Effect of Mother Tongue on English Language in Some Selected Secondary Schools in Ovia North East Local Government
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Our main concern here is to show how English Language is affected either positively or negatively by the learner mother tongue. Secondly to acquire sufficient diversified register of English vocabulary in various field of human endeavour which will enhance the overall quality of communicative competence of the learning second language. Thirdly to see of the conditions which language acquisition can take place. Finally to bring the conditions of language learning closer to the condition of language acquisition and to male language learning a far rewarding experience than is commonly the case.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
The importance of English language acquisition as a stepping-stone for proficiency in other school subjects cannot be over emphasized. The knowledge is important both for educational, economical and national development of a country. The importance of English language as a school subject derives mainly from its utilitarian value to the larger Nigerian society. English is the official language of administration and commerce. It is major language of science. Above all, Salami (2002) had emphasized the importance of the use of English language in improving communication among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria. He further highlighted the need for improving the quality of spoken and written English language among school children. However, one of the current educational problems of public interest is that of poor level of achievement especially in public examinations (Kolawole 1998, Kolawole and Dele 2002). This problem of underachievement among school children has persisted in many subject areas such as Mathematics, English and Science (Ivowi, Okebukola, and Oladotun, 1992; Falayajo, 1997). This poor level of achievement in many subject areas may be due to poor foundation in English language at the primary school level. There are also several research reports, which support the view that language inefficiency invariably leads to poor academic performance (Ayodele, 1988; Falayajo, 1997). No wonder why today, according to Iroegbu (2006) much emphasis is placed on the passing of English language at credit or distinction level in addition to other subjects to enable any candidate gain admission into any Nigerian Higher Institution of learning or be placed well in a good white collar job. In recognition of the importance of English language for enhancing educational attainment as well as for improving communication ability of citizens, the government had made the subject a core subject (FGN, 2004). It is also compulsory for students to have credit in English language before entering the university. This also explains why many parents go off their way to see that their children pass at credit level or above in English language. The importance of English language as a school subject derives mainly from its utilitarian value to the larger Nigerian society. English is the official language of administration and commerce. It is major language of science. Above all, Salami (2002) had emphasized the importance of the use of English language in improving communication among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria. He further highlighted the need for improving the quality of spoken and written English language among school children. However, one of the current educationalproblems of public interest is that of poor level of achievement especially in public examinations (Kolawole 1998, Kolawole and Dele 2002). This problem of underachievement among school children has persisted in many subject areas such as Mathematics, English and Science (Akpan, Ivowi, Okebukola, and Oladotun, 1992; Falayajo, 1997). This poor level of achievement in many subject areas may be due to poor foundation in English language at the primary school level. There are also several research reports, which support the view that language inefficiency invariably leads to poor academic performance (Oluikpe, 1979; Ayodele, 1988; Falayajo, 1997; Onukaogu and Arua, 1997; Onukaogu, 2002). Okoro (2000) has stated that the problem of poor level of achievement of primary school children was a serious one in Nigeria and this was in spite of the fact that Nigeria had set up goals for increasing minimum level of learning by 1995. The author had observed that ample evidences of poor performance were still observed as the pupils move up the system. Attempt was therefore made to find out the extent to which Okoro’s (2000) observation applies to primary school English Language beyond the year 2000. Perhaps the way English language is taught in schools and colleges may be blamed for some of the observed lapses in English language achievement and skills of learners. Ubahakwe (1991), Ohia (1997) and Duff (1997) had criticized the traditional teaching strategy for use in English language classrooms. Kolawole (1991, 1998) had blamed the use of traditional teaching strategy for lack of good grasp of basic skills in writing. Williams (1990) had described this teaching strategy as a hit and miss affair. Oglan (1997) had criticized the domineering nature of traditional teaching strategy which renders learners passive in class. He therefore recommended an activity classroom where learners especially at the primary school level, can make learning a fun. Such learning activities may include learning with objects, things, photographs, films etc. Kolawole (2002) also confirmed that the performance of the primary school pupils in English language was very poor. They stressed further that the standard was poor due to a number of other reasons such as: 1. the use of tribal language in the lower classes of the primary school; 2. some pupils do not understand the grammar because their teachers themselves do not know it; and 3. in most cases English language teachers in the senior primary schools resort to the use of mother tongue to teach and explain the English language even up to the secondary school level. These researchers are of the opinion that there should be a review in the language policy on education. The review according to them should contain recommendations that will make pupils to have exposure to the subject quite early from the primary school irrespective of the advantages of mother tongue. They further suggested that teaching and learning of English should be more practical in our schools, and also the number of years of study and teaching periods should be increased. Finally, materials for learning the subject should be supplied. This will be the time when the problem of failure in the subject will hopefully be overcome. So a firm foundation in English language is very important for better performance. However, Akinbote and Ogunsanwo (2003) have a different view on the use of English language in the early years of the primary school. They opined that the use of mother tongue in the process of teaching and learning in the early years helps, not only to preserve and value one’s culture but also to develop it lexically. According to the authors the use of English language in the early primary school makes the average primary school child unable to be sufficiently literate in either the mother tongue or English language. They felt that to use English language at that level will lead to the children having a mental translation of all concepts presented in English language to their mother tongue in order to gain sufficient meaning of the concepts presented. These researchers believe that a citizen that is literate even only in the mother tongue will be sufficiently equipped to live a useful life in the fast changing world. So if permanent literacy is to be promoted in the primary schools the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in schools ought to be encouraged. Harker (2000) investigated gender differences in achievement of boys and girls in schools in New Zealand. The study which employed a large sample of 5300 pupils showed that the achievement of girls in English language was significantly higher than that of boys both in terms of mean curriculum coverage and examination learning outcomes. The results however showed that boys achieved significantly better results than girls in Mathematics. The result further revealed that therewere no significant difference in the achievement of boys and girls in Science (Okeke, 2004). Ivowi, Okebukola, Oludotun and Akpan (1992) showed that English language and literature achievements by Nigerian Junior Secondary School Students is very poor (Ivowi, et al, 1992; Okoro, 2000). Primary school children in the age range of (6-11yrs) need to improve level of their achievement or atleast the number achieving minimum standard. This target has not been met (Okoro, 2000). Although English language retains its dominant position in the education delivery system in Nigeria, the thrust of our educational language policy is the use of the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community in pre-primary and primary education. Interestingly, private educational entrepreneurs provide preprimary education exclusively through the medium of English language. The mother tongue medium education at the primary school level is provided in less than twenty Nigerian languages throughout the country. English is the exclusive medium of instruction at the junior and senior levels of secondary school education. Several scholars have addressed the core problems of communicative competence in the use of English language as L2 and its use as the main language of instruction in Nigeria’s education delivery process. It is unfortunate that most school leavers (apart from the products of elite private schools) do not possess the required competence in the four language skills for both cognitive and communicative functions. Statistics released by the West African Examination Council, which conducts the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, show that less than ten percent of secondary school leaver passes in English language at credit level. At the tertiary level of education students have so much difficult with their communicative skills in English that they cannot function effectively in the academic use of English (Okoro, 2000). There is no doubt that there is a great diversity of varieties and functions of English in Nigeria. For example, it is extensively used in both the electronic and the print media, in the judiciary, the police, the armed forces, the legislative, etc and as a lingua franca in political mobilization, ethical orientation and population education. This confirms the entrenchment of English as the dominant official language of Nigeria. The nagging problem however concerns the quality of English that is taught and used in the school system. The concern being expressed in informed educational circles is the extent to which the variety and quality of English being learned and used in the school system can serve in achieving Nigeria’s educational goals and the objectives. Mother tongue therefore, is defined as the language which a group of people considered to inhabitants of an area acquired in the early years and which eventually becomes their natural instrument of thoughts and communication( You may wish to re-consider other definition of language} (Awoniyi, 1978). Mother tongue is the first language that a person learned. In terms of that view, the person is defined as a native speaker of the first language, although one may also be a native speaker of more than one language if all of the languages were learned without formal education, such as through cultural immersion before puberty. Often a child learns the basics of the first language(s) from family (Wikipedia, 2007). It is therefore generally accepted that in teaching and learning processes, the mother tongue of the child is of utmost importance. For one thing, it categorizes a large part of the child’s environment, that is, it has names for most of the objects, actions, ideas, attributes and so on that are so important to him, as well as to any society. In many developing countries today, this is either local language or the language of the previous colorizing power. The mother tongue is the child’s environment and is the natural basis on which verbal skills can be built, children learn through communicating in a language, which they understood. It was in recognition of the importance and contributions of mother tongue to education that made the Federal Ministry of Education in Collaboration with other educational statutory agencies include in the National Policy on Education published in 1977, revised in 1981, the use of mother tongue as a medium of educating pupils at the pre-primary and primary level throughout the country. According to the National Policy on education published in 1977 revised in 1981, Section 2(ii) which stated that “Government will ensure that the medium of instruction will be principally the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community” also in section 3(xx) of the same National Policy on Education stated that:Government will see to it that the medium of instruction in the primary school is initially the mother tongue of the immediate community and at a later stage English”. The importance of Nigerian language in the educational process is stated in section 1. “In addition to appreciating the importance of language in educational process, and as a means of preserving people’s culture, the government considers it n the best interest of national unity that each child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages other than his mother tongue” The mother tongue therefore, is a part of the Nigerian culture; it conveys or transmits culture and itself in subjects to culturally conditioned attitudes and beliefs (Awoniyi, 1975). The positive results of the experiment in Mother Tongue Medium in Yoruba carried out at the then University of Ife empirically demonstrated the great advantages of mother tongue in primary education for scholastic attainment (Bamgbose, 1984) and even in the successful mastery of English as a second language.
2.2 PHONETICS AND PHONOLOGY
Phonetics is the branch of linguistics concerned with the physiological and acoustic bases in speech, and with such question as how speech sounds are produced and perceived (Osisanwo, 2009). According to Crittenden (2004), ‘Phonetics of a language concerns the concrete characteristics (auditory, acoustic, and articulatory) of the sounds used in language’. Ofuya (2007), simply defines phonetics as the description of the purely physical features of sounds in English’. Akmajian et al (2008) defined phonetics as how speech sounds are produced (articulated) in the vocal tract (a field of study known as articulatory phonetics) as well as with the physical properties of the speech sound waves generated by the larynx vocal tract (a field known as acoustic phonetics).In describing phonetics, there are three (3) approaches (lodge, 2009): the speaker (articulatory phonetics), the hearer (auditory phonetics) and what happens between the speaker and the hearer (acoustic phonetics). In the same vein, Osisanwo (2009) opined that phonetics is ‘the study (description, classification and transcription) of the actual speech sounds that occur in human language wherever they are used or spoken’.
This chapter deals with the method used in collecting data required in carrying out this research work it explains the procedures that were followed and the instrument used in collecting data.
- Sources of data collection
Data were collected from two main sources namely:
(i)Primary source and
These are materials of statistical investigation which were collected by the research for a particular purpose. They can be obtained through a survey, observation questionnaire or as experiment, the researcher has adopted the questionnaire method for this study.
These are data from textbook Journal handset etc. they arise as byproducts of the same other purposes. Example administration, various other unpublished works and write ups were also used.
- Population of the study
Population of a study is a group of persons or aggregate items, things the researcher is interested in getting information for the study influence of mother tongue on teaching of English language. 200 staff of University of Benin was randomly selected as the population of the study.
PRESENTATION ANALYSIS INTERPRETATION OF DATA
Efforts will be made at this stage to present, analyze and interpret the data collected during the field survey. This presentation will be based on the responses from the completed questionnaires. The result of this exercise will be summarized in tabular forms for easy references and analysis. It will also show answers to questions relating to the research questions for this research study. The researcher employed simple percentage in the analysis.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to evaluate the influence of mother tongue on teaching of English language.
In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of the influence of mother tongue in teaching and learning of English Language.
The influence of the mother-tongue on the learning and proficiency of English language was the research problem that prompted this research work. The problem was formulated in chapter one as follows: What impact does the mother-tongue have on the learning and proficiency of English language. Throughout the investigation the guiding factor was this problem. Thus by means of a detailed literature review and an empirical investigation other studies related to this were reviewed. The data collection, analysis and interpretation supported the evidence that the research problem has been solved. That is to state that the mother-tongue actually influences the learning and proficiency of English language. This is seen in the cases of phonological interference discussed above, but the syntax of language to an extent does not interfere with the learning of the English language, rather the inconsistencies in the rules of the second language contributed to hindrances in the effective learning of the language.
The findings reveal that mother tongue influences the students’ poor performance in English language in secondary School and that there are other factors contributing to students’ poor performance in English language. These other factors are poor method of teaching, lack of textbooks, language background and lack of professional growth and development of teachers. On the whole, the performance of students in English language is poor and if the discovered factors are not tackled on time, it will cause a drastic decline in standard of education.
These recommendations are made in order to solve some of the problems militating against students’ competence in English language in Junior School certificate Examination. Having discovered that the use of mother tongue in school contributes or influence students performance in English, English language should be used as a medium of communication within and outside the classroom. Both teachers and students should endeavour to improve their proficiency level of the language. Teachers need to do more than teaching theories in class. Proper method of teaching and appropriate instructional materials should be adopted to compliment teacher’s knowledge. This goes a long way in influencing teaching and learning process in English language. Material (s) selected should be commensurable with grade or maturity level of students. Good reading habit and library study should also be developed in the students. Students should be encouraged to approach reading with alertness and critical mind. They should be made to develop taste for books which are significant in the achievement of good result in English language in Junior School Certificate Examination Schools should organize debate and essay competitions among students within and outside their schools. Students should also be given the opportunity to explain points and express views in class discussion and any error made should be corrected by the teacher without any intimidation as these will enhance a proper evaluation of learners’ performance or progress in English language.
- Akinbote, RefusOlusegun and V. I. Iroegbu. 2001. “Effect of three modes of Teaching Reading on Primary School Pupils Achievement in English Comprehension.” Evaluation Research, 1(3): 38- 45.
- Ayodele, S.O. 1988. “A Study of the effects of the problems of class sizes and location of schools on performance of pupils.”Nigerian Journal of Curriculum Studies. 1(2): 145-152.
- Bennelt, W.A. 1973. Applied Linguistic and Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge Press Limited. Craft, K. (Ed). 1980. Reading on English as a Second Language. Toronto: Little Brown.
- Duff, A. 1997.Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Etim, J.S. 1986. “Common Errors in the Written Exercises of Learners of English Language in Nigerian Secondary Schools”, (Pp. 33-41.) in S. O. Udoh (ed.), Use of English in Communication. Ibadan: Spectrum Books.
- Falayajo, W. 1997.Prototype of National Assessment for Nigeria.UNESCO/UNICEF Monitoring of Learning Achievement Programme.