Pidgin English The language that unites 75m Nigerians
Pidgin English is the unofficial lingua franca of Nigeria.
I can’t clearly recall when I started speaking in pidgin English but it was sometime during my early JSS years.
How It All Started
This was a period when boys wanted to join the cool and hip teenage clique badly. We wanted to dress and talk like the older guys who were already in on pidgin and rocking combat pants with killer boots.
Pidgin English has no barrier, both rich and poor say it although to varying degrees. Therefore it should not be any surprise that I learnt how to speak Pidgin English in a secondary school tucked away in the fancy part of Apapa.
The language was new and exciting and I liked the way it rolled off the tongue. It was a new way to talk and express our feelings at an age when our hormones were raging.
Phrases like ‘na wa o‘, and ‘how far?’ were used during friendly convos when it was lunchtime. School was still school and we still had to speak proper English of course but whenever it was break time or when we had a free period, we switched to the language of the streets.
After a year or so of speaking in pidgin, a new guy came to our class. He is from Delta state, Warri to be precise. Deltans are not only known for speaking good pidgin, they are also famous for speaking waffi– a dialect of Nigerian pidgin English.
He was a standout guy and it didn’t take him long to blend with the crowd. Outside class, when we were ‘yarning’ we noticed his Pidgin English was different from ours. He had cool words to describe things and situations that we never knew existed.
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A Mixture Of Nigerian Languages
It was from him I started using the word ‘omo’ which is still prevalent in Pidgin English till date. ‘Omo boy how far?‘, or ‘omo I don’t understand‘ are used when talking to your guy. Omo which is a Yoruba word for ‘child‘ just goes to show you how much Pidgin English has blended popular words from the major tribes. Some of these words include ‘shebi, ‘nna‘, and ‘abi‘.
It is believed that Pidgin is spoken and understood by up to 75 million people in Nigeria. It’s no wonder that the BBC Pidgin was launched in August 2017 to cater for this large number of people. BBC Pidgin is not the first of its kind in Nigeria. In 2007, Wazobia FM was the first fully pidgin radio station in the country. Its success spurred the likes of Naija FM to open up shop.
Pidgin In Nigerian Pop Music
Moving beyond radio, Pidgin English is popular in Nigerian music as it helps to reach all types of people. The late great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once said: “You cannot sing African music in proper English.” Pidgin English helps break down the tribal barrier in the country.
Pidgin In Sports
Even in sports, people are gravitating towards Pidgin English content. The Twitter account @ManUtdInPidgin tweets all things Manchester United in pidgin. The account was created in August 2015 and has 36,000 followers.
The English language is learnt in school but Pidgin English is learnt on the streets with friends and that is why it is more intimate to use during social conversations.