Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, August 10, 2017

English as a foreign language

Whenever I read Nigerian newspapers, I'm reminded that language is a flexible tool. I have trouble reading English language newspapers from Nigeria. There are sentence structures, probably from indigenous languages, imposed on to English. There are new meanings used for English words. There are unfamiliar proper names and abbreviations. I usually end up looking up topics on BBC or Sahara Reporter. Here's part of the reason.

The fertile world of Nigerian patois
Urban Nigerians speak a fantastic blend of languages.

NO COMPLIMENT was too flowery at the launch in May of “Antidotes for Corruption”, a book by Dino Melaye, a Nigerian senator who has fended off numerous allegations of graft. “What is being launched today is, ipso facto, a new potent Intercontinental Ballistic-cum-Cruise missile—an unassailable Assault weapon against, arguably, Mankind’s Enemy Number One: Corruption,” read the opening sentence of a leaflet handed out at the event…

Claudio Munoz in The Economist
It is not just Nigerian politics that is prone to verbal flourishes. In December Arik Air, an airline, blamed flight cancellations on the “epileptic” supply of aviation fuel… Nigerians have taken English, the former colonial language, and made it their own. Many switch back and forth between standard English and Pidgin, peppering their speech with local words and colloquialisms…

In a country with more than 500 languages Pidgin English is the lingua franca. Pop culture depends on it. Fela Kuti, one of the most popular Nigerian singers of the 1970s and 1980s, argued that, “You cannot sing African music in proper English.” Many Nollywood producers feel the same about the action films and convoluted romantic dramas that they export all over the continent…

Many English-language radio hosts talk in accents that indicate they have lived in Britain or America. But Nigerians can also tune in to the Pidgin “people’s station” Wazobia FM and, soon, BBC Pidgin. The celebrated novelist Chinua Achebe’s defence of writing in English, rather than his native Igbo, would ring true today whether spoken by politician or pop star. “We intend to do unheard-of things with it.”

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.
Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

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