THE EFFECT OF LANGUAGE INTERFERENCE ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENTS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS.
1.1 Background of the Study
Before the 19th century, the study of language was made. Sir Williams Jones (1786) suggested affinity of Sanskrit and Persian with Greek, opening the study of genetic relationship between languages. With this revelation of affinity, the birth of the school of historical comparative linguistics.
In the 19th century, Jacob Grimm, Rasmus Rast et al studied and established the existence of the indo-European language family. In the 20th century, the structural or descriptive school of linguistics is Ferdinand the Saussure, he believed in language “as a systematic structure, linking though and sound”.
Sources of Language
a. The Divine Source: In Hindu, tradition, language came from a goddess called Sarasvati, the wife of Brahma, creator of the universe. In most religious circles, there is a divine source who provides humans with language.
b. The Natural Sound Source: It is assumed that primitive words have the limitation of natural sounds which early men and women heard around them. For example, when an object flew by making a sound, man limited the sound and used it to the object associated with it. To substantiate this, it is observed that modern languages have some words with pronunciation which seems to “echo” naturally occurring sounds like splash, buzz, bang, etc.
c. Oral Gesture Source: There is a link between physical gesture and orally produced sound. For example, gestures of the body could indicate a range of emotional states and intentions. This, in linguistics is known as ‘paralinguistics or non-verbal means of communication’.
d. Glossed Genetics: This focuses on the biological basis of the formation and development of human language.
e. Physiological Adaptation: Use of human organs like teeth, mouth, tongue, pharynx, larynx, lips, brain, etc.
f. Interactions and Transition: Human beings use language to interact with each other, economically or socially to show hostility and pleasure, etc.
In transition, we use language or linguistic ability to communicate knowledge, ideas, skills, etc. it is a known fact that languages change over time. For example, English language has an origin from Anglo Saxon and the Romance languages. French, Spanish, Italian had their origin in Latin with the establishment of the principles, pro-theory of historical linguistics. It become certain that languages change.
Languages are grouped or classed into families because of their common decent from an earlier parent. Therefore, language can be traced as far back as human existence. For example, a romance language such as French can be traced back to Latin. Thus, they are genetically related. Changes in languages are gradual as evidenced in the history of English the middle English and modern English.
Languages can be classified typologically and genetically. For language to be classified typologically, there are regular patterns that are found in them. For example, patterns of vowels, word order: SOV, SVO and OSV.
Typological classification does not consider relatedness. For example, English and Yoruba languages are unrelated languages, but they have the SVO structure. In terms of typological classification, it has to do with structure.
On the other hand, genetic classification deals with languages that have a common origin. The common ancestor is called PROTO-language. Historically, the origin of language can be traced to their common origin-historical language. When people who speak the same language moved from one place to another, there will be variation in the language, but they can still understand each other.
1.2 The Research Problem
The use of a particular form of a language by an individual, reflects the individual’s social status. That is why Blackar (1999) says, we actually live and behave in a world of language. Hence, the use of language to an extent is an item which reflects social identity.
In a politically, socially, culturally and linguistically diverse society, the learning and usage of a second language becomes very necessary not because it makes possible mutual interaction. In our Nigerian society, such is the situation because Nigeria has a geographical and political entity as was colonized by the British who were from a different linguistic background but English was adopted as a medium of communication and interaction.
Wilson and Smith (2009) states that, “it is widely held and proven that human beings are disposed to learning certain types of language”. This innate disposition enables one to acquire a first language and learn a second one. This ability however, differs from one individual to the other and this is what Elindor (1989) described as “linguistic inequality” – a striking difference in the lexis users the difference that exists between these two speakers enables us to assess them as one belonging to a higher class and the other to a lower class in the social strata.
When we listen to most students in secondary schools in Calabar South, traces of interference are observed. If we listen to some students and also listen to a monolingual student who is a speaker of Efik, we notice an obvious difference. We realize a considerable element of English in the student of Efik origin. Linguistically, the effect is located at the phonological level.
When we also listen to the secondary school students in Calabar South, at the phonological level, we hear how sounds in Efik are reproduced in terms of English; interference occurs. Here lies the problem which this study seeks to investigate.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This study is aimed at identifying the effect of language interference on the academic performance of students in secondary school in Calabar South. Owing to the importance of language to the Nigerian society, this research seeks to state the effect that language interference has on the academic performance of students, since English language is the second language they come in contact with in almost every subject in school.
1.4 Research Questions
This research is guided by the following questions;
a. Will students encounter difficulties in their academic performance?
b. Are there noticeable differences when these students speak another language outside their mother tongue?
c. At what level of linguistics is interference most noticeable among the secondary school students in Calabar South?
d. Are code-mixing and code-switching predominant features in language interference?
e. Will the attention of secondary school teachers be drawn to the over – bearing effect of second language acquisition, and will this reduced the risk of these students loosing their own indigenous language?
f. Will students notice the transfer of their indigenous language intonation patterns while speaking their second language?
The formulation of these questions was based on the consideration of the linguistic and socio-linguistic features among secondary school students in Calabar South.
1.5 Scope of the Study
Language cannot be studied in isolation from the society, because men make up the society and the importance of language to man has remained unchallenged by any scientific linguistic research. Also, the importance of a second language that has almost assumed status in the society cannot be dismissed with a wave of hand. This research work will attempt investigating the effect of language interference on the academic performance of secondary school students in Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River State.
1.6 Significance of Language
i. It is used to identify and transmit culture.
ii. It is used to express National Identity
iii. Language is use for expression of emotion
iv. It is used for social interaction
v. It is used to control reality
vi. It is used to record facts, that is, things that happen
vii. It is used for communication
viii. Language is a medium of thought
1.7 Limitation of the Study
This project examines the effect of language interference on the academic performance of students in secondary schools in Calabar South, and few challenges were encountered in the course of this research which include;
Insufficient finance with which to go around to distribute the research questionnaire. Finance was a great constraint because it was not very easy to have access to the required materials. Cost of research questionnaire, transportation, time factor and other miscellaneous requirements that aid in carrying out this research successfully were difficult to some by.
Also, there was a problem of getting relevant data for this project work from the secondary school students; even when I met some of them to get relevant information to fill the questionnaire, they were reluctant to collect the questionnaire and to answer my questions. There was also lack of power supply.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Historical Linguistics: This is a branch of linguistics which studies the development of language over time. It studies ways by which languages change from period, and the causes and results of such changes both outside the languages and within them.
Socio Linguistics: This is the study of the relationship between language and society. It is the study of all facts of the relationship between language and socio organization.
Language: This is a form of speech which is not mutually intelligible with any form of speech in the world. We can also define language as a broad system of speech elements exhibiting continuous modification, while in shared use by a continuous cultural succession of human generations
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