Project – Influence of pidgin English on students’ performance in essay writing in Calabar South Local government of Crosss River State, Nigeria

Project – Influence of pidgin English on students’ performance in essay writing in Calabar South Local government of Crosss River State, Nigeria.




Tracing the history of Pidgin English, Quirk et al pointed out that “Pidgin historically began as simply a language mar ked by traditional interference used chiefly by the prosperous and privileged section of a community represents by the unskilled and illiterate class of the society” (28). This situation, however, is not so with the Nigeria Pidgin. Studies have shown that the Nigeria Pidgin began as an English-based Pidgin and later metamorphosed into various forms and patterns in its usage, (Obiechina, 85; Elugbe, 285 and Egbokhare, 21-40). Nigerian Pidgin English is seen as a version of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of Lingua Franca across the country especially among students. In an attempt to define Nigerian Pidgin English, Elugbe and Omamur (48), see it as ‘some kind of a marginal language that arises to fulfill specific communication needs in a well defined circumstance.’

Language in multilingual societies such as Nigeria has always been a matter of concern to educators, educational planners and parents especially with regard to its appropriate use in communication. The English language is the medium of instruction in all Nigerian educational institutions at all levels. This is the basis for Olaore’s comments, “… in the countries

language policy, the fact that for a long time to come, English will continue to play a prominent role in the socio-economic and political development in Nigeria as the language of administration, politics, industry, education, science and technology is of paramount importance,’ (21).

The English language, to a large extent, functions as a second language in Nigeria. Although Nigeria is believed to have more than four hundred (400) languages with over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups, (Emenanjo, 73), the English language is the only language used for all forms of official transaction. Despite the central role the English language has been playing in communication process nationwide, the language excludes the majority of uneducated Nigerians who live in rural communities. Some Nigerian communities have more than six distinct but


mutually unintelligible languages. This makes communication among neighbours difficult. Emenanjo cited in Otagburuagu and Okorji (2003) notes that Nigerian linguistic geography is so complex that language communities can fall into small language groups called chontonolects. The convolutions in the Nigerian linguistics ecology as Otagburuagu (99) noted, has made the use of Nigerian Pidgin a more universal and inconclusive language, inevitable in both formal and informal domains.

Furthermore, Nigerian Pidgin is a somewhat pejorative label used by native speakers of English to describe the often hysterical violations of the basic rules of Standard English syntax by non-native speakers of the language. Kperogi (4) further describes Pidgin as a technical term in linguistics that refers to a “contact” or “trade” l anguage that emerged from the fusion of foreign, usually European, language and indigenous, usually non-European languages. Here, the European language provided most of the vocabulary and the indigenous languages produce the structure of the language. The cultural language which language emanates from has far-reaching influences on its predominant usage as is the case with Nigerian Pidgin. Its variation, no doubt is not unconnected with the culture of its users. It is in the light of this that Abdullah – I diagbom in his study on “ The Sociolinguistic of Nigerian Pidgin (English) on University Campus” quoting Brooks, N (1969) Posits: ‘It is through the magic of language that man comes eventually to understand to an impressive degree the environment to which he lives and still more surprising, gains an insight into his own nature and his own condition.’ (2)

The teachers and students are victim of these observations about Nigerian Pidgin. And perhaps the cultural influence of the native language on the teacher is largely reflected on the students since no student is believed

not to be greater than his/her teacher. In view of this, Akujobi and Chukwu (57), quoting Ashby submitted that ‘the quality of English used in the classroom is such that all pupils are to a serious disadvantage. It cannot be doubted that thousands of the most gifted are unable to further their education because they were not taught well the language in which they were examined.’ They further pointed out that ‘acco rding to the canons of the discipline for language pedagogy, the more the difference between the system of the target language, the more difficult learning invariably becomes and the smaller the difference, the easier the learning.’

The above assertion gives credence to the difficulty faced by students who grew up in an environment where native language is widely used than Standard English in teaching and learning. This will make their learning of the Standard English a herculean task. Students’ daily use of their native language in communication within and outside the school has further enhanced the use of Nigerian Pidgin which is derived from a blend of the morphology of the native language and the syntax of the Standard English in its usage.

In real sense, no language is inferior or superior to the other. But what enhances its continuous usage is the specific communication needs that it serves and competence attained by its users over a long period of time which

also makes it a norn among a well-defined group of users. It is also true that where two or more speech communities come in contact, a lingua franca or common language of communication tends to emerge (Stockwell, 18). The distortion which Nigerian Pidgin has on the Standard English is in varying degree and magnitude. Looking at this Nigerian Pidgin sentence: “Wetin dey hapun nau?” one knows that it is a derivative of th e Standard English equivalent – “What is happening now?” Now we see th at the expression “Wetin dey’ is a distortion of “What is”; “hapun” i s also another distortion of “happening” while “nau” is a corruption of “now” .

Students have shown that among the reasons why they communicate with Nigerian Pidgin are as follows:-

  1. They are a product of their environment.
  2. It is an easier form of communication among them.
  3. To bridge the gap between the literate and illiterate students living within a particular community.
  4. Nigerian Pidgin is used not as a communicative need but as a means of expressing group solidarity and intimacy with peers
  5. It may serve as an identity in opposition to non-group members, especially teachers and adults.
  6. The absence of a widespread proficiency in Standard English usage.

(Akujobi and Chukwu, 57; Elugbe, 280; Elugbe and Omamur, 48)

Interestingly, Nigerian Pidgin is characterized by a simple, often anarchic and rudimentary grammatical structure, a severely limited vocabulary and is used for the expression of really basic thought processes (Kperogi, 2). The above situation is a result of the fact that Nigerian Pidgin emerged more as “emergency” language for casual, shot-term linguist ic encounters. Hence, it cannot be used to express high-minded thought processes and are usually not anybody’s primary or first language.


There is a general belief among students that Pidgin English serves as a variety of English that facilitates communication though it is a deviation from the norm. The above assumption provided the basis for the use of Pidgin especially among students. The use of Pidgin goes beyond verbal communication and has become more of a verbal behavior as its expression has moved from the boundaries of informal conversation to formal situations. Scholars have called for the urgent consideration and pronouncement of Nigeria Pidgin as co-official language with English, (Balogun, 2012; Amao, 2012; Uguru, 2003; Elugbe and Omamor, 1991).

According to Uguru (43), ‘Nigerian Pidgin plays a very important role in communication in Nigeria. If it will be recognized as a co-official language with English, it will enhance the participation of all citizens in the economic, social and political development of the country.’ Party to this assertion are Elugbe and Omamur (48) who want the use of Pidgin in the classroom especially in Edo and Delta states where virtually everybody speaks the language with proficiency. Now, it is a known fact that what one reads regularly influences the way one speaks and writes. Students regularly expose themselves to songs with lyrics written in Pidgin, magazines and jokes written in Pidgin as well as movies with Pidgin as their predominant language of communication. All these influence students’ predominant language of communication especially among themselves within and outside the school. ‘The argument,’ according to Onuigbo an d Eyisi, ‘in favour of Pidgin as a compromise language and that which could foster unity among the diverse ethnic groups has some surface attraction but many have not paused to consider the possible negative impact on the standard usage of English among pupils and students in Nigerian schools,’ (141).

It is an established fact that Pidgin English exists in Nigeria which linguists call the Nigerian pidgin and that studies have been carried out on its impact on Standard English (Oko, 2013; Agbo, 2008) among others. The researcher observes that no special attention has been given to assess the level of the damage done on Calabar South students’ use of the Standard English by constant use of Nigeria Pidgin English. The problem which this

research therefore seeks to investigate is the extent to which Pidgin English has affected the use of Standard English among students in selected secondary schools in Calabar South L.G.A. of Cross Rivers State.


This study intends to investigate the Influence of pidgin English on students’ performance in essay writing in Calabar South Local government of Crosss River State, Nigeria. Specifically, the study tends to:

  1. Find out the extent of Pidgin English usage among secondary schools in Calabar South.
  2. Determine the factors that inform students’ usage of Pidgin in secondary schools in Calabar South.
  3. Ascertain the extent of harm done by Pidgin English on the essay writing of secondary school students in Calabar South.
  4. Find out ways to mitigate the impact of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among secondary schools students in Calabar South.


The following research questions will guide this study:

  1. To what extent is Pidgin English spoken by students in secondary schools in Calabar South?
  2. To what extent does Pidgin English affect the written essays of secondary school students in Calabar South?
  3. What can be done to mitigate the impact of Pidgin English on Standard English usage among secondary school students in Calabar South.



Ho:  Pidgin English has no significant impact on students’ performance in essay writing in Calabar South

H1:  Pidgin English has significant impact on students’ performance in essay writing in Calabar South


Professionally, the findings from this study will serve as a useful guide to language planners and policy makers on the educational sector to trace the trend and come up with a policy framework to enrich the use of Standard English as against Nigerian Pidgin.

To the academia, the study will serve as a springboard upon which further research can be carried out, possibly to explore new ways where Nigerian Pidgin can be a useful learning tool. Also the findings in this study will further enrich the body of knowledge already tapped on the use of Nigerian pidgin and its impact. Students will use the findings and recommendation from this study to examine the extent of the danger which the use of Pidgin have meted on their usage of the Standard English and ways and approaches to avoid further harm.

The teacher on the other hand, will use the findings to evaluate their method of teaching and interaction with the students. This they will do when they read from the findings the dangers Pidgin English usage have done on their writing and speaking skills.


This study is delimited to assessing the impact of Nigerian Pidgin English in essay writing  of students in selected secondary schools in Calabar South L.G.A. of Cross Rivers State.

However, this study is not without limitations. A research like this requires re-evaluation after some time to know whether the percentage of those affected is increasing or decreasing. The researcher could not re-evaluate the results from one study to another within this study because of

the time frame given for this work. Secondly, responses from the students are likely to be subjective because they will like to please the researcher through their answers. Finally, some of the facts cannot be substantiated because they emanate from students.


Essay writing : An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a letter, a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story.

 Secondary School: Secondary school refers to the schooling offered after a primary school, and before higher, optional education. Most countries offer part of secondary school as optional schooling in preparation for higher education.

Student: A student is a person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education.

 Pidgin English: Nigerian Pidgin is an English-based creole language spoken as a lingua franca across Nigeria. The language is sometimes referred to as Pijin, Brokun or “Vernacular”.

Project – Influence of pidgin English on students’ performance in essay writing in Calabar South Local government of Crosss River State, Nigeria