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Jul 1, 2018

6 silly reasons some Nigerian learners of English give for their lack of proficiency in the language

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) has really been beneficial, amazing and fun. It has exposed me to different types of people: the intelligent, the brilliant, the good; and the silly. LOL! I have learnt a lot from these persons. In fact, this article wouldn't have been published but the silly persons I met online while teaching the English language. These are some of the questions they asked or statements they made to cover up their lack of proficiency in the language:
6 silly reasons some Nigerian learners of English give for their lack of proficiency in the language
1. Who English help?
This is the silliest of all the reasons. It is a Pidgin expression, and its English translation is, "Who has the English language helped?" People who ask this question don't know that they are blind. They fail to see that the words used in this Pidgin expression are English words. As a result, they also fail to realise that the English language has at least helped them in expressing themselves in Pidgin by lending them some of its lexicons. If you think the English language has not helped you in any way, kindly answer these questions using the comment box:

i. In what language is the user manual of your phone written?

ii. What language did you use when configuring/setting your new phone?

iii. What language do you use when chatting with friends outside Nigeria?

iv. What language do you use in banking, commerce, education, politics and advertisement?

v. What is the linguistic prerequisite for gaining admission into any of the Nigerian universities?

The right answers to these questions will definitely change the structure of this dumb question.

Also, I'm propelled to you inform you that English is the linguistic glue that holds our multilingual nation together because of its neutrality in the country. If you doubt this, try to make any of the "major" Nigerian languages the official language of the country. I bet you, you won't like the outcome.

2. Na grammar we go chop?
This question is asked in Pidgin, and its English translation is, "Will grammar bring food to our tables?" Well, neither good grammar nor bad grammar brings food to our tables. But the knowledge and use of good grammar shows evidence of learning. Bad grammar does not only show evidence of poor learning but also portrays one as an embodiment of illiteracy. It is nothing to be proud of.

3. English is not our mother tongue or language.
You are very correct. English is not our mother tongue/language, and that is why your ability to master its rules shows the effectiveness and agility of your brain. In other words, the mastery of the grammatical rules of a language that isn't yours shows evidence of your cognitive agility. It would be proper and literate to find out how many Nigerians can write and speak their languages proficiently instead of adorning our lips with such a silly statement. Isn't it obvious that Nigeria is raising a generation whose first and only language is English? Before you mutter Pidgin, don't forget that even the Pidgin that is spoken in Nigeria is English-based.


English is not our mother tongue, but that doesn't make it less or least important in the country. In fact, it plays more significant roles than our native languages. It is our lingua franca and second language; therefore, learning it shouldn't be an option but a necessity except you don't know the meaning of English as a Second Language (ESL).

4. English is just a language and not a test for one's intelligence
I get this response from my friends and followers on a daily basis, especially when I correct their bad grammar. Perhaps they haven't realised yet that correcting their bad grammar doesn't imply that they are not intelligent. The truth is that no one is immune to making errors when learning or using the English language. Therefore, you shouldn't feel that you are unintelligent when someone corrects your bad grammar. We learn every day.

You may argue that English is not a test for one's intelligence, but also note that several studies have shown a correlation between mastery of grammar and intelligence. In his study titled "Practice versus grammar in the learning of correct English usage", P.M. Symonds (1931) found that people with a high Intelligent Quotient (IQ) grasped grammatical concepts faster than those with a low Intelligent Quotient (IQ).  

However, there are people who are highly intelligent but have no mastery of English. It is not because they can't but because they invest their intellectual energies elsewhere. In other words, people who are highly intelligent but have no mastery of English have not dedicated time to study the grammatical rules of the language.

5. English is the language of the "slave masters or colonisers"
It is quite unfortunate and pitiable that some Nigerian learners of English who cover up their incompetence in the language with this dumb statement gladly opt in for a white wedding at the expense of their traditional weddings, embrace the religion of the colonisers with open arms and strive to learn the letters through western education. If you can do all these without a second thought, why do you adorn yourself with the veneer of this hypocritical statement? Learning the culture of a people means learning their language too.

Even the name of our country, Nigeria, is derived from English and was handed to us by those we call "slave masters or colonisers". We are still stuck with it for over 50 years after independence. And you feel very proud not to learn the English because it is the language of the colonisers? I don't want to call you a joker, but it is high time you stopped basking in ignorance and embraced the absolute reality that English is the world's lingua franca, and proficiency in it opens a world of endless opportunities.

6. If you got the message, why are you bothered about the grammar?
Maybe I shouldn't be bothered about the bad grammar if the message is clear, but that can be considered only where poor grammar does not change the meaning of the expression. You can't say "Wreck havoc" instead of "Wreak havoc" and expect to be applauded. You "wreak havoc". You don't "wreck" it. Otherwise, the meaning is altered, and correction becomes very necessary.

Apparently, English is now, for all practical purposes, the world’s lingua franca. Proficiency in it opens a world of opportunities. Therefore, the earlier you become abreast of its grammatical rules, the better for you.

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