No speaking of vernacular in my class | Featured Artiste: Jimmy D Psalmist

Ver.nac.u.lar (noun) - using a language or dialect native to a region or country rather than a literary, cultured, or foreign language (Source).

That was one of the definitions I got from Merriam-Webster. However, 'vernacular' as I remember that term used in Nigeria referred to speaking any other language apart from English.  That included Pidgin English and every other Nigerian language.  And it was banned in some schools altogether.  Not that I cared to speak anything other than English in class, but the freedom of choice was what I questioned.  I don't recall having teachers explicitly give standing orders on this in my school.  But then, I attended a Federal Government Girls College, so maybe it was not an issue.  However, for students who attended Public schools, a.k.a Jakande schools, like we used to call them, it was an issue.

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Speaking vernacular in class was taken seriously and enforced accordingly.  The class captain for each class, had among his or her duties, to look out for students who inadvertently made the mistake of speaking vernacular in class.  The unfortunate student's name was written down by the class captain and promptly reported to the teacher for swift punishment.

I never understood why it was such an issue back then, but as I reflected on it recently, here is what I first assumed to be the reason these rules were set: Many of the students who attended these schools were from "working class" families.  Or at least, that was the stereotype associated with these students.  I know for sure that some of them came from middle class families, but that's besides the point.  The perception was that children from working class families were more fluent in vernacular than English, and in a bid to improve the quality of their spoken (and written) English, they had to be forced to speak it within the school premises.

Outside school they were of course free to converse freely in any language of their choice.  That is, unless they encountered one of their teachers at the market (pricing kote [pronounced "Kow-tay"] fish), bus stop or on Father Christmas' lap. Or while trying to jump the school fence.  The student, not the teacher.  The teacher will possibly be the one on the other side of the face, cane in hand, waiting patiently for the student to "alight" from the said fence.  Anyway, some teachers could be very strict about using vernacular even when participating in these 'extra-curricular' activities.

The main point though is that vernacular use is explicitly barred in some schools, while it is impliedly barred in other schools.  For instance, the Jigawa State Commissioner for Education recently announced a ban on the use of vernacular in schools during school hours.  I can understand the need to enforce English as the primary language of communication in the classroom setting, but I question the extent to which it should be enforced.  I used to think this "don't speak vernacular in class" rule was a Nigerian, or pata-pata, an African thing.  That is, until I observed the same thing with the Native Americans when "white people" took over their land.  They (White men) forced the Native Americans (Indians) to change their names to English, Christian names, and made them speak English in class too.  At that point, I finally concluded that this "No Vernacular" rule has its roots in colonialism, and was not originally a social class issue.  What's your take on this? Do you agree or disagree with the "No Vernacular" Rule?

Featured Artiste: Jimmy D Psalmist

Abasi Ayaiya was my first introduction to Jimmy D Psalmist's musical talent.  That song was an exciting, dancehall-type track that convinced me that Jimmy D Psalmist was one artiste I had to look out for.  I will probably feature it at a later date, but the focus of today's review is his other song titled "Shalom."

Jimmy D Psalmist / ReverbNation
There's something addictive and at the same time, calming, about this song.  I think you'll find yourself humming "I've got Peace, Shalom!" at odd hours of the day.  I refuse to believe that I am the only one hooked on this track.  Or who hums at odd hours of the day.  This is the closest you'll get to a confession from me.  Like it. Tweet It. Pin It.  That was so random! Moving on. Here is "Shalom" to thrill your ears and quiet your spirit.  Listen and download:


Likes: Right from the intro, the hook really (for lack of a better word) "hooks" you, and along with a certain 'old school' feel, draws you into the song.  I found myself nodding to the beats which stayed consistent from the beginning to the end.  The bridge was well-executed (I payed attention to the modulation especially), background vocals were on point, and Jimmy took charge, as a good lead vocalist should, steering the song in the right direction.

Dislikes: The songwriting (not the song arrangement) could have been better. I could not decide whether I liked the introductory "spoken word" part or whether it should have been eliminated completely.  That's the only reason I have it under the "Dislikes" section, but it definitely fits in with the overall song.

Recommendations: Smoothen the songwriting for the verses (not the chorus).

Want to learn more about Jimmy? Well, your prayers have been answered! See more information below:

Artiste's Stage Name:  Jimmy D Psalmist

Artiste's Real Name: Jimmy Johnson

Current City of Residence: Abuja

Connect with Jimmy: Facebook | Twitter

Listen (and Download) other tracks: Sound Cloud | ReverbNation

If I haven't said so already, Happy New Month! Enjoy the rest of your week!

Hahaha @The teacher/fence/cane in hand scenario. That would be too funny...that is if i wasn't the 'climber'

I actually do not have a problem with the rule and that is because, the school is a formal institution and English is the lingua franca. What i had a problem with in my primary school was that Yoruba was not taught and French was. You can imagine how tortured i was when i had to start learning the ABD in Jss1. Although i could speak Yoruba passably well, writing it was a different ball game and it was very difficult for me. I went to a FEGGO too and there was no rule per se but English was just the thing.

I read somewhere that children tend to understand more when they are taught in their native languages though.

Looolll. My own grief with vernacular is that we are all Nigerians. By the time pupils begin to speak different languages in schools, it fosters ethnic division. The only language that unites us as Nigerians is English, and that is what should be spoken in any neutral environment.
I am even against speaking vernacular in the office place. As long as this country is still one, then English is our first language.

Well, your ending gives it a fresh perspective. I also belonged to the school of thought that vernacular ban was just a social class issue but colonialism...hmm...thats a new one.

People should be allowed to speak whatever language they feel comfortable with. Of course out of courtesy it is better to speak a language most people are likely to understand when in a public place and schools fall into this category.

I don't have a problem with vernacular or people speaking their native languages, we can certainly do more to encourage them as they're in decline. I don't want to live in a society where people are banned or told what language they can or cannot speak.

Firstly I take exception to the dictionary definition that vernacular is a native dialect that is uncultured and not literary. Who dictates the rules of what constitutes cultured literary language? The definition smacks of imperialism and is highly pejorative.

I don't have a problem with the banning of 'vernacular' in classrooms. We speak it outside the school walls anyway. It's worthwhile mastering English without the interference of 'vernacular'. What I find fault with is subscribing to an inferiority complex that English is better than pidgin and our mother tongues. It is not. We must not look down on our own languages or brand people who have heavy accents  as 'bush' and 'local'.

A healthy dose of pride in our mother tongues and vernacular will do wonders any day.

Toin: Was that a mini-confession (fence scenario)? LOL! You just learnt Yoruba in JS1? Quelle horreur (How terrible)!!! Of course speaking a language is different from writing it now.  Sowwy, Toin *smh* I heard the same thing too about children understanding better when taught in their native language.  I just don't see how feasible it is with all the languages we have in Naija though.

Atilola: I get your point about us all being Nigerians, but the reality is that we speak at least 200 different languages, and even though English is the lingua franca, that should not excuse looking down or downplaying our native languages.  Some of them are on their way to extinction for this very reason.  Speaking vernacular in the office? I don't have a problem with that o.

Michael: Yes, this post pretty much covered my thought process on this issue before I concluded that colonialism was the real culprit here, not just social class.  It's a plausible explanation.

Lylincos: I almost asked who Lylincos was until I saw your blog address. LOL! Hello, Oluchi *waving*

To address your first point, you need to see the way I was beaming when I read your comment.  I did not want to say it, but you did.  I won't even bother repeating what you said.  You hit all the right points, ma'am! #Imperialism-all-the-way

Second point: That inferiority complex is what I did not spell out, but you understood it, from what your comment states.  And you're right.  While I appreciate having ONE language for the entire country (we need it), I don't subscribe to looking down on our languages and culture for that to work.  Unfortunately, these two seem to go hand-in-hand, i.e. it is usually one or the other.  I hinted at it in an earlier blog post:

I appreciate your comment :-)

Naija4Life: I like your use of the word "courtesy" because I have been in several uncomfortable situations where other Nigerians spoke another language and left me out.  It makes sense to speak English around others who may not speak your native language out of courtesy.  Following that line of reasoning, like you pointed out, would include schools in the mix.

Like Lylincos (Oluchi) stated in her last line: "A healthy dose of pride in our mother tongues and vernacular will do wonders any day."

The keyword is "healthy."

Thanks for commenting :-)

 I guess i am lucky, i grew with  mother who demanded you spoke English and Yoruba well, we all had dictionaries and used it, i think any person can learn more than one language and use it interchageably, and apart from having a lingua franca ( which is English), i don't see the big deal about speaking vernacular in school as long as it is among your class mates and not during a lesson for instance. 

Jemima:  You are quite lucky o that your mum emphasized speaking BOTH languages.  That's a good foundation to build on.  I definitely agree with you.  Speaking it during lessons would be inappropriate, but outside classes and with other classmates, it should be fine.


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