Language is said to be a system in which the combination of sounds form words and the combination of words form sentences for a representation of knowledge is determined by a system of rules. And these rules are applied in the construction of words and sentences. One of the basic principles of learning a second language is to use it as soon as possible in our everyday life activities. This is made clear to the learner and the teacher makes effort to see to it that the language is learned, despite the many interference phenomena in the process. Nigeria is a multilingual and multi-cultural country. It has been estimated that over 400 indigenous languages exist in the country. This multiplicity of languages in Nigeria was compounded with the advent of the colonial masters who introduced and implanted the English language in Nigeria. It has become part of the system to the extent that instead of the continous struggle required to meet up with the standard set by the native speakers , a Nigerian variety has emerged. It is now regarded as a Nigerian language.
The English Language in Nigeria enjoys a prestigious status, having a high premium placed on it as the national Lingua franca, It is the Language of administration, trade, commerce and industry, inter-ethnic relationship. It is the language of integration and instruction in schools and above all the language of national Unity as well as international communication. Apart from functioning as the language of integration here in Nigeria, Yate (1992) has observed that ‘ of more notable importance is the increase in the international and technological function of English Language as the dominant language of the Cyber café, and the most used language in the internet. It is also an elitist language. We now live in an ICT globalised world in which English is the medium of interaction between individuals and nations.
According to Babajide 2002: “For any nation particularly in the third world to be relevant and derive the maximum benefit from the opportunities that abound in every area of human need, for personal advancement and national development, English is a ‘sine qua non’. He further stated that up till now the country is still faced with the dilemma of selecting an indigenous language that will foster national unity. As the debate continues, Prof. Afolayan bring s out the important place of English when he said that “It is unrealistic for anybody in Nigeria today to think that National unity can be forged in the country without recourse to the utilization of the English Language……. It has been the language of political entity itself and also the language of its politico- economic unification and administration. Further more the fact that it is now functioning as the language of Nigerian Nationalism cannot be denied.” Multilingualism and English in Nigeria
The first Nigerian National anthem acknowledges the existence of indigenous languages ‘though tribe and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand”. Nigeria is a typical multi-lingual country in which minority languages which are very many live side by side with the major languages. The country is not only the melting pot of African socio-political and linguistic realities but also the meeting point of divergent and convergent views on minority languages and language policy. Multilingualism is a sociolinguistic phenonmenon that arises as a result of language contact. It is a situation in which two or more languages operate within the same context. Factors such as political annexation, marital relations, economic transactions, cultural association, educational acquisition and religious affiliation bring about multilingualism.
All these factors underpin the socio-political landscape of Nigeria today even though the combination of political and economic transaction or exploitation originally brought the people referred to as Nigerians today in contact with the English people. The coming of English colonialist in the 18th Century brought about “Linguistic imperialism”a situation in which “ the minds and lives of the speakers of a language are dominated by another language to the point where they believe that they can and should use only the foreign lanugauge when it comes to transactions dealing with the advanced aspects of life such as education,philosophy, literature,government and the administration of justice.”
So inspite of the fact that English is foreign, it has become a language that has helped to weld together the many people that constitute Nigeria.