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Implementation of language policy in Nigeria: English as a sticking point
Harrison Adéníyì (Department of African Languages, Lagos State University, Nigeria)
In order to free its citizens from the yoke of an imperial language, i.e., English, the Nigerian Government at various times proposed various forms of language policies to encourage and stimulate the growth and development of its over 400 indigenous languages. First is what is contained in sections 51 and 91 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution. Second is what we have in the National Policy on Education (2004) and the third is as contained in the cultural policy of Nigeria. All these policies are geared toward strengthening the indigenous languages and particularly the three major languages recognized by the Nigerian constitution, viz Igbo, Hausa and Yoru`ba´. However, in spite of these different and bogus language policies, the difficulty being faced by the various tiers of governments and the relevant agencies, and particularly the Nigerian citizens is how to effectively implement these policies in the face of the domineering roles played by the English language, which is supposed to be just one of the four official languages.
The overbearing influence of English in Nigeria is so prevalent and pervasive that it has caused the death of some minority languages and is also threatening the so-called majority languages. This paper therefore, takes a look at the various stumbling blocks to the effective implementation of language policies that would have positively affected the growth and development of the indigenous languages. We applied Matthias Brenzinger’s theory of “Language contact and language displacement”. We relate the claim of this theory to the reality of Nigeria’s linguistic situation. The methodology that is adopted in this work includes content analyses of the various documents on language policies in Nigeria, interviews, participatory observation and questionnaires. Five hundred informants are used. Our findings show that factors such as prestige, lack of commitment on the part of the government, are responsible for the present state of affairs. We conclude the paper by highlighting various actions that can remediate these impediments.
Brenzinger, Mathias (1997): Language Contact and Language Displacement. In The Handbook of Sociolinguistics, ed. by Florian Coulmas. Oxford: Blackwell.