RENEGOTIATING STUDENT APATHY TO THE USE OF STANDARD SPOKEN ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN UNIVERSITIES
Background to the Study
Language is central to all our lives, and is arguably the cultural tool that sets humans apart from any other species. Language is also thesymbolic behaviourthat allows human specialties- education, art, religion and science- to occur. We use it to practice government; we use it to preach the gospel; we use it to engage in trade; we use it inteaching and learningof everything. A beautiful fact about language as a general term is that unlike other forms of cultural behaviour, it is blind to demographics, socio economics and ethnic difference. The only variation is found in the numerous, existing types of languages used by human persons. The English language is one of these existing human languages. English today is a unique language, quite functionally and structurally different from other languages of the world. English has been accepted as a second language in Nigeria, right from the time the country was colonized by Britain. It is also the language of education and Nigerians have shown much prominence in all academic pursuits. However, the English language encounters several challenges serving as a vehicular language in the education of persons from diverse ethnic backgrounds. English language teachers face growing pressures to meet the needs of increasingly diverse learners, both in terms of ethnicity, and language, and also in terms of economic and social circumstances. According to Brown (2015), the goal of the language learners is to make sure that they can communicate what they have in mind effectively, they have to be understood when they are uttering the words. For effective communication, the researcher considers it pertinent to examine exhaustively a good number of the factors that influence effective communication in English, especially as it relates to the Nigerian undergraduates.
The de facto National Policy on Language (in Education) recognizes the multidimensional, multi-lingual three tier political party state which tries to capture the multi-ethnic and, ipso facto, multi-lingual polity which Berlin and the British have hammered into a joint existence. This policy provides for English- the official language- as the language of formal literacy, the bureaucracy, secondary and higher education, the law courts, etc, while all Nigerian languages (language of the immediate environment) can be a media of instruction in initial levels of literacy and in life-long and non-formal education. However, down through the years, this has morphed to become even the language of communication amongst students. Students in higher levels of learning (tertiary institutions) who are to be taught in English Language alone, have chosen to speak other languages but English amongst themselves. The use of the Creole language (Pidgin) and mother tongue is rampant and wide spread all through Nigerian colleges and universities. One can only imagine why this is so, as it badly affects their overall competence in the use of the English language while in school and much later in life. Nevertheless, this is not to say that a fluency or deft proficiency in one's mother tongue is undesirable or to be discouraged; no. It is to be encouraged, as it adds to the rich and diverse linguistic multiplicity of the nation. The issue at hand is that an overindulgent use of these indigenous languages by university undergraduates is a threat to their overall success in life, both within the nation and internationally. This is true because English language is not only Nigeria's official language, but is also a world language. And with the dawning of each new day, it increasingly becomes even more global and germane for attaining success in life. Consequently, in this research work, effort is made to discover why this nagging problem persists amongst Nigerian university undergraduates, how it came to be and what possible, practical steps can be taken to remedy it.
Statement of the Problem
It is no secret that a vast majority of students in higher institutions of learning in Nigeria struggle to effectively express themselves in the English Language. This is evident in a myriad of ways, some of which include:
· the way they shy away from all forms of public speaking
· their general attitude to English language
· their oral performance in job interviews
There could be several reasons why this problem exists. One of these reasons is an overuse of vernacular and creole languages on their part. These students use coined and colloquial lingos to converse amongst themselves and very sparsely and rarely, speak good English Language. This has gone on for too long and has become a critical issue to be looked into. Consequently, challenges abound in the teaching and learning of English in Nigeria. This study is undertaken to draw attention to these existing challenges and some other influences and elements affecting the communication process.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose or objective of this study is to uncover the salient and prominent reasons why there is a general apathy amongst Nigerian University students in speaking Standard English Language. Below are the specific objectives:
1) To discover the factors that led to the apathy towards the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian undergraduates.
2) To discover the influence of English language teaching aids and materials on the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian undergraduates.
3) To find out the influence of teachers' teaching methods on the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian undergraduates.
4) To determine the influence of cultural environment in the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian University students.
Significance of the Study
A lot of researches have been carried out on the language of communication of Nigerian university students, but what makes this study significant is its re-evaluation and fresh investigation into the possible reasons behind the growing reluctance amongst Nigerian undergraduates to use the English Language to communicate both in and outside the classroom. On the completion of this study, it would have been determined from the analysis of the data collected, most of the root causes to the general apathy amongst University students to use English Language. Therefore, the result of this study will be beneficial to teachers, parents, students, curriculum planners, employers of labour, e.t.c.
Scope of the Study
The researcher chose Godfrey Okoye University, Caritas University and University of Nigeria Enugu Campus as the scope of her research. These universities will be representatives of all other universities within Enugu Metropolis.
1) What are the factors that led to the apathy towards the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian undergraduates?
2) What is the influence of English language teaching aids and materials on the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian undergraduates?
3) How do teachers' teaching methods affect the use of Standard Spoken English of Nigerian undergraduates?
4) What is the influence of cultural environment in the use of Standard Spoken English by Nigerian University students?.