A cross section of English scholars and academicians have expressed great concern over the precipitous diminish in the teaching and learning of English language in the country.
The English Professors who lamented on the presumably danger being posed by the act, said the time has come for the three tiers of government and stakeholders to buckle up towards the revitalization of English language in the country.
Speaking in turns on a theme: “English Studies in Non-Native Environments; Reflections and Projections” at the 32nd Annual National Conference of the English Scholars’ Association of Nigeria (ESAN), on Wednesday, at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, a Professor of Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis in the Department of English, University of Ibadan, Professor Akin Odebunmi, charged government and stakeholders to fine tune the acquisition of English language by introducing non-native English in nation’s education curricula.
Professor Odebunmi also advised scholars of English in non-native environments, especially Nigeria, to make popular non-native English in secondary schools.
He said “the idea of non-native English is generally not a popular concept with many Nigerians, especially parents, who want their children and wards to speak like white men.
“Scholars of English in non-native environments, especially Nigeria, have the responsibility to popularize the three-level teaching identified in this paper in the senior secondary schools, the GES courses and mainstream English programmes for public distinction and acceptability.
“There is also the need to influence government policies to ensure the introduction of the role-dependent varieties of English to realize a more dynamic and needs” he expressed.
Earlier, the Acting Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Professor Anthony Elujoba, who declared the conference opened, however expressed worry over what he described as poor report on the quality of standard English language spoken and written in the country.
According to him, Nigeria, being a former colony of Great Britain and an English- speaking country was expected to display high level of proficiency in English language in professional, public and other contexts.
“It is regrettable that our country has been maintaining poor scholarship on the language due to decline in the quality of the English spoken and written by Nigerians”, he lamented.
The Acting VC, who was represented by the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture of the institution, Prof. Adeagbo Amusan expressed displeasure over what he regarded as ‘serious decline in English studies and lack of innovative scholarship to encourage quality acquisition of English language.
He called on the nation’s English scholars to address the academic challenges by embarking on projects to encourage serious innovative scholarship on English language.
Elujoba said, “English remains a central communicative tool in the knowledge industry in the world today, particularly in a country like Nigeria that features in the Outer Circle of Global English use.
“The study of language as an important medium of human communication, brings with it the challenges of articulating and transmitting knowledge in an ever-changing world. The production and use of knowledge require being properly equipped in the media in which that knowledge is conducted.
Elujoba charged the academics to re-engineer English language and ensure that it is domesticated in Nigeria, given the country’s history as a former colony of Great Britain.
According to him, “one is also interested in what is cooking in the ESAN professional kitchen in relation to the variety of English believed to flourish in Nigeria-Nigerian English- alongside Standard English.
“Furthermore, many Nigerian universities insist on British English spellings in their official written communications not minding and research reports, resisting American English spellings. Not minding that their lecturers were trained in America where American patterns are imbibed and promoted as an ideology.
“They also ignore the fact that Nigeria has become an independent country and that the world is yet to see this independence in Nigeria’s articulation, legitimisation, and use of its own variety of English.
“Just like oil, the variety of English authorized in higher institutions in Nigeria is refined overseas and exported back to Nigeria.
“It would be a moment for ESAN members to take stock of their work and see how much they have contributed to the engineering of English in the Nigerian society,” he urged.
In his welcome address, the Head, Department of English of the University, Prof. Oyeniyi Okunoye, who regretted on the decline in the quality of English spoken and written by many Nigerians, also stressed that the field of English studies has been transformed in Nigeria.
He said, “While the former in its nomenclature and innovative curriculum demonstrated the urgency and possibility of decolonising the study of literature in our environment, the latter equally acknowledged the necessity of appreciating the uniqueness of studying and using English in a second language environment.
“For us, this is a major milestone in the history of our association which once calls for a backward glance and a confident projection into the future.
“While we have reasons to lament the decline in the quality of English spoken and written by many Nigerians today, we should also not discountenance the radical way in which the field of English studies has been transformed in Nigeria.
Also, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Gbemisola Adeoti expressed disappointment on the fact that some students now write English language during examinations as if they were writing SMS, saying English had gone beyond pedagogical world and as now being taken to professional level.
Meanwhile, some of the award recipients included, Prof. (Emeritus) Ayo Bamgbose, Prof. Victor Awolusi, Prof. Adebisi Afolayan, Prof. Ayo Banjo, prof. Olu Obafemi and Prof. (Mrs) Iyang Udufort.