Teaching English as a second language


English language as a subject taught and learnt in schools and colleges in Nigeria today is no doubt a second language (L2) situation among pupils and students. Despite the fact that English language remains the medium of instruction in many countries in the sub – region and Nigeria in particular, it is still a bane of contest among concerned authorities, hence all efforts should be geared toward producing pedagogical grammarians, and if so a standard model for teaching and learning English language as second language (L2) should receive an ample attention from schools and colleges curriculum developers. Emphasis must be placed on the facilitator of English language not just only as a teacher, but also as an inculcator, imparter of knowledge on the learner, because it is believed that unless the student learns the teacher has not taught.

Definition and clarification of concepts

The term teaching has been observed by Olaitan and Agusiobo as ‘’an attempt to bring about desirable changes in human learning abilities and behaviours’’. They went further to explain that these changes may occur in three forms; an increase store of useful information and the understanding of the subject matter by the learner, acquisition of skills ,abilities and habits of the learner, and lastly the possession of desirable attitude and ideas. Therefore, for teacher to achieve these desirable changes   in   the   students   he   must   critically   evaluate,   and   map   out   strategies   of    effecting these levels of changes mentioned above.

The term English as a second language refers to the use or study of English by speaker with different native languages, and in most cases they have their native language as their first language (L1).The teacher   in   some   cases   could   also   be affected by this same situation of having learnt English as a L2. This makes English language teaching often teacher – centred   rather   than   learner – centred.


For  the  fact  that  English  is  a  language  learnt  after the acquisition of an L1, the student is bound to come across so many hurdles which ought to be surmounted by effective teaching, this usually becomes a herculean task for the teacher. In line with this view Awonusi,S.(1999) said;

the  issue  becomes more compounded when  a teacher in a second language (L2) situation       as in the case of Nigeria has to  teach students the pronunciation of a foreign and / or second language while at the time he provides the linguistic basis for pronunciation often time from insight in phonology.

The above view leads us to the most prominent among the   problems   the   teacher   will have to tackle, which is   that   of   phonological interference as it affect the learning of English in schools and colleges in Nigeria. This problem superimposes   the   learners’ L1 in terms of sound on the L2.This situation has been identified as a learning barrier. Yule, G.(1996) observed that, ‘’some less likely reasons includes the suggestion that adults tongues get stiff from pronouncing one type of language e. g English. This explains why they cannot cope with new sounds of another language e. g French or Japanese’’.

The  issue  of  the  L1  and  L2  should  be made  clear, the English language serves as a L2 to most students in Nigeria, just as French or Japanese is to the English native speaker in Yule’s example. Therefore it becomes obvious that there are clear-cut differences between their L1 and L2. Thus interference of any form should not be allowed to occur, especially in all grammatical, phonological and semantic aspects of students’ L1 on newly learnt L2.

The student must make frantic effort to learn and be conversant with all nature of pronunciation and accents of the L2, the production and description of speech sound, and problems associated with transcription.                               The learners’ ability is another problem that needed to be tackled. In the learning of English language the student is expected to consciously accumulate knowledge of the vocabulary and grammar of the targeted   language,   i.e.   the   L2.

A theoretical knowledge about human behaviour is important at this stage for the teacher to know how people learn, influence and changes in the learning behaviour matters. These and other parts put together help the student to understand and map out his/her learning strategies

Against this background it has been adjudged by various scholars that the best stage for the acquisition/learning of   language   at   it   optimum, may be during the age bracket of ten to sixteen years, it is an age frame which is believed that that language acquisition faculty is still very much a life.

The learner of a L2 is constrained, and there by relies on   adequate learning process of mastering the L2 as directed by the teacher. The learning should as a matter of fact develop the ability of fostering a wider range of educational approaches and methods which are aimed at enhancing the L2 learning. Some of these varieties includes; learning by moving from the simple to the complex form.

Learning   must   be   done   from   simple practical drills, in terms of any aspect of the L2, to the complex. This gives the student the encouragement of perfecting his studies. The student should realize that there is the need to repeat them often and often until he attains a level of mastery.

The use of language laboratory is also considered very important in trying to solve the above problem. The learner of L2 is expected to accelerate his rate of mastery of the subject by spending hours of reasonable practices in the language laboratory a day. Other solutions include repeating oral drills, especially in areas of phonetics which is concerned with the pronunciation of the accurate English sounds e.g. words such as madam /mӕdəm/, millionaire /miljəlnƩə/ the correct pronunciation of such words is known as receive pronunciation (R.P).  These words in most cases are  pronounced  wrongly  in the Nigerian usage of the English language, but with a good knowledge of the accurate pronunciation, the student will know the exact syllable for stress placement, because wrong placement of stress pattern distorts the pronunciation of most English words, as in the examples given above.

The Electronic Media, such as television, radio, video, computer, I- pods and I- pads among others are means through which modern plays, prose, poems and English words are pronounced, that can help the learner achieve so much in such a way that learning sometimes surpasses that of the classroom teaching/learning situation. Osakwe (1992) agrees with this view when she said the television model correct this trend for most viewers. What the teacher could not achieve in the classroom of decades in English language teaching, was achieved by the television within a year of informal targeting through entertainment.

Of very much importance is the fact that the internet which has become a great source of research can only be access through electronics such as the ones mentioned above, the question now remains how many teachers talk less of students can afford these electronics and even if they can is there a stable source of power for powering these electronics in our schools and colleges?

An ideal research point for the learning of English is the library and the language laboratory, where there is a wide range of prints in term of books at their disposal. Students as a matter of fact should regards books ranging from texts, dictionaries, magazines, journals and transcription dictionaries as the resources for learning the language.  But   the   problem   experienced   today   is the dying, reading culture among students  even when the books are available students are not willing to read.


  • Motivation has been one of the driving tools for the propelling of the language in schools. Motivation in teaching according to Kratochwil, Cord, and Travers (1990) is said to be an internal state that arouses us to action, pushes us in particular directions and keep us engaged in certain activities. Effective teaching will make sure that students know why they need to learn, this alone can be the target of the day’s lesson. Motivation for the teacher at this stage could be as simple as giving words of encouragement, praises; reward, listening and caring for the listener as at when due. This act is can easily be achieved today in Nigerian schools since it only require the teacher to be more committed in achieving this goal. It is also in same vain Yule, observed that motivation  to  learn  is  important, however it has been noted that those who experience some success are those must motivated to learn. From the above, it is obvious that the teacher has to do all it takes to motivate the learner to master a subject like English which is a L2 that has to do with not only practicing writing, but also with a lot of pronunciation to be done.
  • The availability of learning materials is a good factor     for the growth of the L2, despite the fact that the L2 is a foreign language, one will agree to the fact that, it does have a lot of printed materials available even more than that of most Nigerian languages. These printed  materials covers textbooks for primary and secondary schools. This goes to show that publisher are willing to publish materials for the L2 more than they would do for most First languages (L1). Awobuluyi (1998) agrees with view when he said that not majority of the L1 languages lack enough materials for the teaching and learning pupils.
  • The  ICT. is  also  another vital resources for the learning  of the subject, the teacher as well as the learner must go the extra mile in harnessing these resources in order to be abreast with contemporary approaches to teaching the L2 in secondary schools and colleges in Nigeria.
  • Sponsorship and workshops are organised occasionally for the training and repositioning of teachers of English language in most Africa countries by most European English speaking countries such as the united kingdom, they do not only train the teachers but do sponsor and deploy them to remote areas and countries where the teaching of the language needs to be strengthened. The British English Council is just one agency that is up and doing in this regard. The Nigeria Liquidified Natural Gas company.NLNG.is another body that has brought a lot prospects to the growth of the L2 in Nigeria. These supports are steps in the right direction.
  • The curriculum and lesson periods allotted the teaching of the L2 in schools has helped to lay down the foundation for the proper teaching of the L2, because at least as much as five or more lesson periods a week is allotted to the teaching and learning the L2 in secondary schools. It is therefore, left for the teacher to convert these periods into proper use for the expected results to be achieved. To this end the teacher is expected to have a clear understanding of the subject matter and the school curriculum, and put more effort in the teaching of English language as second language in secondary schools and colleges in Nigeria.



Awobuluyi,O.(1998). “Language Education in Nigeria:Theory, Policy and Practices”. Internet Journal of Education Second Foundation Annual Lecture.File//A// Language Education in Nigeria

Awonui, S.(1999). Coping With English Pronunciation.   Lagos: Ogbinaka Ltd

Elliolt,Kratochiwill,Littlefield,and Travess(1996). Educational Pschology: Effective Teaching and Learning.USA: McGraw-Hill Company,Inc.

Jowitt,D.(1991). Nigerian English Usage.Ibadan: Longman Ltd.

Ogude and Okafor.(2004). Effective Use of English for Higher Education. Benin: Justice Jeco Publisher.

Osakwe, M. (1992). “Theatre Arts and Injustice : Foreign and Nigerian Languages.” Ona, Abraka Journal of Researchers in Languages and Literature. Vol.1 (pp.) 21 – 24.

Yule, G.(1996). The Study of The Language. Cambridge:  University Press.

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