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  • Background to the Study

Since the beginning of recorded history, it has been crucial for human beings to be able to communicate effectively in more than one language. The Sumerians of the third millennium BC utilised bilingual tablets in Sumerian and Akkadian to educate their children, and they constructed the world’s oldest known bilingual dictionary, according to the Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics. Tablets that could record in two languages were common in ancient Egypt, and during the Ptolemaic era, Egyptians of higher social status obtained their education in Greek. The majority of individuals living in Asia Minor during the Hellenistic period were able to read and write in Greek, even though it was their second Language. Children in Rome received instruction in both Greek and Latin up until the fourth century B.C., making bilingual education an essential component of their education.

In keeping with this idea, Otagburuagu (2017) writes that “second language learning could emerge as a result of a social or political factor.” For example, colonisation, trade, and business may all contribute to the creation of a second language by producing an environment that is receptive to such an endeavour. He continued by stating that “the colonisation of Nigeria, Ghana, and other such countries by Britain must be seen as the primary factor that gives rise to the adoption of the English language as the second language in these countries.” According to Otagburuagu (2017; emphasis added), “multilingualism as well as the desire for social integration could give rise to the learning of a second language.” In addition, Verghese (2017) asserts that “it is a historical accident that led to English taking deep roots in Canada, Australia, and the United States,” which is an argument in favour of this point of view. He goes on to say that “history has played a role again” in the widespread usage of English in other countries in Africa and Asia. According to Verghese (2017), “English has been taught and used as a medium of communication in those countries ever since the day they came under Britain’s rule.” Those nations were formerly a part of the British Empire as colonies.

The fact that English is “spoken around the globe and has wider dispersion than any other language” is one of the other possible reason(s) why it is most commonly utilised as a second language. “From its earlier home within what is now known as the United Kingdom (with 56 million speakers), English has spread to neighbouring Ireland (with three and a half million), across the Atlantic for America (where some 232 million people speak in the United States, with perhaps as many as 24 million additional speakers in (Canada), and across the world to Australia and New Zealand (with about 17 million English speakers between them)” (Finegan, 2014).

As a consequence, the English language “is the sole official language in more than two dozen other countries: Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe in Africa; Jamaica, the Bohamas, Dominica and Barbados in the Caribbean; and Vanuatu’s, Fiji, and the Solomon Island in the pacific, to name a few” (Finegan, 2014). According to the Encyclopaedia Americana, more than half of the world’s scientific research and technical journals, in addition to newspapers, are issued in the English language. This viewpoint is supported by this information. It has been estimated that three quarters of the world’s mail is written in English, and that three fifths of the world’s radio stations broadcast in English. According to Finegan (2014), “English has now established itself as the lingua Franca of much scholarship, particularly that which is scientific and technical in nature.” In addition, he claims that the fact that more writers who write in English have been awarded Nobel Prizes in literature than writers who write in any other language, and that the authors of these works have been citizens of the United States, Britain, Ireland, and India, as well as other countries, is evidence of the extraordinary adaptability of the English language (Finegan, 2014). He adds that this is a reflection of the widespread use of English and perhaps also of the extraordinary adaptability of the English language. According to Campbell (2015), the travel business and international communication are the only places where it is appropriate to use English as a medium of communication. It can be said without a shadow of doubt that the English language serves as a means of communication between people of varying cultural backgrounds. It is also the language of computers, which enables individuals to interact with people all over the world through the use of internet technology and electronic mail. The accumulation of all these potential motivating factors could lead to the acquisition of a second language.

Learning a second language and being proficient in it are both impacted by a number of different circumstances. The type and structure of the first language, culture, environment, age, method of acquisition, and amount of work invested are some of the factors that are taken into consideration. The degree to which the learner’s mother tongue and the target language differ from and are similar to one another is an important consideration in the process of acquiring a second language. One of the most important aspects of learning a second language is that the student must already be proficient in another language. An experience that gives him the ability to master, assimilate, and embed the methodology for learning the first language. Second language learners are able to build a model of the target language that takes into account new linguistic information as it is acquired alongside the target language. Lado’s assertion that “individuals have a tendency to transfer the forms and meanings, and the distribution of forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture” provides more support for this contention. When a person is learning a second language, they are still thinking in their native language and trying to express themselves in the second language, which can lead to confusion. This confusion is caused by interference from the learner’s mother tongue.

As a result of the influence of his mother tongue, an individual who is exposed to a new and distinct language, such as English, is confronted with the challenge of effectively communicating in his new language as a result of this influence of his native language. The degree to which the learner’s mother tongue and the target language differ from and are similar to one another is an important consideration in the process of acquiring a second language.

The Nigerian people already have their own spoken language, known as their mother tongue, hence the English language cannot be considered an indigenous language in the country of Nigeria. Every Nigerian student of the English language will typically encounter a challenging linguistic environment during the course of his or her language development.

        In addition to being able to communicate fluently in his native tongue and any other indigenous languages, he must also have a strong command of the English language in order to be successful in the ever-evolving world in which he lives. Without language, everything like commerce, governance, family life, religion, and the arts would either not be possible at all or would look considerably different. Language is our greatest invention.

The ability to communicate with other people is one of the primary features that sets humans apart from other animals; in fact, this skill is what distinguishes humans from other species. The process of acquiring an indigenous language starts very early in a person’s life. Right from the beginning, an adult will seek to communicate with a learner by making a variety of noises to him, and the infant will begin to respond to the communication by imitating the adult’s actions.

Ngas speakers of English, like other second language (L2) speakers, are most likely to have the problem of interference. For example sounds such as /ϴ/, /ð/, /ȝ:/, /ə/ are not easily articulated because of their absence in the first language (Ngas).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Interference is the process through which the phonology, syntax, and vocabulary of one language are altered as a result of the influence of another language, dialect, or other linguistic trait. There is bound to be some degree of inter-lingual interference whenever one attempts to use English as a second language. In other words, the impact that one language has on the phonology, syntax, and lexicon of another language. The language that a group of people who are considered to be inhabitants of an area learn in their early years and that normally becomes their natural instrument of thought and communication can interfere with a person’s ability to learn a second language. These interferences can manifest themselves in any aspect of the language, including the phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics of the language.

Concerning the factors that lead to interference with one’s mother tongue, numerous points of view have surfaced. The linguistic interference caused by a child’s first language is referred to as mother-tongue interference. The contention is that a child has a biological ability that enables him to acquire a language and is dependent on factors of his environment during the process of language development. This has implications for students learning English as a second language because a child will transfer some of the characteristics of his first language into his second language, which in this study is the English language. However, there were some evidence to suggest that this is not the case. The manner in which he forms sentences and the way in which he pronounces English words both exhibit these characteristics.

Although some researchers have conducted investigations on the issue of mother-tongue interference in Nigeria, the primary focus of those investigations has been on the three most widely spoken Nigerian languages, which are Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa. In light of this, the researcher intends to conduct comparable studies on the Ngas language, which is one of the Nigerian languages spoken by a minority of the country’s population.

Therefore, the purpose of this research work is to determine the ways in which the native language, which is referred to as “Ngas,” influences the pronunciation and proficiency of the target language, which is the English language for the purposes of this study.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

          The purpose of the study is to find out the impact of Ngas language on spoken English among Ngas learners in secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area. The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Examine the extent to which Ngas vowel sounds interfere with those of English language.
  2. Examine the extent to which Ngas consonant sounds interfere with those of English language.
  3. Discuss the extent to which Ngas learners substitute English sounds for their L1 sounds.

1.4 Research Questions

          The following research questions were raised to guide the study:

  1. How has the Ngas vowel sounds interfere with those of English language?
  2. How has the Ngas consonant sounds interfere with those of English language?
  3. How has Ngas learners substitute English sounds for their L1 sounds?

1.5 Significance of the Study

          This study will help to expose the numerous factors that influence the interference of the study of English language (L2) by the mother tongue or native languages (L1). It may also identify the effects of this interference on other study area that are based on the use of the English language as the basic communication.

The study will alert school management on the importance of employing qualified and competent individual who have knowledge of mother tongue interference so as not to mislead student’s phonology that will lead to students’ decline in performance of spoken English.

This study may enable teachers to identify their problems in the pronunciation of some selected words. This study may also enable students to understand how to make use of English words especially in pronunciation, intonation and phonetics. It may also enable the teachers to make more research on the use of sounds to English language and Ngas language.

Since English language have been used as a official language and sometimes even as a foreign language in Nigeria for a long time and given the inescapable behaviour of language in contact, the study will educate students on the need to enhance their pronunciation skills so as they master those problematic consonant sound in English Language.

To other researchers, it would serve as a source of material in conducting similar studies. It is expected that this study will serve as reference material for other researchers so as to enrich their source on the subject matter.

Finally, the study will further help curriculum planners to plan school curriculum that will cater for all categories of students which will enhance their academic performance in school; ensure adequate learning facilities, incentive, qualify manpower to educate the students for better tomorrow.

1.6. Delimitation of the Study

The researcher is concerned with the influence of mother tongue (Ngas) interference on the learning of English sounds. Geographically, the study is limited to Public Senior Secondary School Students of Ngas language in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State. The choice of Ngas mother tongue speakers is because it is the most popular Language in Pankshin Local Government. Despite the fact that the study is limited to the selected local government area, its findings will be generalized to other parts of the state with the same scenario.

1.7. Operational Definition of Terms

            It is imperative to properly define the terms that make the heading of the research topic under study. This may go a long way at giving direction to the research work. These include:

Interference: In this context, interruption of a language by another especially in pronunciation and intonations.

Dialect: this is the form of a language that is spoken in one area with grammar words and pronunciation that may be different from other form of the same language

Phonology: this is the system of contrastive relationship among the speech sound that constitute the fundamental component of language.

Mother tongue: Also known as the first language or native language. It is a language learnt during the first six years of life. This is the language which a child is first exposed to and which he subsequently acquires. It may not necessarily be the language of his parents, it could be the language spoken in the environment which is born.

Second language: Foreign language, any language other than the native language or mother tongue. A second language usually learnt and not acquired through interaction with other.

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