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PROBLEMS OF LEARNERS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN NIGERIA Safiya Ibrahim Solomon-Ugbaja Introduction Nigeria is a country with 250 ethnic groups and over 400 different languages spoken which has nothing in resemblance to do with English language, whether in intonation, stress pattern, grammar or articulation. Her culture is diversified, although there are three major native languages in Nigeria, which are Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa language. English language is the official language spoken in Nigeria, so it is expected that every individual should be able to understand and speak it irrespective of their native language. The problems of English learners in Nigeria seem to be on the increase instead of being minimized, some of which are itemized below: • Native language/ Mother tongue interference • Lack of qualified English language Teachers • Speaking of vernacular in schools • Wrong Teaching method, insufficient teaching materials and Over populated classes Native Language/ Mother Tongue Interference The native language is the language of the learner’s Parents and in every local community, it is ideal that every child learns to understand and communicate in his native language which has its own unique accents. Since this is a norm in the Nigerian culture, the parents of the child begin to communicate with him in their native language in his early year there by helping the child to learn and understand it. This therefore becomes his instrument of thoughts and communication resulting in him having difficulty in learning English language as an absolute beginner or a beginner without a roman alphabet. Lack of Qualified English Language Teachers The number of unqualified English Teachers is more than the qualified ones. It is every parents’ desire that their children do great in school, they therefore send their wards to school to learn, but unfortunately they can only learn what they are taught by the teachers, and the unqualified teachers can only teach within the confines of what they know. Some teachers lack good command of English, while others also have the problem of mother tongue interference. Too bad the learners believe in their teachers so much that when they are taught the wrong thing and are corrected by someone else they will not accept it. Years ago, I had to help my little niece with her assignment. She was asked to read her A, B, C to Z. So she read while I listened to her and she said, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L (elu), M (emu), N (enu), O, P, Q, R (aru), S (esu), T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.” I tried to correct some of the alphabets she pronounced wrongly but she said, “No, my teacher said that is the correct pronunciation.” Obviously, the teacher’s mother tongue has interfered in the way she speaks English language and this in turn will affect her English learners negatively. Months later, her parents had to change her school into a better one and now she is an advanced learner of English. Speaking of Vernacular in Schools In many public schools, other subject teachers teach in their native language in a bid to enhance their learners’ understanding, but its adverse effect is seen in their learning of English. Teaching other subjects using English language will widen the scope of the students, helping them to see that English language is not only limited to English as a subject, but can also be applied to other aspects of life when it comes to thinking and communication. Speaking of vernacular in schools has slowed their rate of learning English One day, I was teaching in a class, then my students asked me to teach using their native language, that other teachers do so and it helps them to understand better. I refused to. After my lesson, I asked a question to evaluate them and one of my pupils stood up to answer. He answered in English but at some point he switched to his native tongue because he was short of English words to express himself, after some promptings he said, “Teacher I know it, but I can explain better in my language”. Wrong Teaching Method, Insufficient Teaching Materials and Overpopulated Classes. English lessons are not presented in a way the learners will understand and easily remember what they are taught. The teacher comes into the class and just teach what he has to present not minding their needs and their rate of comprehension. When you have an optimum number of students in a class, it reduces teaching stress, fosters more rapport between teacher and students which can help the teacher to identify individual students’ needs and attend to them. Also, materials will be adequate for teaching, but ineffective teaching and learning is not far from a class that is overpopulated. Recommendations and Conclusion The problems English learners in Nigeria face can be minimized if the following recommendations will be adhered to: • Parents of English learners should be sensitized on the importance of learning English language since it is the official language in Nigeria, so they could also help their child’s learning of English language even though their native language will not be neglected. • Teachers should be encouraged to update their knowledge in English language, since English language as a subject is dynamic in nature, i.e going for seminars, conferences or even enrolling for courses such as TEFL and TESOL Training. • School Authorities should ensure that speaking of vernacular by teachers and students is strictly minimized. • English learners should be encouraged to always speak English language irrespective of the discouraging reactions they get from the society. • They should also be encouraged to make regular use of dictionaries, and also to learn at least one new word each day. This will boost their vocabulary archive. • Classes should not be overpopulated, good and sufficient teaching materials should be made available. • The ESA (Engage, Study and Activate) method of teaching should be introduced to Schools. Conclusively, the aforementioned recommendations will enhance effective teaching and learning of English language in Nigeria.