Background of the Study
English Language has become an invaluable legacy of the British colonial masters to Nigeria. The language has provided Nigerians with another means of expressing their culture. Before the British came into Nigeria, the country already had its many indigenous languages. One would have expected that with the attainment of Nigeria independence in 1960, the language referred to as the language of conquest and oppression would have been abolished (Akindele and Adegbite, 1999). On the contrary, the English Language has come to stay as the country’s official and national language. Globally, English is recognized as a world language.
Language is understood as the particular set of speech norms of a particular community (Alersandrowicz-Pedich and Lazar, 2002). It is expressed using a set of symbols in form of letters or pictures which represent its sound system. According to Offorma (2009) language expression can be verbal or non-verbal to convey thoughts, feelings, and information. The way the information is conveyed would reveal that language operates within a systematic arrangement. Again, there are some elements or characteristics of language which one cannot easily explain or find reasons for (Schmmit, 2000). For instance, in English, the object called “house” is so called not on the basis of any rational explanation but that the English people have conventionally agreed to call it so, otherwise different languages would have had the same name to designate the same object. Therefore, no two languages express the same idea exactly the same way. This suggests that language learning is by imitation and that to be clear and acceptable one must use words and patterns of expression which people of the group understand and accept and which have the same meaning for the hearer as for the speaker (Alersandrowich-Pedich and Lazar, 2002).
Every language is made up of four skills in their hierarchical order of acquisitions as follows: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The listening skill as the first of the four major language skills is the key and the gateway to language learning and it is very vital and fundamental in the process of language acquisition. The three other skills, speaking, reading and writing build upon it and are more or less dependent on it (Mgbodile, 1999). As the child consolidates his listening skill he moves into the speaking stage that will enable him join his speech community. Listening and speaking stages are termed natural stages because they are acquired without any formal learning. Long before the child learns to read, he has started to communicate. Reading is the extension of communication and it naturally builds upon listening and speaking skills already acquired. With practice and further exposure to reading materials children gradually learn to read at primary school and perfect their reading as they move higher to secondary school and higher institutions. Skills for reading aloud, silent reading, intensive, extensive and fast reading are then acquired.