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Errors on Ghanaian students’ written English: is speaking school pidgin English the cause

Evershed Kwasi Amuzu
Ebenezer Asinyor


This paper highlights the situation in Ghana (and most likely also in Cameroon) where English is learned and used as a second (and official) language alongside varieties of an English-related pidgin and where the speaking of the pidgin is routinely blamed for errors that learners of English, especially those in secondary and tertiary institutions, commit in their speech and writing. Specifically, the paper investigates the justification for attributing errors that educated Ghanaians commit in their written English to the School Pidgin English (SPE) some of them speak. A case study was carried out in a diploma awarding institution. Two groups of students, students identified as speakers of SPE and students identified as non-speakers of SPE, were asked to write an essay on a given topic and the grammatical and spelling errors they committed were identified and scrutinized. It emerged that none of the types of errors identified was exclusively committed by the SPE speakers, a finding which suggests that there is hardly a definite causative relationship between speaking SPE and committing the errors. Rather, it is found that the errors are more directly related to some grammatical features of the students’ mother tongues and to certain writing systems they use on electronic media platforms. The logical conclusion drawn is that the learning of English in Ghana (and most likely also in Cameroon) may improve if teachers are guided by these more plausible causes of their students’ problems when they try to help them.

Keywords: Pidgin English, Grammatical Errors, Interference, Language Contact, Second Language Learning / Acquisition

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eISSN: 0855-6768
print ISSN: 0855-6768