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1.1 Background to the Study

Language learning and acquisition are two fundamental components of effective communication in English Language and academic success. We acquire our first language and learn the second language – the English language. In Nigerian context, English holds the status of being the official language and a crucial medium of instruction. However, students face numerous challenges before achieving accurate pronunciation of English word due to the influence of mother tongue (the first language). Mother tongue interference, a well-documented linguistic phenomenon, has garnered significant interest in various language research and study (Adams, 2019).

The process of language learning involves not only learning vocabulary and grammar but also mastering the sounds and phonetic patterns of a language. In a multilingual country like Nigeria, where over 500 different languages are spoken, students are exposed to a rich linguistic diversity from the early age in life. As they learn English language, their mother tongue influence on pronunciation becomes evident. According Hansel (2017), the distinct phonological structures of the native language can affect how the children articulate English sounds, leading to mispronunciation and difficulties in being understood. Understanding the specific challenges arising from mother tongue interference can provide valuable insights for educators to develop targeted strategies to improve English pronunciation skills among students.

The selected location for this research, which is Jos South LGA in Plateau State, provides a sample of the linguistic landscape in Nigeria. In this study area, students encounter the complexities of English pronunciation as they navigate between their native languages and the dominant official language (Choji, 2021). Investigating how mother tongue interference impacts pronunciation will shed light on the specific phonetic difficulties students face. In addition, this research may pave the way for designing language teaching approaches that take into account the phonological peculiarities of students’ mother tongues, thereby enhancing their English language proficiency and facilitating better communication in both academic and social settings.

Language serves as a cornerstone of human society. It plays a pivotal role in shaping culture and fostering effective communication in human life. With its widespread usage globally, English Language has emerged as a lingua franca, facilitating international trade, diplomacy, and education. In Nigeria, a country known for its linguistic diversity, the English Language holds paramount importance as the official language, serving as the primary means of communication and instruction in educational settings (Daniel, 2015). However, the rich tapestry of native languages spoken across the nation presents a unique challenge for students attempting to master English pronunciation.

Nigeria’s linguistic diversity reflects the country’s multicultural heritage, with three major language families – Niger-Congo, Afro-Asiatic, and Nilo-Saharan – comprising numerous distinct languages. When students learn the English Language, they inevitably carry the phonetic patterns, intonation, and rhythm of their mother tongue into the process. Consequently, mother tongue interference arises, causing pronunciation error that can hinder effective communication (Nanle, 2014). For instance, certain phonemes present in English Language may not exist in a student’s native language, leading to difficulties in accurate production of those sounds, thereby affecting word meanings and communication.

Understanding the intricacies of mother tongue interference and its impact on English pronunciation is crucial for educators and language policy makers. By recognizing the specific phonetic challenges faced by students from different linguistic backgrounds, educators can develop targeted interventions that address these issues more effectively (Ezekiel, 2012). Moreover, promoting linguistic awareness and embracing Nigeria’s linguistic diversity can foster a positive learning environment where students’ cultural identities are respected, language barriers actively addressed to enhance language learning and effective communication skills. Mother tongue interference has been a subject of keen interest in language research particularly in the context of English language learning among non-native speakers. Pronunciation plays a critical role in language proficiency, and accurate pronunciation of English words is essential for effective communication.

The mother tongue, or native language, has a significant influence on an individual’s pronunciation. The sounds, intonation patterns, and speech rhythms of one’s mother tongue become deeply ingrained in early childhood and shape the way one produces and perceives speech sounds. According to Adegun (2021) the phonetic and phonological systems of the mother tongue can differ from those of other languages, leading to challenges in accurately reproducing unfamiliar sounds and patterns. For example, the sound inventory, stress patterns, and syllable structures in different languages vary, and speakers may transfer these features to their second language, affecting their pronunciation. Additionally, the influence of the mother tongue can manifest in the form of accent, where speakers retain certain speech patterns, phonetic nuances, or pronunciation errors that are characteristic of their native language. The impact of the mother tongue on pronunciation highlights the importance of exposure to and practice with the target language’s phonetics and phonology to minimize interference and enhance second language pronunciation skills.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that a significant number of secondary school students in Jos South, Nigeria, face notable challenges in accurately pronouncing English words. This issue transcends mere mispronunciations; it has far-reaching implications, affecting not only their language proficiency but also their overall academic and social interactions. Students struggling with English pronunciation often experience miscommunication, reduced academic performance, and diminished self-confidence in English-speaking environments. Furthermore, these pronunciation difficulties may hinder their future prospects in an increasingly globalized world where English proficiency is a valuable skill.

The urgency for addressing this problem stems from the realization that English serves as the principal medium of instruction in Nigerian schools, making it a crucial element of academic and professional success. Students’ ability to communicate effectively in English is paramount, not only for their academic achievements but also for their future career prospects. There is a growing concern that one of the major contributors to students’ English pronunciation difficulties in Jos South is the interference of their mother tongue. The cultural and linguistic diversity in Nigeria, with over 500 distinct languages spoken, creates a unique challenge in the acquisition of English pronunciation.

Although there is a body of research that acknowledges the challenges faced by students in non-native English-speaking environments, studies specifically focusing on the impact of mother tongue interference on English pronunciation in secondary schools in Jos South remain scarce. The uniqueness of Jos South’s linguistic landscape, characterized by a rich tapestry of languages and cultures, necessitates a targeted investigation into how these diverse mother tongues influence English pronunciation. Understanding the specific nature and extent of mother tongue interference in English pronunciation among secondary school students in Jos South is vital for developing effective pedagogical strategies and interventions to improve language skills.

Given the pressing concerns surrounding the difficulties in English pronunciation among secondary school students in Jos South and the limited research addressing the influence of mother tongue interference, this study is undertaken with a dual purpose. Firstly, it aims to unravel the underlying factors contributing to the pronunciation challenges faced by these students and provide valuable insights into the specific aspects of English phonetics that are affected. Secondly, the study seeks to develop evidence-based strategies and recommendations for educators and policymakers to enhance English language instruction in this region. The ultimate goal is to empower students to overcome the language barriers created by mother tongue interference, enabling them to achieve academic success and compete effectively in an increasingly globalized world.

1.3 Purpose of the study

            The main purpose of this study is to examine the impact of mother tongue interference on students’ pronunciation of English words in Jos South LGA. Other specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. find out how phonetic and phonological features of the mother tongue interact with the pronunciation of English words.
  2. examine the specific sounds that are consistently mispronounced by students due to mother tongue interference.
  3. Find out possible solutions to the impact of mother tongue interference on pronunciation.

1.4 Research Questions

            The study is guided by the following research questions:

  1. How do the phonological features of students’ mother tongues affect the pronunciation of English words?
  2. What are the particular mother tongue phonological features that cause students to consistently mispronounce English words?
  3. What are the possible solutions to the impact of mother tongue interference?

1.5 Significance of the Study

            The importance of this study cannot be underemphasized. Therefore, it will be beneficial to the following education stakeholders:

Students: Understanding the impact of mother tongue interference can lead to targeted interventions and support, helping students to improve their pronunciation and overall proficiency in English.

Language Teachers: The insights from the study would enable English language teachers to design and implement strategies specifically addressing the challenges posed by mother tongue interference. This could lead to more effective teaching methodologies tailored to the unique linguistic background of the students.

School Administrators and Policymakers: School administrators and educational policymakers could utilize the findings to inform curriculum development and educational policies. It may lead to the incorporation of specific materials or methods to counteract mother tongue interference, enhancing the overall language education framework.

Parents and Guardians: By understanding the role and impact of mother tongue on English pronunciation, parents can provide better support and encouragement at home, creating a more conducive learning environment for their children.

Speech Therapists and Linguistic Professionals: Speech therapists and other linguistic professionals working with students could benefit from detailed insights into how mother tongue interference affects pronunciation. It may lead to more precise diagnostics and interventions.

Researchers and Academicians: Linguists and educational researchers would benefit from the study as it adds to the existing body of knowledge on language interference, bilingualism, and second language learning. It could spark further research in related areas and provide a basis for comparative studies across different linguistic contexts.

Education Technology Developers: Those involved in the development of educational technology, such as language-learning apps or software, might utilize the findings to create tools specifically addressing the challenges identified in the study.

Community and Cultural Organizations: In areas where preserving and understanding the local mother tongue is crucial, the study can provide insights into how the mother tongue interacts with other languages. This might lead to initiatives that support bilingual education or cultural preservation.

Government Education Departments: On a broader scale, government bodies responsible for education might use the research to inform national language education policies, ensuring that they are aligned with the unique linguistic needs and challenges of various regions.

International Organizations: Organizations working on global education and language policies might find value in the study as a case example of how local languages interact with global languages like English.

In sum, the study would not only contribute to academic knowledge but also have practical applications across various spheres of education, linguistics, technology, and policy. It represents an intersection of cultural, educational, and linguistic dimensions, providing valuable insights that could be applied both locally in Jos south and in similar contexts globally.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

The scope of the study on impact of mother tongue interference on pronunciation of English words. The research will focus on the interference of local mother tongue(s) of Berom on English pronunciation among secondary school students. It will delve into phonological features, potentially utilizing methods like pronunciation tests or surveys, and may be constrained to a particular academic year. The linguistic focus, educational level, phonetic and phonological aspects, methodological approach, and time frame collectively delineate the comprehensive scope of the study.

In terms of delimitation, the study will specifically look at the interference of the mother tongue(Berom) on pronunciation, excluding influences of other languages or dialects and other linguistic elements like syntax or broader pronunciation patterns. The concentration on secondary schools and possible focus on particular age groups or grades, along with the exclusion of other educational institutions or aspects such as reading comprehension, writing, or general linguistic competence, further defines the boundaries. These delimitations carefully set the parameters and constraints of the research, ensuring a targeted and coherent investigation that can yield insightful and applicable findings.

1.7 Operational Definitions of Terms

Impact: In this study, “impact” refers to the measurable effect, change, or influence that the mother tongue has on the pronunciation of English words.

Mother Tongue: Also known as the native language or first language, the term “mother tongue” in this context refers to the language that is first learned by the students and often spoken at home or in the community.

Interference: “Interference” specifically denotes the influence of one language (in this case, the mother tongue) on another (English), leading to errors or challenges in pronunciation.

English Words: This term refers to the words in the English language that are being studied.

Orthographic Representation: If also considered in the study, this term refers to the written representation of the sounds of a language. It may include an examination of how mother tongue influences the way sounds.

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