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BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Most cultures have stories which seek to explain the origin
of life and to explain why things are as they are in the world today. The story from Genesis would have us believe
that linguistic diversity is the curse of Babel (Genesis 11:1-11).
the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech… And they said to one another… Let us build us
a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name,
lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and
the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the Lord said, behold, the people is one, and they have all one
language,… Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not
understand one another’s speech. So, the
Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they
left off to build the city. Therefore,
is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the
language of all the earth.
In primordial time, people spoke the same
language. God, however, decided to
punish them for their presumptuousness in erecting the tower by making them
speak different languages. Thus,
multilingualism became an obstacle to further co-operation and placed limits on
human worldly achievements.
Most communities in the world are multilingual. In these communities, there is more than one
language that plays an important role, and many or all of the individuals in
such communities are at least bilingual.
Here, the context you find yourself determines the kind of language you
When you talk of language choice in any country, one
bears in mind the multilingual societies.
In monolingual countries, there is no worry about choice of language to
use, they only have to use the language available to them.
One of the most obvious problems associated with newly
formed multilingual communities, for example, in countries such as Australia
and Canada which have seen considerable immigration from different parts of the
world, is that of cross-cultural communication.
Sociolinguistic research has made it clear that to communicate
successfully in a language other than
your own, it is not enough to learn the phonology, grammar and vocabulary of
that language. You also have to learn
how to use it appropriately in particular social situations according to the
norms employed and accepted by its native speakers.
Potential multilingual speakers are people with a
strong interest in a foreign language, people who find it necessary to acquire
second or third language for practical purposes, such as business, information
gathering or entertainment.
Multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers
in the world’s population. In a
multilingual society, not all speakers need to be multilingual. When all speakers are multilingual, linguists
classify the community according to the functional distribution of the
The researcher observed that before an individual
thinks of language choice, there must be some motivational factors. Motivation and investment in this process, by
the individual, will depend on the value attached to prospective gains
accompanying proficiency in the relevant language. He also observed that language choice is
affected by utilitarian considerations.
A speaker may feel that the use of a particular language will place him
in an advantageous position either within a group or within a wider social
context. If his antagonists in a
discussion or argument are less fluent than he is, this will clearly serve to
give him a valuable edge. The perceived
advantage does not have to be in relation to other individuals. It may be for purely personal considerations
that a person chooses to speak a particular language. A student of a foreign language may prefer
to use that language whenever possible, with the sole intention of improving
Acquiring an additional language, second, third or
fourth, will be greatly affected by the social, political and economic
environment within which the acquisition process takes place. Learners of additional languages are either
born into or transferred to (as a result of migration) a multilingual
context. Those born into such a
situation usually accept the need for multilingualism as a natural phenomenon
and hence can easily see the importance and the gains of achieving a high level
of proficiency in the various relevant languages. Those transferred to a multilingual context
as a result of immigration, have some difficult choices to make:
Maintenance of the heritage language
in order to preserve the culture and ethnic identity.
Acquisition of the new national
language in order to gain equitable access to the new country’s resources.
Acquisition of a language of wider
communication, such as English for academic and professional purposes.
Finally, acquisition of another
local language, which is needed for interaction with neighbours or fellow
workers at the workplace. In this kind
of situation, language choices may require certain “prices” to be paid by the
Communication is only possible if
both speakers share the same language, and there is little to gain
from addressing someone in a language which they do not understand. There is an almost universal taboo upon the
use of a language which might exclude one or more members of a group from a
discussion, even if the subject of that discussion has no direct relevance to
that person or persons. For example, a
group of Igbo speakers may be discussing plans for a farewell party for one of
their work-mates who is about to retire.
Another person, one who does not work at the same company, who does not
know the gentleman in question, and who will not be invited to the party, joins
the group. This new comer, moreover,
does not speak Igbo. It is now incumbent
upon the group to continue their discussion in a language which that person can
understand. Having to change the
language of the discussion to one which may be a second or third language for a
majority of the members can, of course, have a stultifying effect upon the
course of the discussion, making it more difficult to express thoughts and
ideas. In this case, however, the
exclusion constraint takes precedence over the language preference of the group
majority. In extreme cases, the
requirement for a common language might force all of the speakers to adopt
second or third languages. The search
for a common language may sometimes prove unsuccessful, and a group will have
to choose the language which allows participation of the greatest number of
1.1 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The focus of this research work is on those factors
that affect language choice in a multilingual community or society.
Keen observation and study have shown that there are
many things that make people to think of language choice.
These questions have been posed to guide this study:
What are the problems facing individuals when trying
to make language choice in a multilingual society?
What do we mean by language choice?
What are the factors that affect language choice?
To what extent do these factors affect language
The purpose of this research work is to identify those
things that affect people’s language choice in a multilingual society. To
examine the problems individuals encounter when trying to choose a particular
OF THE STUDY
The importance of this study is to reveal those
factors that affects language choice in a multilingual society or setting.
LIMITATION OF STUDY
research work is limited to a multilingual society. It is restricted to factors that affect
language choice in this kind of society mentioned above. The constraints associated with time shall
not allow the researcher to stretch his hands to evaluate all the factors.
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