ASSESSING THE PERCEPTION OF TEACHERS ON THE INFLUENCE OF MOTHER TONGUE INTERFERENCE ON SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
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Due to the place of English language in Nigeria, the poor performance of students in the use of the language is definitely an issue of national concern.
Therefore, the study was designed to explore the perception of teachers on the influence of mother tongue interference on the secondary school students’ academic performance in English language.
The subjects for the study consist of fifty teachers from twenty secondary schools in Ibadan South East Local Government Area of Oyo State.
Questionnaires were given to the teachers to elicit information on the interference of mother tongue on learning of English language.
The findings from the study indicates that language interference features usually show up in the learners’ pronunciation of English words, the use of stress, intonation and general accents.
They also show up in grammatical construction, in the choice of some words and expression and so on.
We, then conclude that, not many learner’s of English language as a second language can overcome or totally avoid manifestation and interference in their use of English.
Based on the findings above, it was thus recommended that the three factors that determine the level of interference which are the level of immersion of the individual, the level of the individual’s education and the individual’s oral English education exposure should be well taken care of in every student. Students should be made to realize their deficiencies in the use of English Language.
English Language teachers should also update their knowledge regularly to understand the peculiar areas which they or the students have problems in the teaching and learning of English language as a result of mother tongue interference.
Background to the Study
Language is a creation which every human being is endowed with or blessed; a unique gift of language is used naturally as one tool of expression consisting of different sub-skills (Wikipedia 2007).
Language is an important tool that enhances human communication and interaction.
It is a vital instrument in cultural transmission and preservation of a social group.
It is in a fundamental sense, a crucial tool in the preservation and propagation of the human species.
An examination of the linguistic content of a particular speech community can provide information about the life style, occupation etc. of a given people (Wikipedia 2007).
English Language is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval English and is now spoken in many countries around the world.
The English language being the national official language for the British colonies of which Nigeria is among makes it our second language.
Hence, our respective mother tongues exist before colonization.
This has necessitated the teaching and learning of the English language and its consequent interference in our mother tongue in various study points nationwide.
It is glaring that Nigeria is a linguistically complex society by the mere fact of the history of its creation.
It is estimated that there are between 250 and 400 languages spoken in Nigeria (Wikipedia 2007).
English language, as the only medium of classroom instruction in Nigerian schools, has affected students’ academic performances greatly because the language is foreign to the students.
Hence, Student who has problem in communication skill may likely not do well academically not only in English language but in other subjects.
The poor level of achievement in many subject areas may be due to poor foundation in English language among secondary school students which invariably may be connected with the conflict between mother tongue and English.
This is because children in this part of the world are first introduced to their mother tongue with which they comprehend ideas.
But as they grow, they sooner or later realize that the language of instruction in schools is basically in English.
For this reason, learners struggle in between two languages mentally, socially, economically and educationally.
English language is used in school and the mother tongue at home.
For some parents, in a bit to reduce the labor of their children over language utility either in school or at home; have decided to inculcate in the children the habit of speaking English language alone both at home and in school.
But if this kind of mentality is embraced by all, the country may stand the risk of accommodating a bonafide future generations without roots and culture.
To this effect, many scholars over the years in Africa have been working very hard over one common language as language of instruction other than English language.
Adesanoye (2004) on national language both for Nigeria and Africa assiduously mentioned Swahili, Wasobia and ‘Guosa’ which according to him had been proposed by some other scholars.
Yet, none of the alternative languages to English postulated by these scholars have come to stay.
In view of this, the case for English has always being overstated and the possible relationship between mother tongue and students’ academic performance in English has become a virile condition for the position of English language proficiency among students.
The importance of English language for enhancing educational attainment through improved communicative skills and ability can never be over emphasized.
Students who have so much difficulties with their communication skill may not function effectively in English, not only in English language but in their academic and this is no reason than the fact that English language in Nigeria today is the language of text-books and the language of instruction in schools (Aina et. al, 2013).
However, it is pathetic to note that students’ academic performance in the so called “language of instruction” in Nigeria has been awfully embarrassing due to the poor level of achievement especially in public examinations in which English is not an exemption (Kolawole and Dele 2002).
To this effect, according to Iroegbu (2006) much emphasis is placed on the passing of English language at credit or distinction level in addition to other subjects to enable any candidate gain admission into any Nigerian Higher Institution of learning. Yet, this has not savaged the situation.
The academic performance of students both at secondary school and post-secondary school is worrisome.
This Adesanoye (2004) noted while he cited Adeniran that there is indeed a lot wrong with the performance in English even among University students and post-graduate students for that matter.
Djihed (2013) also confirmed that even among the Arab Master students, students perform poorly in General English which compound their reading comprehension difficulties.
Abubakar (2005) admitted that the matter is serious because of the effect that English has on all the other subjects of the curriculum at the secondary school level as the only language of instruction.
Ojo (2008) asserted that poor reading ability in students is a major catalyst towards the general poor performance of students in schools as he relates this controversial debate on falling standard of education to be centered on the English language.
Thus, students are poorly equipped with the language skills and the reason Ayodele(2001) &Falayajo (2007) have supported the view that language inefficiency invariably leads to poor academic performance.
Forthwith, Odeh et.al, (2012) while referring to World Bank Report 2004 noticed that performance in English among students in Nigeria has not only been very poor over the years but Nigerian students performed below other children in twenty-six other African countries.
Fraser (2000:129) adds that students’ poor performance in other school subjects is traceable to the inability of students to express themselves meaningfully in English or meet the language demands the subjects make on them.
To this effect, proficiency in the English language is essentially not only for academic success alone but to perform in life as various individuals.
However, there is low proficiency in English language and this to a very large extent resulted in under-achievement among Nigeria senior secondary school students and those at the higher institutions.
Sofenwa (2002) has attributed this poor performance in English to the wide disparity and confusion between the language of textbooks, the curriculum, the English language class and the Nigerian society outside the class.
But, the research work at hand is targeted at unfolding whether there is a correlation between academic performance in English language and mother tongue.
Mother tongue is one’s native language.
A language, besides being the major distinguishing phenomenon between man and other creatures is evidently the most enduring of every people’s cultural heritage.
It reflects the culture of a people and it is inextricably bound up with it.
Oluwole, (2008) while referring to Awoniyi (1978) averred that Mother tongue could be defined as the language which a group of people considered to inhabitants of an area acquired in the early years and which eventually becomes their natural instrument of thoughts and communication.
Mother tongue is the first language that a person learned.
In terms of that view, the person is defined as a native speaker of the first language, although one may also be a native speaker of more than one language if all of the languages were learned without formal education, such as through cultural immersion before puberty.
Often a child learns the basics of the first language(s) from family (Wikipedia, 2007).
It is then generally accepted that in teaching and learning processes, the mother tongue of the child is of utmost importance.
For one thing, it categorizes a large part of the child’s environment, that is, it has names for most of the objects, actions, ideas, attributes and so on that are so important to him, as well as to any society.
The mother tongue is the child’s environment and is the natural basis on which verbal skills can be built, children learn through communicating in a language, which they understood.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines ‘Perception’ as an idea, a belief or an image acquired as a result of how something is seen or understood.
While Interference means to prevent the progress or operation of something.
The interference of the mother tongue on English language could be phonological, lexical or syntactical.
And performance can be defined as how well or badly something can be done which involves a lot of reading and studying.
It is therefore believed that interference phenomenon affects learner’s performance in the target language which is English.
This study is aimed at identifying such areas of the Standard English such as, apart from the above mentioned phonological interference, there is also the child exposed to two language codes, the L1 and the L2.
Lack of correlation between spelling and pronunciation, the initial and final consonant cluster in English, infusion of Ibadan dialectal words into English and lots more pose problem to the children of Ibadan area learning English language.
As the Ibadan students learn and use English Language, they are bound to encounter some problems, there are also the problems associated with the teaching of English language.
The problems of the students can be categorized into the following: interference of mother tongue into English language, translation wholesomely from mother tongue to English language, omission of some phonemes in Ibadan language that are found in English language, the tonal nature of Ibadan dialect against the time stressed nature of English language.
The problems stated above contributed to the interest of the researcher in finding out the perception of teachers on the influence of mother tongue on students’ academic performance in English Language among the students of Molete Area in Ibadan South East Local Government Area of Oyo State.
Statement of the Problem
English language is a generally accepted language which was introduced into Nigeria through colonialism and missionary activities and now spoken, taught and learned in Nigeria.
Where English language sentences are made, they are characteristically uttered with variation in pitch often referred to as an intonation.
This is often an area of difficulty for second users of English language whose language originally has their own intonation different from that of English language.
This is one of the major problems encountered by learners of English language.
Furthermore, in the area of sentence construction, there is the tendency for second users of English language to construct English sentence in accordance with their own local language structure. This is another problem encountered in the classroom environment.
Added to the above is the fact that some phonetic sounds found in English language are non-existent in many of these local languages.
These examples include the central vowels /ʒ:/, /ʌ/, /∂/.
Another area where problem is noticed is in the area of stress. Stress is strange to many of these local languages.
Therefore, to successfully enhance better learning and understanding of English language, the psychology of the people should be improved and a better communication report should be enhanced between the teachers and the learners of English language respectively.
This could be achieved by overhauling the teaching and learning system of the language. It is therefore, the pre- occupation of this research work to find out how the mother tongue has interfered with English language and the influence made so far by the education planners to reverse the trend.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research study is to examine the influence of mother tongue interference in the study of English Language in Secondary Schools in Oyo State, Nigeria.
Specifically, the study will attempt to investigate teacher’s perception on:
a. Phonological interference on students’ academic performance in English Language in Ibadan.
b. Grammatical interference on students’ academic performance in English Language in Ibadan.
c. Morpho-Syntactic interference on students’ academic performance in English Language in Ibadan.