Work has started to study and standardise a language spoken by millions but denied official status, raising hopes for education and communication across West Africa The traffic gridlock of Nigeria's main city Lagos means that Albanus Olekaibe, a 44-year-old contract driver, spends more of his day listening to radio presenters than to anyone else. He has been following reports of the latest bribery scandal to beset the World Cup football authorities and he can speak knowledgeably on the midterm elections in the US. But the commentary on current affairs that spills from this big, cheerful man would be incomprehensible to the average English speaker. Olekaibe uses familiar English words but strings them together in a unique way, interspersed with phrases from Nigeria's 500 other languages. Like some 50 million Nigerians he speaks Nigerian Pidgin English.
Salamatu Sule, a graduate of English and Literary Studies from the Kogi State University, Ayingba, just concluded her residency at the Ebedi Writers’ Residency, Iseyin. In this interview with Adewale Oshodi, the multi-talented writer explains why she writes in Pidgin English, and why majority of her writings focus on the problems facing the country.
WHEN did you actually start writing and what inspired you? I started writing at a very tender age. I was writing more of scribbles then; writing for me at that time was more of fun. In 1999, I was selected from my secondary school to participate in a poetry competition organised at the UK Bello Theatre by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). Then I knew I was going to write poetry. It was in 2010, however, that I delved into writing proper.
On what inspired me, I read a lot and I have read quiet a number of books that have inspired me in their peculiar ways. And one of such books is Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Camara Laye’s The African Child.
Writing in the Pidgin English is not so popular, but you write in Pidgin English as well. Is there any reason for this? Pidgin, as you know, is a language of the masses, the market people and the media. It has also gained entry into politics as it is a veritable tool used for political campaigns. In this country, we have several writings in pidgin language and one of such is a poetry collection by the late Mamman Jiya Vatsa. For me, what is new about my kind of pidgin poem is the stylistic device and more importantly, the movement to change the word pidgin into what is now called Naija Language; this movement was championed by the Naija Language Academy (Naija Langwej Akademi) with a standard orthography (Standad Naija Otografi) with a new standard spelling system for writers of pidgin language. A language that is widely spoken by the people deserves to be standardised. Therefore, writers should write in Pidgin English to standardise the language.
This post contains a selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular.
US ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle caused a stir in Lagos recently when he spoke in Pidgin English on a Wazobia Radio programme during which he was being quizzed about Nigeria's new gay rights law.
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