Problems Facing Learners of English in Nigeria

Indeed, English language is the official language in Nigeria. It is the language used in learning, administration and business. However, it remains a second language in Nigeria. Learning a second language is never easy, especially if you are learning it outside of its native land. This is why you will find that many Nigerians find it difficult to learn the language or speak it correctly.

Nigeria is language diversified country with about 500 native languages. The English language then has to be learned and mastered as a second language. The problems with learning English language does not only have to do with speaking and writing. Over the years, there are quite a number of students who fail English language in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination in school. This article discusses the problems facing learners of English language in Nigeria.

Problems Facing Learners of English in Nigeria

Problems Facing Learners of English in Nigeria

Read on below:

Accent and placement of stresses in spoken English

Many second language learners of the English language in Nigeria have a problem with the use and placement of stress in English words. You cannot blame them because unlike the native English speakers who acquire the correct pronunciation and placement of accents naturally, Nigerians have to learn it. The English language is melodious because of the rise and falls intones, however, most of the Nigerian languages are flat in tone. It takes extra cautiousness to achieve the proper accent and intonation of the English language.

Late learning

Most English learners in Nigeria do not start learning the English language at an early stage. Hence, by the time most Nigerians start to learn the language, they cannot catch up easily and then have problems with pronunciations and use of the language. Also, since they have already mastered their own mother tongue at this time with almost no introduction to the English language, it then becomes difficult to master the English language equally. This accounts for the problem of poor pronunciation and improper use of the English language. A solution to this problem is that Nigerians should be tutored right from an early stage on the use of English and phonetics. It is easier for a second language learner to learn the rudiments of a language at an early stage than when they are way older.

Native language Interference

As mentioned earlier, Nigeria has about 500 languages and each of these languages have their own peculiarities. Let us take the three major languages as an example; The Igbo language, the Hausa language and the Yoruba language. For example, the Igbo diction uses the sounds /l/ and /r/ interchangeably so a word like ‘rod’ is pronounced ‘lod’, ‘london’ is then pronounced as ‘rondon’.

The Yoruba language has some sounds which are absent in its vocabulary, one of which is the /h/ sound. So, a word like ‘hair’ will be pronounced ‘air’ and ‘hungry’ will be pronounced as ‘Ungry’. With the Hausa language, the sounds /f/ and /p/ are used interchangeably, so the word ‘pipe’ /paip/ is pronounced as /faif/. The interference of the native languages affects the correct pronunciation of the English words.

Lack of qualified teachers of English language

Many English language teachers in Nigerian schools are not competent themselves in the use of English language. When the teachers do not have a good command of the language, the students are likewise bound to a wrong understanding of it. The problem of qualification of teachers does not have to do with those teaching the English language only, but teachers of other subjects too. When the students have to learn under other teachers who cannot communicate well in the English language, they do not learn well or pick up the wrong use of the language. It is very important that all teachers (both for the English language and others) are properly trained to be efficient speakers of the English language. Educational policies should be put in place to ensure English teachers, in particular, receive proper and adequate training/certification in the English Language.

Faults in the curriculum and educational program

The gaps and faults in school curriculum taught in schools also adds up to the difficulty and inability of most Nigerians to learn English language effectively. In Nigeria, most schools use outdated curriculums and do not train the learner to world standard. Policies need to be put in place by the government to mandate schools to teach with updated English curriculum.

Non-English-speaking environment

As mentioned earlier, although English language is the official language in Nigeria, it is still not the most common language. English language is used in formal settings such as schools, offices, banks, etc. But you will find that English language is not commonly used in markets places, homes, social and religious gatherings or neighborhoods. While it is essential that learners do not lose their mother tongue, this still poses a problem to the effective learning of English language for a second language learner in Nigeria. Most Nigerians, after learning in schools do not have an environment to practice what they have been taught.

Lack of reading culture in Nigeria

Most Nigerians lack an effective reading culture. Many are not trained to read while growing up and even after they have begun learning, do not continue reading. This negatively affects their learning capacity as reading helps the retention of learners.

Peer pressure from peer groups

In most Nigerian environments, the use of English language regarded as a neglect of the native culture. If a person is trying to speak the English language properly, you will find them being ridiculed or made fun of. This is also rampant among teenagers in Nigeria. You will find many speaking what is known as ‘broken English’ because they want to feel like they belong to the streets. ‘Pidgin English’ is considered trendy and gives an air of bravado while people who have a good command of the English language are considered naïve and nor street smart.

Lack of Learning materials

In order to learn the English language as a second language properly, learners need more than just books. Audio materials are also necessary. Audio materials especially help with intonation and proper pronunciation of words. When a learner sees a word in written form, he or she can have a correct pronunciation through an audio material.


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