"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: Violating the Mother Tongue by ‘Emergent English-Phobic TC-Intellectuals’ in Nigeria (II)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Violating the Mother Tongue by ‘Emergent English-Phobic TC-Intellectuals’ in Nigeria (II)

Continued from last week. Read the first part here
 By Ahmed Umar, Ph.D.

From secondary to tertiary levels of education, a student’s competence in English and excellence in education were facilitated and enhanced by the ‘number of textbooks and creative/fiction works’ he/she had perused and absorbed. The physically slow and deliberate process of looking at the book prints (word-for-word, sentence-by-sentence) ensured that the reader eventually absorbed a lot in form and content. In turn, this process equipped the learner with adequate competence to form appropriate English expressions. 
 The almost sudden emergence and proliferation of ICT (gsm phones, computers, internet) on the Nigerian intellectual horizon, ironically, triggered the ‘explosion of English’ on a negative side, instead of a positive one. The ‘faster’ INFORMATION COMMUNICATION ensured by this technology conflicted with the ‘slow/gradual’ pace of natural learning of knowledge; encouraged learning laziness by projecting a faster, physically and mentally less tasking but also much less absorbed process.

 In a negative (for ‘education’) furtherance of this cognitive plague, the Nigerian users of ICT, a majority of whom are the youth (many of whom are yet to be competent in Standard English), consolidated this ‘fast food’ addiction of the ICT by introducing new diminutive/mutilated/wrong forms of ‘English lexicon’ in the name of internet chat abbreviations/textese.

Gradually, the users came to ‘recognize and accept’ such forms as the appropriate forms, and lost the little they had known of nationally and internationally acceptable forms of English. Ultimately, their confused cognitive mix-up of a positive purpose (INFORMATION COMMUNICATION – preferred ‘fast’) with another of different plane (INFORMATION ABSORBING – gradually/slowly ensured) formed their current ‘intellectual limbo’. These excessive and erroneous perception and use of the ICT, against the traditional ‘reading culture’, inevitably landed this present crop of learners of English in-between two oscillating cognitive points, without progress: ‘fast information communication’ to ‘slow/no information absorbing’ and back!

The easy and fast connectivity of internet social media platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc.) engendered a rapid consolidation of this cognition of English between learners in both southern and northern regions of Nigeria, with the northern part being at a greater disadvantage due to the weaker pedagogic regional factors explained above. Of course, native-English-speaking youth who use similar ‘adulterated’ types of English to chat on the internet could conserve their ‘Standard English’ via their nativity, locality and continuous use of English in their countries, thereby being ‘safe’ from such ‘ICT English’ cognitive mix-ups that hit Nigeria!  

   Eventually, those champions of ‘ICT English’ must have decoded the ‘malformation’ of their English forms and responded to that semiotic ensemble by dismissing English in its entirety through frustrated expressions like: “English’s not my mother tongue!”; “Na English I go chop?”; “Russia/Japan/etc attained technological advancement through their languages, not English!”; “Competence in English is not intelligence!”.

The absurdity and futility in such responses are reflected in the fact that: (i) Most of those ‘advanced’ non-English countries did not have the colonial/historical imposition of foreign language as Nigeria had, and those that did, had the advantage of one ‘native national language’ to replace the colonial language, unlike Nigeria’s 500 or so; (ii) Most of those ‘ICT English/mother tongue’ champions have not been competent in the formal and creative aspects of even their claimed ‘mother tongues’, especially in the written forms of those ‘tongues’!

  Take Hausa, Kanuri and Babur-Bura, for instance. Any observant linguist of these languages, from BUK to UDUS to Unimaid, can tell that many of those ‘ICT champions’ of mother tongue, especially native speakers of these three mentioned languages, horribly violate the formal rules of writing in these languages. Examples of such violations abound on social media, in adverts and in illustrations of Kannywood movies (very strong socio-semiotic resource in ‘Hausa writing’ to its viewers, especially the youth), and in their everyday ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ writings in these ‘mother tongues’.

 Prominent categories of such violations rest on simple spelling (omission/misuse of letters), morphology (separation of connected morphemes, connection of separate morphemes, etc.), weak vocabulary and lexical choice (unnecessary, non-code-switched insertions of English words in ‘mother tongue’ expressions, non-emphatic/non-stylistic repetition of words or expressions, etc.). Consider the following examples in Hausa, being one of the major ‘mother tongues’ in Nigeria:

SPELLING: “Ka xo anjima” [“Come later”] (instead of “Ka zo anjima”); “Ne ma ina su” [“I too want it”] (instead of “Ni ma ina so”).
MORPHOLOGY: “Malamin su ne” [“It is their teacher”] (instead of “Malaminsu ne”); “Kuzo muje” [“Come, let’s go”] (instead of “Ku zo mu je”).
VOCABULARY: “Zan yi calling dinka anjima” [“I shall call you later”] (instead of “Zan kira ka anjima”); “Bal dinsa ne” [“It is his ball”] (instead of “kwallonsa ne/Tamolarsa ce”).
REPETITION: “Ainihin wato...ainihin wato...ka gane...ka gane, na tsane shi” [“Actually...actually...you see...you see, I hate him”] (instead of “Ka gane, na tsane shi”).  NOTE: A number of presenters even on state/national/international Hausa radio programmes are equally infected with this part of the syndrome!
Such misuses of the claimed ‘mother tongue’ by ICT champions of “English’s not mine” slogan have grown into so large a corpus that some of our language students at the university, and even some of the academics, have set off a new trend of researching on it. Once again, let this challenge be thrown against those champions of mother tongue to camouflage their shame and acute sense of incompetence in the nationally instituted medium called English: How many of them have adequately grasped the writing rules of their mother tongues? How well can they express themselves in those tongues? The disgraceful revelations to these questions recur daily in thousands across the internet, in various other engagements and industries.
To many other nations, developed and developing, native English speaking and otherwise, the set and undisputed positive benefit of the ICT as a ‘fast/easy’ information communication technology has been optimally tapped, has not been confused or misused as a ‘fast/easy’ information TEACHING technology.
 For such ICT users in Nigeria, a considerable number of whom are among the youth, however, the emergence and proliferation of ICT in the country has ‘killed’ that ‘reading culture’ (a culture that has made the present, older intellectual elites great academics of the ivory tower, the think tank on various national issues, the business tycoons) and condemned them to a limbo of neither learning any language (English or ‘mother tongue’) nor freeing themselves from this ‘dizzying oscillation’ of the ICT, perceiving an Information Communication Technology[ICT] in the place of their Technologically Challenged Intelligence/Intellect [TCI].

A greater peril posed by this plague to competence in language and development in education in Nigeria is the subtle but significant increase in the size/population of these ‘TCIntellectuals’ and their spread into critical national sectors like the academia, the political elite, and institutional administrations. Government, even if it means dissecting infected parts of its anatomy, should move towards arresting this national intellectual plague before it consumes the entire system.

At present, whether we like it or not, English remains our ONLY medium of ‘national’ and ‘international’ communication for various engagements. Continual denials of this fact, especially by the ‘lazy’ among the ‘youth’, and perpetual clinging to a ‘dizzying’ perception of ICT oscillation would only ultimately ostracize Nigeria as an ‘intellectual desert’ in global academia, where real academics perfectly perceive the expression “I See Tea” in the spinning of a “Tea Cup Inverted”.

It is a horrifying fact that, in every 24-hour period, a typical TCI in Nigeria could spend most of his wakeful hours ‘viewing’ catchy messages, pictures, videos, etc, flicking across his/her internet monitor, without absorbing the information contained by all that he/she has ‘viewed’ into his/her long-termed memory. So pervasive is this plague that one hears many reports of some ‘teachers’ Googling what they are going to teach from the internet right there in the class to teach, when to teach it!

The same case applies to many students who attend examination halls with phones to furtively use them in searching for answers from the internet. That is why most serious invigilations have made it a standing rule to bar students from going into such halls with phones. The ultimate, albeit painful, joke of the ICT age in Nigerian education is that, before its arrival, there were fewer books to read but deeper/wider knowledge was gained; after its arrival, there were millions of books to ‘view’ but little/no knowledge is gained. Ponder on this poser.

The author can be contacted via ahmed.umar@fud.edu.ng
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