Place of Bilingualism in Nigeria

Topics: English language, Language policy, Nigeria Pages: 11 (3740 words) Published: May 25, 2011
The Practice of Bilingualism in Nigeria: Factors That Encourage Bilingualism – Before, During and After the Colonial Era A Term Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements of the Course: ENG 503: Bilingualism and Multilingualism

June 2010
Emmanuel U. Dimike
Dimike, 2
In the world today, the number of people who use more than one language is greater than the number of people who use only one language. This study focuses on these people with more than one language, especially in Nigeria – Do such people exist in Nigeria? What factors encourage the use of more than one language by individuals in Nigeria? BILINGUALISM

People who use more than one language are said to be “bilinguals”. Where such people use more than two languages, they are called “multilinguals” What is Bilingualism?
According to Anyanwu, “the term „bilingualism‟ means the existence of two languages in the repertoire of an individual or a speech community.” Whenever two languages come in contact within an individual or a community such an individual or host community inevitably becomes bilingual (Crystal). This means that bilingualism exists at two different levels: the level of the individual and the society. This study will consider both individual and societal bilingualism. Ogunkeye sees a bilingual as an individual who can use at least two languages comfortably, with varying degrees of competence (6). A bilingual is therefore a person who understands a second language in addition to his first language. Dimike, 3

Effects of Bilingualism
In the first place, it should be noted, “languages in contact are often languages in competition and there is no language contact without language conflict” (Igboanusi & Oha 125). With this knowledge in mind, it should not surprise us to learn that in the past, many linguists concluded that bilingualism had a negative effect on the language capabilities of bilinguals. Bernstein posits, “A bilingual is always at a disadvantage socially and educationally, relative to his monolingual counterpart” (qtd. in Ogunkeye 9). However, most linguists now agree that bilingualism is not detrimental to the bilinguals themselves, and that bilingualism actually helps one's mind. According to Lambert and Tucker, “the development of the 2nd language often benefits from the development of home language skills” (qtd. in Chumbow 6) Furthermore, a bilingual has the following advantages:  Communication advantages

 Cultural advantages
 Cognitive advantages
 Cash advantages etc.
Bilingualism sometimes causes the phenomenon known as code-mixing. As Ahukanna puts it, code-mixing is usual for all bilinguals in the world (175). Code-mixing is defined as the use of two different languages in the same sentence. It is very similar to code-switching, which is the switching between two languages in the same speech. In Nigeria, the most common form of code-mixing is that of English and a Nigerian language. Dimike, 4

According to Lyons, “bilingualism is a feature of many countries of the world”. It has been estimated that over 400 languages are spoken in Nigeria today (Grimes). This has led Elugbe to conclude, “Nigeria is a thoroughly multilingual country” (11). With respect to this, Ahukanna claims that, “while the Nigerian society has remained consistently multilingual, individual Nigerians have tended towards bilingualism” (177). However, with so many languages spoken in Nigeria, it becomes inevitable that many individual Nigerians will control more than one language. Wolf cites a UNESCO document prepared for the Intergovernmental Conference on Language Policies in Africa in which it is noted for Nigeria that “… the number of languages spoken by each of the subjects of the speech communities studied range from two to five as follows: 60 per cent of the subjects spoke two languages; 30 per cent three; and 10 per cent over four languages” (316). The statistics...
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