You are currently viewing From Nigeria – The Pronunciation Problem of Nigerian Speakers of English
Applied Worldwide guest blogger Saliha Sulaiman writes about pronunciation of English in Nigeria.

From Nigeria – The Pronunciation Problem of Nigerian Speakers of English

It is obvious that pronunciation is an aspect of verbal communication which makes it more effective and attractive. Therefore, the significance of pronunciation becomes highly considerable in the process of verbal communication. Speakers of a particular language have a very deep and strong impact of the sounds of the alphabet on their pronunciation.

The word “Pronunciation” can be said to be the means in which a person sounds the words of a language while speaking. The Nigerian speakers of English language are without doubt confronted with difficulty in the pronunciation of the language. As a Nigerian student, I can attest to the fact that I have colleagues who face some problems in order to pronounce the English words. The problem is in every nooks and crannies of the society.

In learning to speak English as a second language in Nigeria, one’s goal is usually to be as competent as the native speakers of that language; and if not, one will strive to be intelligible to any speaker of that language. Depending on when one’s attempt at bilingualism starts, it is often possible before the age of puberty to acquire near-native competence in a second language.

However, when trying to get in contact with the language by Nigerian speakers, it becomes a continuing process that includes learning the sound of some words and then, learning how those words sound when putting them together. There are a lot of linguistic points, in specific, phonological rules in the English language, which can confuse non-native speakers of English.

THE CHALLENGES FACED BY THE NIGERIAN SPEAKERS

For the users of English as second language in Nigeria, English language is their official language, that is, the language of government, of the judiciary, of business and inter-ethnic communication.

However, there are a variety of factors which can lead to poor pronunciation amongst Nigerians. From the onset environmental factors are the biggest hindrance; the environment normally pays no attention to the proper use or rules of English to say the least. Others include; the issue of tribal lingual interference otherwise referred to as Nigerian mothers tongue or an individual’s native language e.g. Efik, Igala etc.

The incompetence of a vast majority of teachers teaching the English language in error, out rightly ignoring the rules of the language is bound to lead Nigerian students towards the wrong path of understanding the language. The pressure from peer groups, especially amongst teens, to speak in what is known as ‘broken English’ or ‘Pidgin’ to seem trendy or not sound foreign as Nigerians identify or see people with a proper approach to speaking English as naïve, without street sense and an easy prey to scams and swindlers; along with a host of other causes.

IGBO, YORUBA & HAUSA TRIBES

To examine the factors causing poor pronunciations in Nigeria let’s take a look at the three major tribes in Nigeria, there are the Igbos who generally speak the Igbo language, the Yorubas who speak the Yoruba language and the Hausas who speak the Hausa language.

The Igbo language in comparison to the English language, there exists a situation whereby certain sounds appear to the missing from the Igbo diction for example the phonetic vowel sign /ʌ/ or in pronunciations terms the sounds /l/ and /r/ are often used interchangeably due to the mishap.

The Igbo speaker results in replacing the word with the next alike word in the Igbo language. Words like rough /rʌf/ are spoken as lough, London /lʌndən/ becomes /rʌndən/ ‘rondon’. In the Yoruba language the same is the case of the absent sounds and the replacement of that word to the nearest alike word, the /h/ is not part of the Yoruba vocabulary hence words like hair /heə(r)/ becomes / ə(r)/ air and happy /hæpi/ becomes /æpi/ appy And also the same with the Hausa people with the /f/ and /p/ sounds, people /pi:p (ə)l/ become /fi:f(ə)l/.

The idea and existence of a flawed system in Nigeria from the teachers, to the students closely linked with their lingual interference and even to the absence of a suitable body guiding and regulating the use of the correct rules governing the English language in schools, this all will continue to stand as the main factors fueling the pronunciation problem being faced in Nigeria.

SOLUTION

With all points aforementioned, for Nigeria to combat its problem of poor pronunciation and proper use of the English language, certain measures need to be in place. For instance in Nigerian schools, right as students enter adolescence, they need to be deeply tutored on their usage of phonetics and spoken language, which all contributes to better pronunciation because after this age it becomes harder to conform to the right pronunciation of a second language.

Another method would be laws for teachers who teach any subject in English but most importantly English teachers being required to receive proper and adequate training/certification on the rules and system of the English Language. Although this might not be an immediate solution to a deep rooted issue, it is a step in the right direction.

CONCLUSION

There are a number of problems in English Pronunciation for the non-native speaker of the English language. It is necessary for an English learner to pronounce the words exactly as they are pronounced by a native speaker. Hence, it is important for a non-native English speaker or English learner that he must resolve the problems of miscommunication.

However, it is found and experienced that in spite of strenuous efforts to attain perfectness in English Pronunciation for a Non-native speaker it is impossible to speak exactly like the Native English speaker. However, that can be drastically mitigated with the remedy explored in my honest submissions.

About the Author:

Saliha Sulaiman is an entrepreneur with both an expertise in business and language. She authored the book “In My Agony”; a collection of stories that explores the theme of suicide. She currently studies English Language at Gombe State University.

Facebook: Saliha Sulaiman

Twitter: @Salihasul134

Saliha Sulaiman

Saliha Sulaiman is an entrepreneur with both an expertise in business and language. She authored the book "In My Agony"; a collection of stories that explores the theme of suicide. She currently studies English Language at Gombe State University. Facebook: Saliha Sulaiman Twitter: @Salihasul134