The Status of English Language in Nigeria

A brief summary of the Status of English Language in Nigeria: The English language has taken the position of a national language in Nigeria. There is no gainsaying the fact that English has become a Nigerian language. The language has become an invaluable legacy of the British colonial masters. Several years after independence, English still survives and has assumed a more important status in Nigeria.

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The English language is Nigeria’s ‘second’ language. A second language is one that comes after one’s primary language. Ironically, it is also Nigeria’s dominant language, with the use of English being taught at various levels of the Nigerian educational system – Pre-Nursery schools, Nursery schools, Primary schools, Secondary schools and Tertiary institutions of learning. When every guiding and holding factors are scrutinized, the history and role of the English language in Nigeria is something noteworthy.

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English language in Nigeria is a second language. It is a second language because Nigerians already had their first language or Mother Tongue (L1) before the incursion of this foreign language called ‘English’ into the country. In this instance, a foreign language (English) left its native environment and met with another language or languages (Nigerian indigenous languages). It is true that the culture and values of the people are embedded in the language they speak. As such it is said that ‘language is culture’ and none can be separated from each other.

Thus, when two languages meet, then two cultures have met and there is likely to be a lot of changes in that society. The changes will affect the culture and the language of the recipient society or speech community, and the effect will impact on the entire recipients’ society, which in this instance is Nigeria and its citizenry.

The English language did not come to Nigeria just on its own. Its incursion into Nigeria was caused by lots of factors like trading, slavery, colonization and missionary activities in Nigerian by the Europeans and this was done in phases. As such English as a language is a borrowed blanket which has been converted to personal use by the borrowers so as to suit their purposes.

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