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You don't learn by merely speaking. ..
By chukwudi Anagbogu
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The use of the English Language had been inevitable in Nigeria, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  Apart from the fact that it is our lingua francs, the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria has made it imperative that we continue to place its mastery at the helm of teaching and learning, right from the cradle of education to its apex.  The most important reason, perhaps why the use of the English Language is inevitable, at least for now, is that it is the language of formal education, as well as its role in inter-ethnic communication. Thus, everyone strives to master the use of the English Language, and today, every parent derives glee and ecstasy seeing one's child communicate freely in the English Language, relegating to the background our indigenous language.

One of the most controversial topics on the teaching and learning of the English Language is  "the best way to achieve competence in the speaking and writing of the English Language. "  A lot of linguists and academics have proffered ways of doing this.  The commonest way, which had never worked, but which is widely believed to work is the theory of relegating our indigenous languages to the background, while using the English Language in our day to day lives. This, according to the adherents of this belief will ensure a mastery of the language. Thus, you see parents placing a prime on the use of the English Language in their homes. They force their wards to dispel the thought of using their mother tongues in any form or by any means. This can mostly be found among the so-called 'city children.'  As a teacher of the English Language with over a decade experience, I can authoritatively state that this method has made children worse speakers of the English Language than intended. Most good users of the English Language are equally proficient in their mother tongues. Great scholars like Wole Soyinka, the late Chinua Achebe, Chukwuemeka Ike, etc are as good in English as they are in their respective mother tongues. In fact, someone like Achebe was able to plough his competence in his native language into his literary works to great perfection!

The much maligned  "transliteration" is more inherent on children who had no basic knowledge of their mother tongues, except for those who were born and bred outside the shores of the country. Statements like   "I will first you to come ",  "use your hand and do it,"  "I carry your name in the head, " to mention but a few are hallmarks of the English Language usage among the  "township children."  Watch out for them during the yuletide. They will always say,  "I don't hear Igbo /Yoruba /Hausa " as the case may be. Funny enough most of these children attend the Montessori schools, where their parents pay through their noses to make sure they  "speak like the white."  You don't want your children to speak vernacular at all, even at home, yet you are not proficient yourself. Have you forgotten that whatever and however you speak, so will your children do.

To be proficient in the English Language, you must be a good reader of books, both literary and non-literary. Through this means, you acquire as much vocabulary as possible. The more you read, the richer your vocabulary, and the more it rubs off on your use of English. Even as you read, avoid hungry authors . Go for renowned and proven writers. Make reading a hobby, a habit and a point of duty. Endeavor to Look up new words in the dictionary. At the same time, read up dailies (newspapers, magazines, etc) . Remember, a reader is a leader. Being rich in vocabulary would even aid students in reading notes, text books and exam questions.

Again, it is important to communicate in the English Language, without sidelining the mother tongue. The two should be used when appropriate. When you speak and commit errors, do not feel deterred. Accept corrections with courtesy. It is he who likes you that corrects you. Your enemy will mock and make a jest of you when you make a mistake.

To be continued. ...

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