The debate to end Nigeria's most spoken language is on. Pidgin English has been accused. It has been found guilty of killing ethnic languages and promoting lazy English: both written and spoken The Magistrate and Jury has found it guilty and must be punished. The fine is to end it. Anyone found speaking pidgin English will be sentence to 20 lashes in the open, jailed for 14 years and sentence to death for the third offence. How cruel? That is the new joke following the strict homosexuality ban in Nigeria. But what if?
In Nigeria, a country of 170 million, with hundreds of local languages and dialects, pidgin English, rather than official Standard English, is the talk of the town. Osas eye will like to get your input. Should Nigeria ban Pidgin English?
"For you to reach the common man easily you must speak in a language that they understand: break it down, give them the broken English or the Pidgin English," says Wazobia FM star presenter Steve Onu.
"Pidgin is growing and evolving every day. People come in with different languages and they make it up. The language is sweet, it's an interesting language to speak, it's humorous,
Formal English on the other hand is seen as the well-educated or rich man's language.
Not everyone is pleased to see pidgin soaring on the mainstream. Teachers lament the erosion of Nigeria's official language and the spread of what they see as "lazy" language habits in the young.
English is not the only victim of pidgin's popularity, with the major Nigerian languages of Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba also threatened.
The teaching of local languages in Nigerian schools has fallen away in recent decades, adding grounds to the more constructive pidgin english.
"This lack of attention to local languages could lead to the extinction or death of these languages," said Lere Adeyemi, a linguistics lecturer at the University of Lagos.
"In most secondary schools in Nigeria, unlike in the past, local languages have been (optional). Local languages were made compulsory subjects in the school curriculum before. But not any more."
One university in southeastern Nigeria, where Igbo is the native tongue, said recently that it plans to make Igbo classes compulsory for all second-year students.
At the federal level, the government says it is promoting indigenous languages but the ministry of education admitted that the policy had not been followed strictly in all schools.
"The policy is designed such that the first four years of school age will be taught in the indigenous language of that particular area," said the ministry's coordinator for Nigerian languages, Nneoma Ofor.
"For the subsequent years, the school curriculum makes indigenous language a compulsory subject for all but only up to (the third year of secondary school)" after which it becomes optional, she added.
Nigeria's government has no policy on pidgin, which is viewed as an informal language, said Ofor.
But with pidgin now thought to be the most widely spoken language in Nigeria, it's more a case of accommodating rather than defeating it.
"I see Pidgin English as moving towards becoming a national language," said Chima Anyadike, the head of English at the Obafemi Awolowo University in the southwestern city of Ile-Ife.
"It is a viable means of communication in Nigeria. Language has power to unite people. It is a form of language imported from elsewhere but developed locally."
Culled from www.sowetanlive.co.za