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The main aims and objectives of this research were to analyze the factors affecting choice of national language in multilingual countries with special reference to the Nigeria situations. Theories of multilingualism and language planning were discussed. Four research questions were formulated to guide the study. The sample for the study consists of 200 respondents from ten purposively sampled schools in the Nsukka Education Zone. The instrument used for the study was the questionnaire. The data generated were analyzed using the mean of the responses of the respondents. The result shows that there is no problem in the implementation of language policy in a multilingual country like Nigeria. The result also shows that multilingualism affects teaching and learning and general performance of students and the educational system in Nigeria. Finally, the study identified that the use of mother tongue/indigenous language should be chosen to enhance academic performances of students and foster unity in Nigeria.





1.1       Background of the study

Multilingualism or bilingualism being a consequence of language contact has been so sensitive that so many scholars have made some theoretical and critical advances on the issues. There have been arguments that there is no such thing as total monolingualism in any country, not even in countries like the U. S. A., France, Germany etc, where there is only one official language used by the people.

Trugil (1985), says that multilingualism involves speaking more than one language indigenously within a frontier. He stresses the fact that multilinguals is a case of the existence of so many indigenous languages in a particular nation or frontier.

In their own study of multilingualism, Appel and Muyeken (1987) tried to distinguish two types of multilingual. Individual multilingualism and societal multilingualism. They describe societal multilingualism as that occurring in a given society where two or more languages are spoken. Individual multilingualism, to them is: the capability of using and understanding two or more languages. Bloomfield (1953) adds to this, by looking at individual multilingual as: that person who possesses nativelike control of two or more languages.

Kloss (1969) came up with a third type of multilingualism known as impersonal multilingualism. This is a sociolinguistic term he coined to refer to the phenomenon of multilingual usage in the mass media. This gives the idea of special use of many languages especially foreign language alongside the national language of a society.

This concept came up during Kloss‟s (1969b) study of the communicational pattern and verbal strategies in Japan‟s mass media.

Kirsten (1991) holds that what is true of bilingualism holds true also for multilingualism except where the context dictates otherwise. He goes on to describe a multilingual society as one in which two or more languages are used by large groups of the population. On the other hand, bilingualism is seen by Weinreich (1953) as “the alternative use of two languages”.

Kristen (1991) still identified two situations of multilingualism in terms of status: what he calls horizontal and diagonal multilingualism. He says that if the languages spoken in a multilingual society have equal status in the official, cultural and family life of the society, the situation is referred to as horizontal multilingualism. Canada, to him is a typical horizontal multilingual country. Diagonal multilingualism obtains only when one of the languages has official status. Tanzania is an example of a diagonal multilingual country.

Pohl (1965) identifies what he calls vertical multilingualism. This is a case of diglossia, but one thing is that this involves dialects of the same language rather than different languages.

So far, we have looked at different aspects of multilingualism as defined by various scholars, we shall now look at what the opinions of some of those scholars are on the issue of multilingualism and national development.

Pool (1972), accounting for problems associated with language diversity in any nation says:

Language diversity, it is claimed aggravates political sectionalism, hinders inter-group co-operation, impedes political enculturation, political support for the authorities, holds down government effectiveness and political stability.


From his view, we can deduce that he has nothing good or rather positive for multilingualism. So, in a nation where linguistic differences are the major defining characteristic for which each group is known. It is most likely that the problems identified by Pool (1972) above will be very glearing. His observation is more on political problems caused by the existence of many languages within a nation.

In her study of language diversity and national development in Europe, Jyotrinda (1968) said that the early cases of political modernization and national development in Europe, were by and large, based on fairly homogeneous language communities. She says:

Their problem was mostly one of developing a standard language out of a welter of variations among related codes.

Her conviction is that the early development in most European countries was never disturbed by a multilingual situation as we have today in most developing countries. This does not mean that European countries were purely homogenous. There are really varieties used by various communities of Europe, but these varieties are not such that should be termed different languages.

Jyotrinda (1968) maintained that: a disagreement of language policy may be related to language diversity in the country concerned.

She is also of the opinion that when a state faces the problems of competing languages that one responses to this problem may be to suppress this competition by imposing one language on the others. From the study of multilingualism in Indonesia, India, and Pakistan, Jyotrinda (1968) came up with the suggestion that the imposition of one language on others may succeed in a language situation where competition involves minimal political changes. Indonesia has a great diversity of languages, yet, it was possible to impose the language of a small minority as the national language because political competition of the regional languages for national status was low.  In the light of the views discussed above, a multilingual nation like Nigeria with glaring language diversity riddled with the problems associated with it as identified by Pool (1972) faces the big task of evolving an effective language policy and its implementation in the National Policy on Education.


1.2        Statement of the problem

According to Wikipedia,  it is expected, that subjects to successful implementation a sizeable number of members of the Nigerian community, especially young school leavers, would reflect the national bilingual or multilingual picture in addition to English and possibly French, the former being the codes most used in the country. But with the dearth of specialists in the three major codes, as well as in other subjects, either at the primary or the secondary school level, it is very uncertain if the majority of pupils would be able to learn more than one code. This is borne out by the fact that the Federal Government College are socially privileged while public secondary schools are less privileged.

Secondly, schools situated in the urban areas are more patronised than those in the rural communities since the majority of the less privileged pupils are neither in that Federal Government Colleges nor in  the private schools. Small wonder that little or no success is likely to be recorded in this domain. Added to the teething problems to be envisaged is the considerable number of codes that pupils from minority linguistic groups would be obliged to learn. This is likely to be burdensome on many pupils as well of their parents. At the pre-school it is expected learn their mother tongue. This would help them grow faster in the area of metalanguage and concept formation, a significant advantage over teaching in a second code. This likelihood is remote. Unfortunately, only the rich can afford to pay for their wards in the pre-primary school. A critical analysis of our immediate environment forces us to admit that more parents these days will even withdraw their children from the primary and secondary schools when excessive expenditure is demanded.

Finally, at the primary level pupils are expected to learn initially in their mother tongue or the code of their immediate community. However, judging by the huge number of Nigerian linguists codes, estimated at close to 500, that could be used, it is the opinion of linguistic such as Brann (1978), Elugbe and Omamor (1991), Marchese and Schnukal (1982), Ofuani (1981) and Omamor (1982) that Analophone, extensively spoken in the urban areas in the south could be developed and adopted as a national code and also for the adult literacy programme, especially in multilingual states of the country. In addition to this, some other semi-urban codes of less restricted communication could be given equal status.

It should be reiterated that one‟s code is part of one‟s identity. Consequently, it should not be denigrated. To do so invariably means denying one‟s human ability to communicate. Hence the need to adopt a multilingual approach in solving Nigeria‟s linguistic problems in public and social life. Far from being a plague, multilingualism in the country is in fact a source of wealth and strength, which if properly harnessed and managed will act as a source of synergy for a more effective, directed, guided as well as vibrant evolution of a modern, economically viable and technologically developed nation.


1.3       Purpose of Study

The aims and objectives of this research was to identify the implications for implementing the national policy on Education in multilingual countries.

In a more simplified and clarified note, it is the objective of this research to:

  1. Find out the factors affecting choice of national language ?
  2. Find out if the National Policy on Education is relevant in meeting the problems of multilingualism in Nigeria?
  3. Find out whether the use of the mother tongue aids learning and enhances academic performance of students?
  4. Find out the merits and demerits of multilingualism?


1.4       Significance of Study

This research will be very significant to educational planners, curriculum designers and educational administrators in implementing the national policy on education as it has to do with language policy and study in the educational system.

The research, when completed, and the findings made, will serve as a rich resource material for researchers in related areas.

Teachers who are saddled with the onerous task of implementing the National Policy on Education will find this study very valuable as it will expose the facts and figures about multilingualism in Nigeria and the implications it has in implementing the National Policy on Education.

Students studying Linguistics and other Nigerian Languages will find this work useful as a reference material and valuable guide as it has thrown more light on the problems of multilingualism on the educational system in the country, thus opening the door for further researchers in the area

The findings of this research will create awareness and motivation to federal and state governments to discharge their financial roles in the implementation of language policy in education by carefully mapping out the stages that can be gradually implemented and evaluated with minimum strains on the dwindling financial resources of the government. This will involve giving due consideration to:

  1. The production of text books, readers, instructional materials and other gadgets and
  2. The training and retraining of teachers on how best to implement the National Policy on Education as it has to do with language policy. This will impact very seriously on the use of the mother tongue in childhood education for better academic performance.


1.5        Scope and Limitation

The research will cover the concepts of multilingualism and the problems in Nigeria. It will also discuss some of the multilingual countries and their language policies and the ways to encourage multilingualism. The research is also limited to multilingualism and its positive and negative effects on our educational system.

This research will also examine what the National Policy on Education said about language in Nigeria, the problem of implementing this policy and perhaps the method to use in the implementation of these policies in order to meet the desired objectives.


1.6        Research Questions

  1. Does multilingualism affects the educational system in Nigeria?
  2. Is the National Policy on Education relevant in meeting the problems of multilingualism in Nigeria?
  3. Does the use of mother tongue aids learning and enhance academic performance of students?
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