Monday, December 10, 2018
Did u know?Education

West Africa’s pidgins deserve full recognition as official languages

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The BBC World Service’s radio service of English-based Pidgin for West and Central Africa, BBC News Pidgin, is now a year old. And it’s thriving. According to the broadcaster it News Pidgin reaches a weekly audience of 7.5 million people in Nigeria and around the world on radio, online, Facebook and Instagram.

Even though Pidgin hasn’t got the official status of a recognised language anywhere, it’s widely spoken across West Africa. Between three and five million Nigerians use it as their first language, while a further 75 million have it as their second language.




Today, variations of pidgins are used in all spheres of life ranging from political campaigns, television and radio broadcast. They are also taught in some tertiary institutions, used in music and other works of art and even speeches by public officials.

Pidgin refers to what’s known as a trade language that emerged as a mixture of languages to help people who don’t have a common one to communicate with one another. In West Africa these mixes include English and French, on the one hand, and local languages on the other. The mixing has developed into lingua franca of the region.

Pidgin is used differently in different settings. For example, the version spoken in Nigeria is different from the version spoken in Senegal. This is because in one English is the dominant European language while in the other French is dominant.

Pidgin refers to what’s known as a trade language that emerged as a mixture of languages to help people who don’t have a common one to communicate with one another. In West Africa these mixes include English and French, on the one hand, and local languages on the other. The mixing has developed into lingua franca of the region.

Pidgin is used differently in different settings. For example, the version spoken in Nigeria is different from the version spoken in Senegal. This is because in one English is the dominant European language while in the other French is dominant.

The history

Trade and colonization brought pidgin to West Africa. A range is spoken across West Africa. They include: Nigerian Pidgin, Sierra Leone Pidgin (also known as Krio), Ghanaian pidgin, Senegalese Pidgin and Cameroonian Pidgin.




Some, if not all, of these pidgins have outgrown their status as pidgins. But they are still called pidgin. One of the reasons it that there’s a view that pidgin doesn’t have native speakers. This isn’t true. In West Africa children and adults use pidgins as their first language. These pidgins are now creoles – that is a language that was a pidgin but has become a first language for a new generation of speakers.
In Nigeria for example, Pidgin is viewed as being the language of illiterates even though it’s used by both educated and uneducated people in formal and informal activities. It has featured prominently in culture, from Afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti’s urban dance music to highbrow opera like in Nigerian-born singer Helen Parker-Jayne’s Song Queen: A Pidgin Opera.

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