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1.1 Background to the Study

English language has assumed the position of the world lingua franca where it is used as official language in many countries of the world (Crystal 2003). This status was previously held by Chinese. Readers may assume that when we refer to “English,” we are referring to a standard of usage that is universally accepted because we use the term “English.” English is spoken in countries and regions such as Africa, Asia, the West Indies, the Philippines, and Singapore is not considered to be real or standard English, readers may believe that we must be referring to either British Standard English or American Standard English. Readers might also get the impression that teachers of English as a second language (ESL) have no choice but to instruct their students in British or American Standard English because that is the variety of English which is mostly used among their students. In point of fact, the matter is not as straightforward as we might believe it to be; there is neither an agreed-upon definition of Standard English nor is there agreement on what students of English as a second language (ESL) need or want to learn. In light of this, the following question arises: Is it possible that the practises of many English language instructors in the classroom have fallen behind the learners’ desires or even their needs as a result of the rapid change in the status of English as a global language?

If you add the number of people who speak English as a second language to the list of native English speakers, the total number of people who speak English worldwide is close to half a billion. According to www.ethnologue.com, there were more than 320 million people who spoke English as their first language in 2009. After ten years, the number has grown to an even greater extent. There is no question that English is a large and influential language, and the significance of being able to know and master English is something that is widely recognised. Knowledge of English increases the individual’s opportunities to participate in different social and cultural contexts, as well as in global studies and working life, according to the syllabus for the English subject taught in upper secondary schools (Engelska, 2001).

However, what attitude should a teacher have toward the numerous English dialects spoken in different parts of the world, such as American and British English, for example? What kind of repercussions will those decisions have for the students? And what are the students’ thoughts regarding all of this? Both British and American English have a significant impact on the language used in Nigerian media today. The majority of the shows we watch every day are broadcast in either American or British English. Even though the artists who create the music are Nigerian, a significant portion of the song’s lyrics are delivered in the English language. The relationship between American and British English has a dual nature due to the American characteristics of continuity and divergence from its mother country, Great Britain. Separation and commonness are two very useful keywords that can be used to describe the relationship between the two varieties of English. Fisher (2001:59) made the observation that “the separation of the American nation from England after 1776 is schizophrenic,” meaning that it was characterised on the one hand by a violent rejection of English tyranny, as it was regarded by the American revolutionaries, and on the other hand by acute nostalgia for their English culture.

The histories, economies, environments, and social organisations of the American culture and the British culture are extremely dissimilar to one another. Despite the fact that spoken American and British English can generally be understood by each other, there are enough differences between the two varieties to lead to misunderstandings or even a complete breakdown of communication.

People in many parts of the world use American English as a lingua franca or as a second language. These places include East Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and China); the Americas (excluding the former British colonies Canada, Jamaica, and the Bahamas); and Liberia, which is located in Africa. The American variety of English has become a dominant form of English worldwide, including in Nigeria, where it is commonly used in education, media, and business. This linguistic phenomenon has sparked debates on the impact of the American variety of English on the English language proficiency of Nigerian students, especially in their written essays.

Pankshin is a rural community in Plateau State, Nigeria, with a significant number of secondary schools where English is the medium of instruction. Given the increasing use of the American variety of English in Nigeria and the potential impact on students’ writing skills, a study on the impacts of American English on the written essays of secondary school students in Pankshin is important.

By conducting this study, researchers can gain insight into the challenges faced by secondary school students in Pankshin in terms of adapting to the American variety of English and determine ways to address these challenges. Additionally, the study can inform policy decisions on English language education and help to improve the writing skills of students in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, there are basically two varieties of English which is used – the British and American English. The British English (BRE) is used in the formal setting because we were colonized by the Britain and therefore, it is just logical that we use such variety of English (Ahmed, 2021). The American English (AME) is hardly used in formal settings, except for words that have similar pronunciation such as programme, honour, labour, etc. Even these words, are some times mixed up where an individual who is writing a formal document will decide to have expressions like, “Because we were late for the programme, we decided to take a cab.” The expression above is grammatically correct but the mixture of British and American spellings makes it non-formal (James, 2012). This goes on to say that Nigerians are quick to using the American lexicals especially when it comes to formal writing such as trunk instead of boot, cab instead of taxi, corn instead of maize, etc.

The question of which varieties of English should be taught to non-native speakers of the language, as well as the question of whether or not linguistic variation is acceptable in ELT, have both become topics that are widely discussed in academic writing about ELT, and they are issues that contemporary language teachers deal with on a daily basis (McArthur 2001). The growing significance of different Englishes, in particular native varieties of the language that are not British or American English, the New Englishes, or ELF, appears to be reflected in ELT curricula and teaching material only marginally at this point.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

There are a number of nations that use English as their official language, and Nigeria is one of those nations. It is essential to keep in mind that there are numerous forms of the English language. The American and British varieties are the ones that are most commonly used because of their prominence. When writing, it is not uncommon to find students or even teachers switching between American and British English. This is not an unusual occurrence. This can be largely attributed to a lack of adequate knowledge regarding the types of varieties that are appropriate for formal and informal settings.

In the most recent years, there has been a resounding chorus of complaints regarding the subpar performance of students when it comes to the English language. It is possible that students’ inability to impactively organise the content of their essays is to blame for their lacklustre performance overall. It is important to keep in mind that the British colonised Nigerian society. As a direct result of this historical fact, the form of English that is intended to be spoken in Nigeria is known as British English or Standard English (BrE). It is quite alarming to learn that the majority of students are unable to differentiate between the British and American varieties of English, and as a result, they mix up the two varieties when they are writing.

The most common forms of English spoken in Nigeria are British English and American English. These are the two main variations of English. For the fact that we were colonised by Britain and because it is only reasonable that we use such a variant of English, the British English (BRE) is used in formal settings. The reason for this is because we were colonised by Britain. Except for words that have a similar pronunciation, such as “programme,” “honour,” “labour,” etc., American English (AME) is almost never employed in official settings. Even these terms are sometimes confused when a person who is producing a formal document decides to use statements like “Because we were late for the programme, we decided to take a cab.” For example, “Because we were late for the programme, we chose to take a cab.” The above sentence is grammatically valid; but, due to a combination of British and American spellings, it comes off as informal. In light of this, it may be deduced that Nigerians are eager to use American lexicons, particularly when it comes to official writing. For example, they could write “trunk” instead of “boot,” “cab” rather than “taxi,” “corn” rather than “maize,” and so on.

In the light of the above stated problem, the researcher has a serious interest in the impact of American variety of English on the written essays of secondary school students in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to determine the impact of American variety of English on the written essays of secondary school students in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State.

Other specific objectives include:

  1. To find out which variety of English is used to teach English to students in Pankshin Local Government Area.
  2. To determine the impact of American English on the written essays of students.
  3. To proffer possible solutions to the identified problems.


1.4. Research Questions

In order for the researcher to have a sense of guide, the following questions have been formulated which will be answered by the end of the research:

  1. What English is used to teach the students in the selected Local Government Area?
  2. How does American English affect students in their written essays?
  3. What are the possible solutions to the identified problems?

1.5. Significance of the Study

This study is of great importance, especially now that the Nigerian society is crowded with a lot of varieties of English. Therefore, the study will be beneficial to the following education stakeholders which include government, students, teachers and curriculum planners as well.

The teacher will get to know the pitfalls posed by teaching or mixing up the varieties of English (British and American) in the classroom, and will prepare lessons to cater for these pitfalls.

The student will get to know that English language has varieties and will come to realize the English variety (Standard English) which is appropriate for the formal writing.

To the curriculum planners, they will structure teaching and learning activities to eliminate the use of two varieties of English, instead the appropriate variety will be taught to the learners.

The government on its part will provide the necessary textbooks and instructional materials which will enhance the teaching and learning of the Standard English.


1.6. Scope and Delimitation of the Study

This study covers the impact of American variety of English on the written essays of secondary school students. The study is limited to selected secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State. However, despite the fact that the study is limited to the selected Local government, its findings can be generic: it can be generalized to other parts of the country as well.

1.7. Operational Definition of Terms

ELT: ELT is the teaching of English to people whose first language is not English. ELT is an abbreviation for ‘English Language Teaching’. … English Language Teaching: the teaching of English specifically to students whose native language is not English. This term is also known as EFL (English as a Foreign Language).

Varieties: If something has variety, it consists of things which are different from each other in meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples.

American English Variety: This is one of the varieties of English which is spoken by the Americans.

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