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LANGUAGE PLANNING IN ANAMBRA STATE: A SOCIO-LINGUISTIC STUDY
1.1 LANGUAGE SITUATION IN ANAMBRA STATE
In our everyday life, we use words as means of communicating with other people, sending and receiving messages.
We live in a world of words. Through words we communicate with all the people who play important parts in our daily lives: family, friends, teachers, associates and the many others.
The possession of language distinguishes man from other animals. Language, like a living thing, is marked by some distinguishing characteristics ascribed only to living things-ability to change, grow, and develop by use and its adaptation to environmental factors.
Language is a meaningful medium of sending a message to a receiver. The message may be ideas, feelings and desires. In general terms, it can be an instinctive or a non-instinctive medium of communication. It is a very valuable tool, offering man the most essential equipment to enable him live together, to act, think and share ideas with other people. According to Mgbodile (1999)
Language can be seen as a veritable tool for communication, for social interaction, for learning artifacts, maintenance and transfer of culture, as a polishing, excavating and building tool as well as for personality development.
Language too, Denga (1988) believes, is a vehicle of communication which enables us to establish human relations.
For Elizabeth Hurlock (1986), language is that which passes every means of communication in which thought and feelings are symbolized so as to convey meaning to others.
While Jean Piaget, for instance, sees language as one form of symbolic representation that requires the ability of the child to represent the internal or inward concept externally in an object, Williams (2001) emphasizes that language is both part of culture as well as the medium by which culture is defined and described.
Language is man’s tool for exchange of ideas, feelings, information and thought. It distinguished man from other beings created by God. It is believed that language correlates with intelligence.
In the opinion of Eve Enghlom:
Language is the key to the heart of the people. If we lose the key, we lose people, if we treasure the key and keep it safe, it will unlock the door to untold riches which cannot be guessed at from the other side of the door.
The lesson learnt from the above opinion of Enghlom is that language plays a vital role in the life of a people. Hence, Ani (2007) submits that human beings cannot think without language. It is an integral part of man, it surpasses communication and social interaction. Language influences thought, and thought often conditions actions, also, it influences conduct.
Azikiwe (1998) has it that language means putting our experiences into words for others to understand, as well as to understand the experiences of others put into words.
Language exists only by virtue of a sort of contract by the members of a community; it is culturally established rules which govern all forms of linguistic communication within any given community.
Ezikeojiaku (1995) describes language as a vehicle for conveying the culture and tradition of a people that own it. This goes to show that a people’s culture cannot be fully appreciated without their language. Thus in the opinion of Okorie (2008) language and by extension culture are the sole properties of the human being manifested in his efforts to change or conquer the environment thereby bringing about progress and development.
Okafor (2009) opines that language can be used to foster national unity perhaps more than political parties or religion while Baugh (1976) sees it as the medium by which man communicates his thoughts and feelings to his fellow man, the tool with which he conducts his business or the government of millions of people, the vehicle by which have been transmitted to him the science, the philosophy, the dance and poetry of his race.
From all indications, Ihejirika (2008) insists that language is an invaluable asset to humanity without which man cannot attain his maximum capacities, which may stiffle any nation’s development efforts.
Ekweribe (2009) believes that through the instrumentality of language, literacy frees the mind of the individual from the bondage of ignorance engendered by limited intellectual experience and inhibitions. It enables the literate individual to interconnect and interact with the minds of other individuals beyond spatial and time boundaries.
From the foregoing, it is not difficult to see that the relationship between a language and the people who speak it is so deep that the two can scarcely be thought of apart. A language lives only so long as there are people who speak it and use it as their native tongue, and its greatness is only that given to it by these people.
Therefore cultural transmission and human communication from one generation to another is made possible only through language. This therefore calls for a good mastery of language preferably one’s mother-tongue.
According to Gleason (1969), language is primarily a tool to be used and it has a complex nature. In his opinion, although language deserves careful and intelligent study due to its complex nature, a native speaker of any language uses this complex apparatus easily and without conscious thought of the process. It seems to him quite simple and natural.
Mastery in any given language is achieved both formally and informally in our various homes and in schools respectively. The use of language is important because it is one of the means by which culture is made psychologically active within the learner through the agent of socialization, one of which is the school. Through communication via language, social roles are ascribed to the child. Language, therefore, becomes an essential tool in the growth and development of the individual and society at large.
It has been observed that language is an important factor in national development and national consciousness. It is the life blood of a people’s culture for through language, the norms of a culture are kept alive and handed down to generations for posterity.
Since the advent of Western education in Nigeria in 1515 in Benin, Fafunwa (1974) reports that English as a medium of instruction in schools and tool of communication was emphasized. According to Ali (2000)
Training in Arithmetic, writing, Reading and Religion was carried out in English and the local languages. The local clergy, catechists, lay-readers and pious and obedient teachers taught these subjects in English and vernacular and, sometimes in Latin.
The missionaries and later the colonialists taught the natives the English Language for these reasons: to enable them to read the Bible; to interprete what the priests say or preach in the church; to gain more converts; to serve as clerks and interpreters in the office for easy governance and smooth business transactions.
As Nigeria became a British Colony for more than a century, English language consequently became the nation’s second language and ultimately its lingua franca. And as a result of the central position occupied by English language in Nigeria, most Nigerians strove and still strive to be proficient in it.
Therefore since 1880, there has been a dramatic decline in the importance attached to teaching in the local language. Rather, there has been the display of great interest in the learning of English especially in the South -East and parts of South-South of Nigeria.
Anambra is one of the five-states that make up the South-East Zone and one of the thirty-six states in Nigeria. Made up of one hundred and seventy-seven communities, Anambra State has twenty-one Local Government Areas and a population of over four million 2006 (Census). Seibert states that
There are two languages which are spoken as first languages in Anambra State. Igbo is the major language of Anambra State while Igala is a small minority language (1)
Igala is a language found among the Nzam people of Anambra State who share the boundary with some communities in Benue and Kogi States.
Also, two non-indigenous languages that enjoy the status of second languages in Anambra State are English and Pidgin. English is used in schools and government establishments for its socio-cultural affairs and administrative management as well as in private establishments. On the other hand, Pidgin is found to be in used such places as markets, police stations, barracks, religious crusades, motor parks and
Socio-linguists are of the opinion that the social context in which language learning takes place is a crucial factor in language learning. Differences exist between one language and another and among speakers of the same language. An individual speaker at various times and under certain circumstances manifest differences in speech.
However, in spite of these differences, people who speak the same language may have many social factors which they share in common.
Linguists and psychologists agree that from the age of five, the child has acquired a reasonable degree of competence in his mother-tongue. The use of one or more languages by an individual is determined by a number of social factors like socio-economic class, sex, age and even occupation.
Prior to the out-break of the Nigeria-Biafra War in 1967, Igbo was the major language of the people of Eastern Nigeria of which Anambra State is an integral part. There were those others, and a reasonable percentage too, who spoke only Igbo language. However, since the end of the Civil War down to the present time, other factors apart from linguistics have encouraged the wider use of English and Pidgin in the state.
All normal speakers of a language display stylistic variation in speech. Thus it is not expected that all speakers in any community speak exactly the same way (Coulmas 50). Such variation constitute an individual’s idiolect.
The functional roles of a language or a variety of it have resulted on a feeling among people, that some languages or varieties are just better than others. This position explains the reason for the adoption or otherwise of a language by a community as a major or minor language. Schools have also helped in promoting this idea or position. The English language has always occupied a primary position in Nigeria. Language planners and course designers have much to do in mapping out the socio-linguistic features of the language. By this, areas of need will be identified for proper handling by teachers and students.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In a multi-lingual society, the issue of which language should be used to foster a sense of belonging definitely arises. Anambra State enjoys the status of a multi-lingual society. A great number of people from Anambra State can speak more than one language. One would want to know how and when each of these languages is used.
Secondly another area worth close consideration is the language policy on education. The National language policy states that the language of instruction in the first three years in the primary school should be the mother-tongue or the language of the immediate environment but at a later stage English.
It is a fact that though Igbo could be said to be the Lingua franca in the state, most parents and schools openly discourage their children from learning and speaking their mother-tongue. Age, sex, place of birth, occupation, educational level and social status have a place on a speaker’s language choice.
Under this observable language situation in Anambra state, a valid conclusion on the real language plan for use in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools cannot be reached without taking into consideration the socio-linguistic configuration of the state.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The essence of this study is to establish the true position of government and school proprietors on language planning in Anambra State. It is the intention of the researcher to find out why outside the school, a formidable group advocates the use of mother-tongue in pre-primary and early primary as medium of instruction while in the class rooms teachers are reluctant to adopt it.
Also the researcher intends to find out from language policy planners in the state the degree of control they have on privately owned schools since they control a large number of school children in the state. In other words, this study is designed to examine the socio-linguistic features of language planning and language policy, especially as it affects the private schools in Anambra State.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This work is likely to be a veritable tool in the hands of language policy makers as well as school teachers. It is also intended to generate a common position on language use in schools both for
government and private school owners: Without doubt, in our present age, language is the engine room of unity and the acceptance or otherwise of a given language affects the life of the society.
1.5 THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research is limited to the stake-holders in education in Anambra State namely-the policy makers, school heads and teachers especially as it affects the private schools. They were consulted and literature by experts on language policy were also looked at critically.
Questionnaires were administered in some randomly selected schools and representatives of government on language planning in the state. Although emphasis was on private schools, information from public schools was explored for a balanced data.