching. Code-mixing behavour among Igbo English Bilinguals have assumed alarming proportion. One of the early reaction of this phenomenon is contained in an article by Nwafor (1971) entitled “Engligbo” on the spoken language of educated Igbo. He describes Engligbo (code-mixing) as New medium of communication which is a hybrid of English and Igbo language”

Code- mixing among Igbo bilinguals is found in secondary school level. Example:

          I gotego that Akwukwo maths (Igbo)

          Have you bought that maths book? (English)

Code switching is a communication, which may involve a native tongue and a foreign language for instance, starting a discussion in Igbo and concluding with English language Adegbite (1999) for example:

          “That he introduce us to the celebrant-Obi toro ya uto”.

          Kelven was at the party, O nyere anyi manya

          However, there is the problem of translation. The language learner (l2) translate thought and pronunciation through their mother tongue directly into a target language, thereby making mistakes and the proper acquisition of the second language is hampered. Example:

  • Ha ezuala egom

They have stolen my money

  • Onyelum akwukwom

He gave me my book.

Ebenebe (1995) observes that:

 …Being proficient in the pronunciation of the words of a native language may be an obstacle in the learning of correct pronunciation of another language. Proficiency in Igbo language pronunciation can be a hindrance in correct pronunciation of English words. Mother tongue interference is usually a problem to secondary school students as far as the acquisition of English language is concerned. Eyisi (2004) observes that some errors made by students in the use of  English language especially as regards pronunciation and spellings are caused by the students first language or mother tongue (MT).

Statement of the Problem

          The term “bilingualism” literally means ‘two tongue’  an individual may be described as having two tongues if he is described as a bilingual. Tongue, here, has its traditional  metaphorical meaning. It is not only an individual that can be said to have two languages. Indeed, we know that there are societies, countries in which more than one language is spoken. Thus, a bilingual is that person who has the ability to function in two languages.

Bloomfield (1991) identified the bilingual as somebody with native-like control of two languages. He also observes that the fact student acquire a language at school. (English language). So we find out that problem arises as a result of the fact whereby a learner of English language has already acquired the mother tongue (L1). Chief of these is the fact that competence and performance in two languages may infact be measured in terms of degree of proficiency

shown by the speaker in the two languages this has led to the typing of bilinguals according to how proficient they may be in one or both languages involved. Hence, we find some scholars talking in terms of co-ordinate, compound and subordinate bilinguals (Weinreich 1933) described bilingualism in terms of complementary, supplementary or replacive.

 Meanwhile, whatever divisions we may have, the major point here is that we have at least two languages in an individual who functions with varying degrees of competency in them, or a nation which has speakers of  at least two languages. Meanwhile, as he tries to express himself in the second language (l2), he fails to represent his thought phonetically and phonologically. This is because, such a leaner is battling with the problem of his learning of the target language.


Purpose of the Study

It is often assumed that every student is a bilingual. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of bilingualism on the secondary school students who are learning English language. The researcher will also look into the factors responsible for. Code mixing and code switching among Nigerian Secondary School Students.

 Again, the factors responsible for mother tongue interference among students will be looked into.

Significance of the Study

This research would support the views of the linguist, sociolinguists and psycholinguist that bilingualism has an effect on the learning of English language by a bilingual.

Again, a study and research on it would guide both teachers and curriculum specialist on how to plan and teach English language to learners.

The findings would hopefully arouse the consciousness both teachers and learners on how to avoid certain degrees of pronunciation difficulties, mother tongue interference  and consequently improve the quality of their spoken English.

Scope of the Study

The scope of this work is to find out the negative effect of bilingualism on the learning of English language in the secondary schools.

Under minding the problem of bilingualism, the most important thing is to make English a crucial subject for secondary school students.

Research Questions

  • In what way does bilingualism affect the study of English language?
  • How does code-switching affect the learning of English language in the secondary school?
  • In what way does code-mixing affect the learning of English language in the secondary school.
  • How does mother tongue (MT) interference affect the learning of English language as a second language (L2).
  • How can the effect of bilingualism in teaching and learning of English be controlled.


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