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English is our lingua franca in Nigeria. In short, currently, English is the official language in most African countries, which are the former colonies of Great Britain, of which Nigeria was a member. With our multiplicity of language and culture dynamics, English was adopted as our language of civilization and instruction. In schools, local languages are referred to as vernacular, while English is celebrated. Your intelligence level is measured by your adequate acquisition of the language. Ask those who failed UTME for more details.

English is widely practiced and occupies a prominent function both at the workplace and in the media.  You are entering an interview, woe betides you if you do not have a proper control of your lexis and structure, you are prejudiced without being tested on your capacity to function in the role.

English is the premier language that Nigerians like their children to learn. Many parents ignore their children when they speak the indigenous language because they don’t want to be judged by the society as being low class. Pedestrian English with wrong violations of grammar rules is taught to children who could master dexterity in the language if they had been introduced to their indigenous language.

Oh, no need to point to the era of social media. You are monitored for every grammatical error you make when active. Celebrities are scorned if they do not arrange their tenses well. My former First Lady was the brunt of many jokes along with some notable withheld individuals.

In simple details, the variation of English called the Nigerian English is being applauded by many. A scholar admired by me, Achebe (as quoted by Bisong, 1995: 129) said,

‘‘I think that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. However, it will have to be a new English, still in full harmony with its ancestral home but altered to fit its new African surroundings.”

And that many of us did, and have turned the English language to the front burner in politics, education, religion, economy, technology, and anywhere else you can think of. We export English trained professionals and even the language itself to those who sold it to us. Yet, we are not reckoned as members of the best English speaking Africans.

Although it may be true, Ugandans are the best English speaking Africans in 2017. What happened to all the  English we have been speaking since our grandfathers’ generation. It is high time we promoted and developed our native languages. It is best we imbibe the standardization we applaud in the English language in our local dialects. Develop  Nigerian languages to the standard where they can perform scientific and technological needs. Provide a platform to enhance it into an international language.

Best English speaking Africans; 1. Ugandans 2. Zambians 3. South Africans 4. Kenyans 5. Zimbabweans 6. Malawians

– World Linguistic Society — Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) May 12, 2017 I am not asking that we discard our lingua-Franca, English, after all this article has been written in English, I am only suggesting that we look more into our languages and develop them. It’s high time we stopped being ashamed of our languages. It is, after all, one of our identities.

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This article was first published on 6th September 2017


Adepeju Adenuga is a writer (considering where you are reading this, makes perfect sense). She holds a Masters Degree in Literature in English from the University of Lagos.

Comments (1)

One thought on “The English Speaking Nigerians”

  • Not surprised Nigeria is not among the top 5 best English speaking Africans. Definitely not with the latest trend in ‘Jenifa’s diary’ kind of English; the waffy Pidgin English which is a prerequisite for any successful comedian etc

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