The history of English language in Nigeria has started many years ago. But it managed to affect the Nigerian culture so much that people can still see its influence.
Currently, English is the official language in most African countries, which are the former colonies of Great Britain. The variants of English in countries where it has the official status and is not native to any ethnic group is called ‘World Englishes’ or ‘New Englishes’.
In accordance with the constitution of the largest country in Africa and one of the largest countries in the world - the Federal Republic of Nigeria (more than 190 million people), English is the official language. By population, Nigeria is in first place in Africa, and in the eighth in the world. It is known that every seventh inhabitant of the African continent is a Nigerian. There is the largest number of black skin population in the country.
Nigeria has one of the most advanced education systems in Africa (in 2017 there is more than 105 universities in the country, in which a significant proportion of scientists are concentrated).
History of English language in Nigeria
But how many languages are there in Nigeria? The ethnic composition of the country's population is extremely complex: more than 250 ethnic groups live in Nigeria, whose representatives speak 521 languages. The historical path of development of some peoples of Nigeria is thousands of years old. The country is rich not only with natural resources but also with ancient cultural traditions of its peoples.
It is known that in the 5th century BC - 3 AD in Central Nigeria there was an ancient culture of Nok - the earliest culture of the Iron Age to the south of the Sahara. In the 9th century AD in South Nigeria, there was also the Igbo-Ukva culture.
70% of the population of Nigeria is composed by three peoples: Hausa - 29%, Yoruba - 21%, Igbo - 18%. 10% are Ijo, 4% - Kanuri, 3.5% - Tiv, 2% - Epic. Thus, 9 peoples of Nigeria account for 90% of the total population.
It should be noted that 36 Nigerian states are heterogeneous in their ethnic composition: a lot of states are polyethnic, some states are populated by representatives of one ethnic community (monoethnic). It is not surprising that the linguistic situation in the country is very complicated. The official language, according to the Constitution, as we have already noted, is English, the language of the former metropolis, a non-autochthonous language that is not ethnically assigned to any social group.
In Nigeria, the cultural and linguistic situation as a whole is common for the West African region, but in Nigeria, unlike, for example, Ghana, pidgin-English is more common, which is a stable mean of inter-ethnic communication.
Nigerian languages are very heterogeneously used by their speakers: there are languages spoken by only a few thousand people, but there are languages spoken by several million. The leading place is occupied by the three largest languages not only in Nigeria but throughout West Africa: Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, used by half of the country's population. These languages are leading in the three regions of the country - North, West and East.
It should be noted that if the states in Nigeria were formed taking into account the traditionally established historical-cultural and ethnolinguistic communities, the ethnolinguistic map of the country is much more complicated than the political-administrative one.
In Nigeria ethnolinguistic situation is diverse and heterogeneous. The languages of Nigeria are from three of the four large families into which the continent's languages are divided: Afrasian, Niger-Kordofan, and Nilo-Sahara. There is no Khoisan family of languages in Nigeria.
In the country, there is a huge disparity between imported and autochthonous languages. Thanks to the work carried out by Christian missionaries, the first attempts were made to create normative grammars and dictionaries of African languages and their introduction into the system of school education in the colonial period.
By the time of independence, only a few African languages, such as Hausa, had a sufficient degree of codification, which allowed them to be used in schools and in the media.
It is known that the character of colonial policy in Africa pursued by France (direct) and England (indirect) in the field of language and culture was as follows: the French colonies wanted to restrict the use of local languages only to the sphere of oral communal communication with the introduction of French into higher spheres.
The local educated stratum of the elite was stimulated to further Francisation. In the English colonies, there was a tendency to distribute functions between local languages and English. Christian missionaries carried out some work on the modernization of the most important local languages. There even were translations of the Bible into many local languages; periodicals were also printed in local languages.
In the English-speaking area, pidgins were distributed on the basis of English. There is a lack of this phenomenon in the French zone (this was affected by the degree of adequacy and relevance of local languages to modern communication needs).
Assessing the consequences of the colonial policy of Great Britain in Nigeria, one should not, apparently, dwell only on the negative aspect. Of course, the national culture was infringed, and the Nigerians were cut off from age-old traditions.
At the same time, the colonial policy of involving Africans in the Western educational system and other forms of Western civilization, the introduction of English in schools along with native languages, contributed to the fact that most of the population of Nigeria became bilingual.
This, in turn, contributed to the acquisition of quality education in the universities of the country, as well as the successful socialization of the part of the Nigerians who speak English. These people can find well-paid, skilled work.
Influence of Nigerian English
The bicultural Nigerian autochthonous intelligentsia presented a huge stratum of English-language fiction, which was a manifestation of a new type of artistic consciousness. In the period of colonial rule, Nigerian writers used the English language to tell the world about their country, showed its originality, ancient culture.
The English-speaking writers of Nigeria, thanks to the language of the former metropolis, which has become global in our day, could take a worthy place in the world literary process and actively expressed themselves.
Among the largest writers of Nigeria, there are even the Nobel laureates: Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Siprian Ekvensi, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo, Ifeoma Okoye, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
These authors mastered Western European cultural values, not forgetting the spiritual traditions of their peoples, who had inhabited Nigeria for a long time. Nigerian writers, educated Africans, people of ‘the two worlds’, created works that have become the examples of the synthesis of two cultures - African (Nigerian) and European. Among the country's writers, there are also laureates of prestigious international literary prizes.
In general, Nigerian writers made it possible to see the country and its historical past both before independence (1960) and in the postcolonial period, characterized by a complex socio-political situation.
The English language, which became widespread in Nigeria in the colonial era, introduced in the education of the country, became the main language of fiction and national culture in general. The English language has a significant preponderance in the degree of adequacy over autochthonous with respect to their ability to express categories related to modern science and culture.
It is impossible to overestimate the role of the English language played in the development of African social view. As for the local African languages, there are superior to English in terms of adequacy in reflecting the cultural and ethnic categories that have developed within the traditional autochthonous societies.
European languages that have developed and are developing within the framework of European civilization adapt flexibly in order to transfer absolutely distinct culture.
This is a brief history of English language in Nigeria. The English language in Nigeria reflects the uniqueness of African reality and African mentality in its own way and, in general, the linguistic picture of the world of Nigerians. Still, stylistic devices are painted with all bright national and cultural specifics.
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