English Is Overrated

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English Is Overrated.

There I said it.

3686f582a3972ff7fd88d36f94a7e516I have been trying to write this article for the longest time but kept putting off. But finally after posting this article: Should Pidgin English Be Allowed In A Children’s Book? and reading some responses, I decided I have had it. English … and I mean American/British English is highly fucking overrated. And here is why…

We live in a world where the word “selfie” has become an accepted word in the Oxford dictionary. “Selfie?” Think about that for a second. Let it digest. Let realization set in, that “selfie” is an actual dictionary word in the Oxford dictionary along with “twerk” and “google.” But when you say “sabi” or “wetin” people … people will accuse you of contaminating English.

So we isolate our English, we hide it or give it funny names like “broken” and “pidgin,” while we exalt others people’s English, not realizing that that English, the ones in the Dictionary that we worship are really other people’s “pidgin” wrapped around in a black and white shit wrap called a Dictionary.

I mean, have you ever asked yourself, who writes the Dictionary?

We kind of think of the Dictionary as this perfect book that should never be challenged. So we build our definition of speaking English around it, failing to realize that the American Dictionary or Oxford dictionary that we revere are written by ordinary individuals who take words as seemingly ridiculous as “selfie” and “twerk” and vote to add them to their Dictionary.

But we see our own words as inferior and run to the safe haven of other people’s Dictionary. Why don’t we have a Nigerian dictionary? Not a pidgin Dictionary, but a Nigerian dictionary that takes words such as “wahala” and “sabi” and put it in a dictionary along with their root definition and pronunciation! Why!

That’s why when I ask Should Pidgin English Be Allowed In A Children’s Book?, I hear people say things like “I don’t want to mess with my child’s English!” Huh! What English are you messing with exactly?

But sadly this is the Nigerian reality.

Say something silly or illogical … as long as you cover it up with proper grammar and a foreign accent to match… people will gawk at your intelligence. But, if you have something brilliant to say but you are not communicating in that clear sophisticated English, people will gawk at your stupidity even though they understand every single word you are saying.

Why is this so? Why do we have this dual standard when it comes to our broken English?

I am an Engineer by training and I have been blessed to work with people from all parts of the world Brazil, India, Italy, France and even Ukraine. And when they speak English … likely it is “broken” with bad grammar structure but we listen. All of us listen…because we know what they are saying makes sense but more importantly because we can’t afford not to. I mean if I can pay someone on elance with poor English to tell me the same thing for 10% of the price it takes to hear it from a British person…I will pay! Because 1+1, no matter what language you speak or what accent you say it in is always equal to 2.

Because 1+1, no matter what language you speak or what accent you say it in is always equal to 2.

And that is my issue with English, in that it allows people hide behind the language and weakens the ones that know what they are talking about but are too hesitant to speak up for fear or mockery. I have seen this happen time and again in my Engineering profession. But sadly that is likely not going to change. American or British English will always be at the forefront of everything in Nigeria.Unless…

Unless you and me make the decision to do like Engineers and focus on a persons knowledge rather than get distracted by how they say what they know.

The irony is that the language that will change the world in the next couple of years, will not even be English, or Chinese or French or any of those languages. The language that we need to be focusing on, the language that will change the world is the Programming Language. Yes that HTML, JAVA, C++ and all those other programming languages are what will define the future in the next couple of years. And unlike English you can’t BS the java language, what you see is what you get, if your code input is jacked up …. then your output will be jacked up. And sometimes I wish English was like that!

Just a rant … carry on …

PS: If you see any grammatical errors … just ignore.

twitterWritten By Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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Ofili

Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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35 comments on “English Is Overrated

  1. Really? Maybe you should have written this in another language apart from English.

    To me, English is not overrated. It’s the people trying to conform to standards set by American/British English. And as long as these countries lead and define what makes up the dictionary/vocabularies etc, people will continue to conform.

      • Selfie is in the Oxford dictionary because the dictionary is made by Oxford. And Oxford uses British English. They can choose to add or remove whatever word they want to.

        Like I stated earlier. As long as we conform to the standard by British English, then we will continue to take what they give.

        We are dying to follow the Oxford dictionary simply because that is what we exalt in our Nigeria based universities. We will continue to until there is a better substitute to that.

        As said, it’s not English that is overrated. It is people that underrates themselves.

        • Ofili

          “We are dying to follow the Oxford dictionary simply because that is what we exalt in our Nigeria based universities.” the original article clearly already states this.

          “As said, it’s not English that is overrated. It is people that underrates themselves.” I stated clearly again in the article that people underrate themselves “But we see our own words as inferior and run to the safe haven of other people’s Dictionary.”

          Not really sure what you sticking or differing point is that is not already covered in the article.

          • I’m glad that you showed the similarities between my previous comment and what you have already written in the article.

            English is what it is. A means of communication. It is not in itself overrated. And like you stated in the article, it is people that overrate English.

            My point is, your title shouldn’t have been English is Overrated. And if it is, you could have written this in another language. Then we would know that English is really overrated and the language you write the article in is equally important.

  2. Pidgin English is the Nigerian dialect of the English language and can’t be allowed in a children’s book for educational purpose. The bad grammar spoken by those Brazilians and Chinese is not found in their English texts and story books for children; the same way the gangster form of English and other English dialects spoken in some parts of the US can’t be used in a children’s book for education of the American kids. Na my opinion sha.
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  3. English is overrated as are a whole lot of things that we don’t question ourselves about.

    Our attitude towards it is symptomatic of the attitude we Africans at home and in the Diaspora, have about most things ‘black’.
    I mean, talk about young, black girls in the UK, particularly of Nigerian descent, telling someone that “that girl should put some relaxer or weave on her hair; doesn’t she know natural hair is hard…it’s tough”!
    Or hearing some African-Americans proclaiming that they are not from Africa because they have “Indian, Irish, German, in them.”

    That’s what it is Ofili…anything is better than our thing even though English is just a form of communication like any other language; the only difference is that it’s backed by power or as we say in Linguistics, it’s a language of power…that’s all.

    If, say, we had a language called Africana and we colonised the world, that would be the language everyone would be speaking and everything else will be termed inferior.

    Sure we should make ourselves understood, nobody is questioning that but to elevate English to the lofty heights of the Holy Grail…well… that would have precluded the likes of Jose Mourinho from ever becoming relevant in English football!!!

    Ironically, only a miniscule percentage of the English themselves speak the so-called Queen’s English everyone else speaks their own dialect of English or Estuary English!

    There is a lot to say about this, Ofili but I’ll end here for now to see where this discussion takes us and what other’s think…
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  4. Sokari on said:

    Ofili I completely agree with you. English is overrated, and we Nigerians are ashamed of our own grammar. You see, the English’s are proud people, they bring up slangs and standardize them. And in a world where you have to make noise to be heard, words like selfie becomes standard english overnight. I bet the English professor in my school doesn’t know that yet. Infact why do official letters require formal English? What if a french engineer is applying to work in a Nigeria firm, will his letter go through the same scrutiny? We need to be proud of own things..

  5. Hmmm, I think this is the first time I’ll actually disagree with you totally, but let me try to keep it short.

    1. English is not our language, so the owners are allowed to modify it if they please, but even in the dictionary such words like selfie are connoted as slangs.

    2. The fact is pidgin English came as a result of people needing to communicate in English but not really knowing how to speak it.

    3. English is not overrated, it has just become a universal language because the English as colonial masters spread their language…..the British took English to America too.

    4. We don’t have a Nigerian dictionary because Nigeria is not like England, or even America. We have never had one unifying language that we could all understand, and so it was easy to adopt English. We don’t have a Nigerian dictionary because we’d need at least 10. (No research done so I’m fishing here).

    5.I get that we are all trying to go all African/Nigerian liberalism on the world, but why should we compromise on speaking English the proper way to do so. Even the so called American English does not destroy the grammatical correctness of the language, they just adopted different words and spellings.

    6. Like I always say, a time for everything and everything in its time. The fact is, you will have audiences that want to speak and hear pidgin, you will have audiences that won’t. The goal is to communicate; if pidgin is the answer for the time, let it be; and if English is the answer for the time, let it be.

    I get your point, but if English is overrated, the whole world is overatted really, cuz when you think about it, everything changes :).

    PS…ignore the typos.
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    • Ofili

      Hmmm, I think this is the first time I’ll actually disagree with you totally, but let me try to keep it short. (That’s the spirit of ofilispeaks.com you don’t have to accept everything said because I can be wrong and have been several times)

      1. English is not our language, so the owners are allowed to modify it if they please, but even in the dictionary such words like selfie are connoted as slangs. (English is not an American langauge, or Canadian langauge, like us it is foreign to them, they have just made it seem like it is theirs).

      2. The fact is pidgin English came as a result of people needing to communicate in English but not really knowing how to speak it. (So why is this wrong? If you study Igbo and Yoruba you will find that we speak those langauges the way we speak Pidgin and there is nothing wrong with that. To say Pidgin is a result of “not knowing how to speak English” to me is a poor perspective to look at it from).

      3. English is not overrated, it has just become a universal language because the English as colonial masters spread their language…..the British took English to America too. (Yep … and Americans have created their own acceptable version of English, that Africans salivate over).

      4. We don’t have a Nigerian dictionary because Nigeria is not like England, or even America. We have never had one unifying language that we could all understand, and so it was easy to adopt English. We don’t have a Nigerian dictionary because we’d need at least 10. (No research done so I’m fishing here). (Again false … we have had one unifying langauge and that is Pidgin … cmon you know that).

      5.I get that we are all trying to go all African/Nigerian liberalism on the world, but why should we compromise on speaking English the proper way to do so. Even the so called American English does not destroy the grammatical correctness of the language, they just adopted different words and spellings. (Your strongest point so far, but you can still use “wahala” and still be grammatically correct, you don’t need to re-write the rules of grammar abi grammer which ever one is right.).

      6. Like I always say, a time for everything and everything in its time. The fact is, you will have audiences that want to speak and hear pidgin, you will have audiences that won’t. The goal is to communicate; if pidgin is the answer for the time, let it be; and if English is the answer for the time, let it be. (no issues here, I just wrote the article to drive the question, why is “selfie” accepted slang but “wahala” with it popularity is not?)

  6. Just me on said:

    I hope you know Agbada (notice I did not place it in inverted comma) is in the Oxford dictionary. How often do you use it in your English tense? English is not overrated. When a word gains almost universal acceptance it can be voted to be added into the dictionary. Most times such words were not even in the english language before. Pidgin english on the other hand is corrupted english. There are standard acceptable english words for them already. Let’s not be sentimental.

    Also, English Is Overrated does not even begin to represent what your content is about. Otherwise, you would have written this article in Yoruba or Ibibio.

  7. Solomon Mona Peters Kings on said:

    I’ve watched a t.v show hosted by a unique presenter, Ordinary Ahmed Isah as he calls himself on Brekete tv. The show is actually done on a radio station and it’s broadcasted life on tv. Ahmed Isah runs his show, which generally handle cases like the courts do in fluent, undiluted pidgin English because he has a target, the ordinary Nigerian. I took to the show the very first time i watched it on air. And believe me when i tell you this, that dude can hold a discussion session with the president of American in “correct” English without breaking stride. My point ? If we’re not proud using our “own” english to communicate, whether in the pages of textbooks or newspapers, then we have a long way to go. I agree with the school of thought that kids should not be allowed access to the language esp in educational context but that doesn’t go to say we should erradicate our originality or be ashamed of it. Tell a man from scoutland he’s not speaking correct English and get your face punched for it.

  8. Toonna on said:

    Ignore popular human opinions dear Ofili, they’re fickle and very malleable.

    People go with what’s in the vogue; in my own little but growing oyinbo circles, ‘no wahala’ is as popular as ‘aluta continua’ to the average Nigerian, likewise ‘pura vida’, ‘akuna matata’, ‘mi casa su casa’ gained popularity as they are used by the fun or bold or respected or powerful in this world. When the ‘crazy ones’ in the tradition of the classic Apple ad, say something, no matter the language, the rest of the world latches on to it.

    People enjoy and sometimes covet something different from what they’re used to, be it racially physical qualities to climate conditions to languages. In today’s world, people want to think of themselves more as global citizens, what better way is there to promote this that proudly sharing your language and cultural heritage in your writings and speakings?

    If most of the world writes in English, shouldn’t one maximize the chance to stand out from the crowd by including some non-English palaver?

    I remember reading Chinua Achebe’s works a while back and heartily contemplating how oyinbo folks would gleefully attempt to decipher his igbo vocabulary amid the English prose. Similarly, Finding Fela! (2014) was released not too long ago, another milestone on oyinbo’s celebration of musical icon; Fela’s use of pidgin in his music certainly does not tarnish his appeal to the oyinbo man.

    So, in my opinion, I find no wahala in including pidgin or broken English in your novel. Notin do you.

    Cheers.

  9. Omorin on said:

    I don’t agree with you. The universality of English still cannot be underated. words like twerk maybe accepted into the dictionary but I doubt it’s finding its way into any formal document. As a poster said there are to many varying languages in Nigeria that even the pidgin as you call it varies from region to region. I grew up speaking broken English but even I have difficulty understanding the ‘waffi’ version.

  10. Ghen ghen, Ofili have vex sha.

    I have come to realize that opinions about the validity of pidgin English will always differ. I for one love it and use it in regular conversations and some of my blog posts. I think it is a legit mode of communication. It is also a cultural artifact in itself and should be preserved.

    That being said, I think that where possible, people should speak well, especially in professional settings (this includes schools). There’s nothing that irks me more than seeing a Nigerian graduate, who has been instructed in English his/her entire life, unable to construct simple sentences. That to me is intellectual laziness. People who live in Countries where English is not their first language can be let off the hook.

    Pidgin English is awesome, and I think that it should not be inferior to English. In fact, they should not be compared against each other. Pidgin English should be acknowledge for what it is; another mode of communication and a cultural marker for not just Nigeria, but the African continent as a whole.
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  11. Dumebi on said:

    There’s a difference between Oxford Dictionaries and Oxford English Dictionary…Former is informal, latter is formal. (i.e. you’ll find “Selfie”, “Amazeballs”, “Side boob” etc in OD…but not it OED)
    We should have a Nigerian Dictionary…not just one sef…Calabar(Cambridge)…Ondo(Oxford)… Maiduguri (Merriam-Webster).
    Nothing stops us from learning Physics, Government, Chemistry etc in both English and our indigenous languages.

  12. Omo see gobe! I’ll rather sit her, sip juice and keep reading. No need to add to the argument. Please keep commenting people!

  13. I think that if we continue to hold the though that pidgin is bad there will come a time that we will regret it (we might not regret it on a someone has died kind of level but we gonna feel bad).

    As a child I was surrounded by people who thought being able to speak any Nigerian language was not to be heard of. At home u dare not utter a word in pidgin.

    25 years later ( note I have never travelled out of Nigeria not even to Ghana) I can’t hold a converstion in Yoruba or pidgin without people laughing at me so I stick to my English and I feel bad. I can only speak one language fluently and this language is not my language.

    I find I can’t contribute to some discussions because I can’t speak the language they speak.

    I remember how embarrased I felt when I was convinced to co anchor a Yoruba show and I disgraced my self :( . After that experience I never considered anchoring a show again not even in English.

    So in the midst of arguing if English is overrated or not. Or if pidgin English should or should not be included in childrens book. Let’s not forget to ‘Save the Life’ of children like me.
    If including pidgin English in children’s books or not will save their lives. Please let’s do it.
    How we gona do it I don’t know but we should make our own contribtion.
    -End- :)

  14. Balogun Adeyemi on said:

    This has to be my favourite article so far! Personally I think the way we speak English is what is overrated. I know I speak a certain way when I want to sound smarter

  15. Pidgin english for life. I see no reason why dem go talk say its inferior abeg. If jamaican talk hin own now, we go dey nod head rasta-style. Why can’t ours ne accepted?

  16. Solomon Eke on said:

    I believe English is sometimes overrated by us (Africans), this is so simply because our own native tongue has been progressively abandoned by us who should be it’s custodians (we should have our own “Oxford Dictionary” why not “Okigwe Dictionary”). There is another strong reason why our indeginous languages (even cultures)are being disseminated, and that’s our desire to find a common ground for communication. Which has always been a difficult thing for our numerous tribes/states, so we embrace the English language with reckless abandon, to the detriment of our indigenous cultures, which sadly includes language.

  17. Woah! An interesting Piece. I must say I have been following up on Ofili’s post and am impressed, and this topic is actually more serious that some of us here realise.. I must say @ Omorin (hope I got d spelling right) Ofili didn’t condemn or criticize any1, and I must say the arguments n points was rather insightful.. There is hope for Nigeria with d class of people I read commenting on this space. Thanks Ofili for this post, I would be sure to bring it up with my friends n colleagues (pick their brains)..

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