“The relevance of sociolinguistic theories to the teaching of English in Nigerian secondary schools”
Several notable Nigerian scholars, informed parents, religious organizations and government officials have decried the prevalent falling standard of education in Nigeria. They have gone further.to advance reasons through academic publications, educational and sociological reports, the mass media etc., for the pervasive poor performance of candidates in the English Language (EL) of the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). Unfortunately, or
fortunately, the EL is often used as the most important factor of measuring, though non- empirically, any perceived falling standard in education.
Some of the reasons advanced for the falling standard of English are that the language is used as a Second Language (SL) in Nigeria, the perennial shortage of many qualified and experienced university - graduate teachers of the subject, the prevalent use and the continuous development of the indigenous language (e.g. Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Urhobo) in many areas of the country’s Ufe (e.g. government, education, mass media) vis- a-vis English, the axiomatic belief that the language, unlike other subjects (e.g. Physics, Geography, Economics), can be studied only in the classroom etc. Although it is very difficult, if not impossible, to discard any or all of these reasons, I propose in this paper that a major problem, perhaps hitherto uninvestigated in Nigeria, is the absence of a- sociolinguistic rather than a psycholinguistic theory of language that, firstly, may inform teachers dearly, and subsequently students of the essence of language in general, and secondly, the systems of the EL in particular. Using some data procured from WAEC to illustrate candidates poor performance, and the analysis of some definitions of language by undergraduate students in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of psycholinguistic and, or sociolinguistic theories, I conclude that the latter theory presents a better and basic understanding of'language (i.e. EL).