Background of the study
Language is recognized as one of the greatest human achievements. The acquisition of language is unique to human beings. Although other species can communicate in their own way, only humans have attained the most highly developed system of communication by the use of words and expressions (Bell, 1981). Communication is the transfer of message from one party to another so that it can be understood and be acted upon (Eyre, 1983). This goes to show how important language is to human beings.
Language can be acquired and can also be learned. For language acquisition, it is the term most commonly used to describe the process whereby children become speakers of their native languages (Bell, 1981). It can also mean a natural acquisition of a second language while language learning can best be explained as a process of problem-solving in which the leaner exposed to the data of the language attempts to create cognitive maps. Language learning is also a term commonly used to describe the process whereby children and adults formally learn a language mainly a second language. It is a complex set of process especially when that language is a second one to the learner.
In Nigeria, English is the second language. It is a second language because there are other indigenous languages. Nigeria had about two hundred and fifty indigenous languages in use before the introduction of English language (Anibueze, 2007). English is firmly established as the official language and outside the mandatory official context, English is the major language of instruction, social services, business communication and occupational purposes. It is notionally considered as a measure for literacy and outstanding status. It is the language for scientific and technological innovation. It is also used for international trade and conferences. English is virtually the language now in use at home, in the market places, in religious houses, in playgrounds, in social and political gatherings.
English is necessary for accessing discourse at a global level, from international relations to popular culture and to academia (Makay, 2002). English language is the first and foremost medium of national and international communication in this present time. Nigerians need English so as to be able to communicate and interact with the native speakers and non-native speakers. Nigerian child needs English language to be able to communicate with his neighbours. Indeed, the Nigerian child requires proficiency in it so as to be able to express his everyday experiences. Nigerian children have to understand other people and be understood with less difficulty (Azikiwe, 2007).
English language is needed in Nigeria for individual development and educational advancement and employment. This is true when one considers the mental exercises that are needed to be accurate in writing and reading, speaking and listening in foreign language other than the mother tongue. The teaching of the English language in Nigerian schools and colleges is organized around these four language skills- Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. But despite all efforts made to teach these skills, the Nigerian students’ level of language proficiency is still below expectation.