Background to the Study
English language has gained prominence in Nigeria through the missionaries who arrived at Badagry, among who are Henry Townsed and Thomas Birch Freeman in 1842, of the CMS Missionary. Their main purpose is to expand Christianity all over the country. The missionaries were not in the country to preach the gospel alone but were also engaged in educational activities. This domain of usage of English in an English Speaking Country such as Nigeria tends to be formal. English is of course, Nigeria’s official language. It is the language of government, education, commerce, and to a limited extent, social interaction, especially among the educated elites.
Agbelushi(1984) estimated the number of languages spoken in Nigeria to be Four Hundred, while Dolphine(1995) estimates that of Ghana to be forty-seven and in Sierra Leone, sixteen. In the context of such complex multilingualism, it is expedient for governments to stick to a neutral language, such as English, as official language. English has the additional advantage of long association, being the language of the colonial rulers. It is also a world language with all the advantages accruing to an individual who speaks such a language both nationally and internationally.
The learning of English language by the Nigerians (blacks) is the efforts of the colonial government. There was an ordinance that compelled private school system in Nigeria to teach English. The ordinance states that the medium of instruction shall be English Language. Though English Language is a foreign language in Nigeria, the ways in which English Language is transmitted, through a conventional system of transmission, though ironically the one which most people find much less familiar presumably because it is so much more difficult to ‘see’ what is happening in speech than in writing (Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English language 2nd edition 2003). In recent years, linguists have found it easier. The study of speech sound (or spoken language) is the branch of linguistics known as phonetics. The study of sound changes in language is phonology.
As human beings, one cannot overlook the primacy of speech in human communication. It is an acknowledged fact that human beings speak before they write and that more time is spent speaking than writing in a life-time. This is the case all over the world where there are thousands of languages. A normal human being will at least be able to speak one language and in fact individuals are endowed with the ability to speak more than one language but may have varying degree of the command of the different repertoires.
What operates in Nigeria is not too different. Several individuals can speak more than one language, more so, when we have several ethnic groups each with its own language. In addition to that, is the fact that Nigeria is a previously colonized nation and there was the introduction of the English language which is the language of the colonialists, most people have been compelled to learn English based on the prestige that accrues to those who speak it and the numerous functions it performs. One of the functions is that it unifies Nigerians because it bridges the communication gap which would have risen among the multifarious communities when they have to communicate.
Since the inception of the English language in Nigeria, it has been considered the second language, as most Nigerians have their native languages. As such, the English language in Nigeria according to Adetugbo (2004) is the language of education, banking, national politics and government, commerce, most written communication and a virile literature.
It is however important to note that the consequences of bilingualism which is the direct or indirect influence of one language on the other is already rearing its head in Nigeria (Markey 1968 in Akindele and Adegbite 1999). This is because it has been observed that most Nigerian speakers of English mispronounce so many English words which sometimes interfere with the communication process. Interestingly, this abnormality is not restricted to the uneducated alone. Whatever the cause, is the focus of this study.
The phonemes and the prosodies of English as produced by Nigerians scholars will be compared with the actual way the sound ought to be pronounced. Based on the findings, recommendations shall be given as necessary.
Statement of the Problem
It is a well-known fact, that the pronunciation of a second language(s) poses problems of a different kind from those that come our way when our first language is being learnt. Despite the conscious effort made by teachers, parents and government to improve the spoken English of the students from the primary school level to the tertiary institutions, most students have failed to meet up with the expectations of articulating the English sound well. This problem has continued to rear its ugly head particularly when those that are expected to impart the knowledge, fail to practicalise what they teach. Fakoya (1998) confirms that; “Even in situations where training is done, we should consider the linguistic capability of trained personnel. Quite a number of them lack the requisite technical knowledge and competence that can demonstrate how the language should be used, especially in differing social, official, technical and non-technical contexts”. Fakoya (1998)
It is in the light of this that this study has decided to find out how much of the spoken English errors exists among the tertiary school students with particular reference to Ekiti undergraduate students at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ikere- Ekiti campus.