By Abdussamad Yahya Sufi
My Literature teacher cautioned me in secondary school to avoid using Pidgin English during communication. Mr. Ibrahim Bello would always tell me that using pidgin in the infancy of learning English would affect my budding standard English. Since then, I have never used it and always try to avoid it in writing and speaking.
Now that I’m at university, I have met different people from southern Nigeria who always use pidgin. At first, I feared what would happen to my infant English. However, later, I realised that I could still maintain the standard since they all understood standard English; they just chose not to use it.
During my first days at university, the pidgin speakers in my hostel irritated me the most. Everyone used the language, and I didn’t understand 80% of it. When someone talked to me, especially my roommates, I would ask them to translate what they said.
After a few days, many of the guys in the hostel noticed me and began teasing me, thinking I simply chose not to speak the language until they understood that I didn’t understand it. They started calling me ‘English Man,’ which didn’t bother me as I had heard such names before.
Some invited me to their rooms to tell me stories, and I never rejected that opportunity. I knew it would help me improve my English skills. When I told them stories, they paid attention and asked questions in good English, not bad pidgin.
Honestly, that helped me build my public speaking skills, and I appreciate the guys for understanding me then, unlike before. Even when I meet any of them on campus now, they introduce me as the ‘English Man.’ to their friends, and they all speak good English while exchanging greetings.
I don’t mind being silly while learning; I don’t hide myself when interacting with my schoolmates and friends. They are my laboratory, where I practise what I have learned. Even if they laugh at me or call me names, I use those experiences to practise my learning skills.
Abdussamad Yahya Sufi wrote via email@example.com.