Bilingualism Problems in Nigeria: Implications for ESL Pedagogy

Published: March 2019

AuthorB.F. Ovu1 and Q.E. Anyanwu2

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1Department of English Language and Literature, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri

2Teaching Practice Department, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri.

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In this paper, we discuss some of the conceptual and ontological problems that bilingualism raises for ESL pedagogy in Nigeria. We critically review the various classifications of bilingualism which have accumulated in the literature over the years, taking note of the implications of each classification for second language pedagogy particularly within the Nigerian linguistic environment. Specifically, we x-ray the theoretical and empirical challenges that bilingualism holds for a generative theory of second language acquisition with special reference to the nature of bilingual competence. We also discuss the pattern and reality of bilingual language attrition using data from twenty Igbo children whose proficiency in English is relatively high even though some of them can hardly speak a word of Igbo. In analysing the results, we were guided by four variables: Language Facility (LF), where we assessed each member of the population based on whether he or she speaks more than one language; Degree of Proficiency (DP), where we grouped the research subjects based on different levels of proficiency in the languages spoken with emphasis on both productive and receptive language skills as well as their mode of using the languages (i.e. whether or not they can write and speak them); Parental Background (PB), where we concentrated on knowing whether there would be any significant difference between children whose parents are literate and those whose parents are illiterate in the use of the languages, and Attitude and Value Attached to the Language (AVL), where we assessed the social-economic variables that may affect their proficiency or general ability to use the languages. After these, we discuss the results and draw our conclusion.

Key Words: bilingualism, language attrition, minimalism, second language acquisition