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Nigeria & Pidgin English

With a conservative population of over 16o million, Nigeria, officially called the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is located in West Africa, sharing borders with several countries, including Chad, Cameroon and Republic of Benin. Built in the 1980s Abuja replaced Lagos as the new Capital, although Lagos with its population of nearly 8 million is still the economic and financial capital of the country. With over 250 ethnic groups, the country is rich in cultural diversity, with the largest group being the Hausa’s in the North, Igbo’s in the East and Yoruba’s in the South. Other major tribes and minority groups include, Edo, Ijaws, Urhobo, Tiv, British, American, Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, Syrians, Greeks and others. Comprising of thirty-six states, and one Capital, the Presidential leader is Jonathan Goodluck. Although English is the official language of commerce and education, majority of the population speak their indigenous language, which is over 500, especially in the rural areas, such as Yoruba, Urhobo, Hausa, Efik, Fulani, Kalabari and Igbo.

Nigerian Pidgin or ‘broken English’ is the popular lingua-franca, the linguistic bridge  that unites the tribes. It is the basic language that the colonial masters used to communicate with the natives, which has now taken on a colourful new linguistic life of it´s own, including being taught as a serious academic subject at universites such as Ibadan. The Miller´s Tale: ‘Wahala Dey O!’ compares present day Nigeria with Chaucer´s time. Pidgin English is a vernacular language spoken all over Nigeria and to a large extent frowned upon by the elites, just as English was in Chaucer´s time. It is a developing language with many regional versions, and as such is not static and has no official dictionary. Both Nigerian Pidgin and Chaucer English have much in common in terms of loaded imageries, naughtiness and loose grammar. Ultimately, both are infectiously entertaining and have a ‘cool factor’ that any language needs to survive. Trying to capture this rich linguistic mood in the script means some people might struggle with the Pidgin language. Not surprising, many of the Nollywood films, which is now the second largest film industry are Pidgin scripted, and provide an entertaining outlet for the language.  Even the Bible is currently being translated into Nigerian Pidgin to ease communication. When all else fails, people commonly resort to Pidgin as a way of communicating between the tribes, classes and foreigners. Being a multi-religious country, Nigerians are exposed to many different religions, although the majority is equally split between Islam and Christianity. Nigeria is the second largest economy in Africa; classified as the twelve largest producer of petroleum in the world in the emerging market, due to its rich reserves of natural, agricultural and non-agricultural produce. However it’s education, health care, security and lack of constant power and general poor living condition for the masses, are a serious challenge to an optimistic nation that gained its independence from the United Kingdom in October 1st 1960.