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Towards mastery of basic elements in English language

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This book is an introduction to the practical use of English and communication skills. The book’s bifurcated content is Okafor & Okafor’s way of breaking the trite norm of separating the use of English from the practice of communication skills. It is the authors’ effort at showing, while contributing intellectually both to the fields of language and of communication; the fundamental, symbiotic relationship between language and communication.

 

While Okafor & Okafor’s book is like Akinbande (1999), it is unlike Adegbite, Adekoya & Adegoju (2012) in that there is first a detailed introduction to English Language use, as it is required for undergraduates and other non-native users of the language. This sets a commendable background that suffices for the application of these basics to the eventual communicative performance of the language user (or reader).

 

The book is written in 15 chapters, which may be categorised into two parts of nine and six chapters respectively. The first part discusses topics in language, its total concept and history; grammar; comprehension and essay writing; literature; and the requisite study skills for the reader’s active competence in all aforementioned. The second part discusses topics in communication and its forms, as realised in oral presentations, correspondence and report writing – the last two of which are primarily guided by the adequate knowledge of registers and the expression of meaning such as denotation and connotation.

 

Communication, the practical product of the use of language, Okafor & Okafor (2017, p.181) define it as “the exchange of information from a sender to a receiver.” This position is further supported by certain relatable illustrations cited in their explanations of the forms of communication, especially non-verbal communication where elements like drama, gestures are regarded as pieces of information that may be exchanged between one entity – the sender – and another – the receiver.

 

Equally, the discussion of the growingly popular view of functional linguistics that the understanding of contexts of situation brings into play the “tenor of discourse” – one of three determining elements – illustrates that there is no communication without a sender and a receiver, both of whom may be persons or groups of persons.

 

It should further be noted that correspondence, as discussed in the book, illustrates that communication – especially that of this kind – is “exchanged between two or more parties” (Okafor & Okafor, 2017, p.227). As it has already been stated, the book is a rare and commendable effort at integrating the concepts of language and communication (compare Akinbande, 1999). While this may elsewhere raise the question of methodical, stylistic and theoretical inconsistency; Okafor & Okafor have done relatively well in maintaining both method and style but theory.

 

Unarguably, the established choice of theory in the book is Traditional Grammar – a rather prescriptive, restrictive, unrefined and non-scientific approach to language study, which despite this, remains favoured in the teaching of the use of English even in tertiary institutions. It is our opinion that TG is favoured in this environment because of its definitive rules which are more easily taught and learnt than the similarly prescriptive but computational Chomskyean theories and the largely descriptive Hallidayean theories in English as a Second Language, ESL situations What makes these theoretical inadequacies not spelt out is that the authors have not gone into the description of the many models available for use.

 

They have instead described elements of the language and the communication process themselves using a chosen model. The rigid and prescriptive nature of this model tends to make one presume that the authors would take it as far as specifying, for instance, steps to be taken in answering comprehension questions. While this may be a good guide for non-native language users, its restrictiveness might limit the expressive skills and ability of the said user.

 

The method used in the book however, calls the stated points “(some) tips and strategies to answering comprehension questions” (Okafor and Okafor, 2017, p.130). This reaffirms the fact earlier stated that the method applied in the book is relatively consistent, but since consistency is not adequacy, it is important that we address this issue. Okafor and Okafor’s method of handling the description of examples and exposition of concepts is clearly inadequate.

 

It is an advantage that both language and communication have almost exhaustively been addressed in the book, but the authors have not given non-native language users with only little or poor background in both fields enough to understand the book’s overall content. This problem starts with the table of contents. A book with 15 chapters discussing two clearly defined but interrelated concepts should be organised into two parts that may easily be titled: Language and Communication, respectively, where Part One has the first nine chapters and Part Two, the last six chapters.

 

Adding to this inadequacy of method is the consistent introduction of exercises for students to test themselves after studying each sub-topic in the book. While it is understandable that the authors have done this to avail students and other readers of a large number of exercises, it should be noted that students would because of it, be prone to inconsistency of thought and unwanted breaks in study.

 

Lastly, the causal relationship between an inconsistent theoretical background and an inadequate method is that the authors have largely borrowed from other authors who, as it would turn out, probably have opposing theoretical inclinations to that of Okafor & Okafor (2017). For instance, with irregular differences, sections under the functions of human language, the process of communication, and consonant sounds are almost direct writings from Adetutu & Akinyode (2008a; 2008b).

 

The last chapter, Fifteen on report writing is in fact culled from Adetutu & Akinyode (2008b). While most of these large chunks are referenced, it allows for inconsistency in the authors’ thoughts. This book is a primarily traditional approach to the teaching of the use of English and communication. The advantage of TG as a model that states definitive rules for the effective use of language and its practical result – communication – makes the book comprehensible to its target readers. In summary, the text, though theoretically and methodically defective, has in the overall, employed a style that is functionally effective in achieving the purpose of teaching at least the basics of language and communication.

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Literature

The Lion And The Jewel goes on stage

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The stage is set for the Crown Troupe of Africa production of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s play The Lion And The Jewel. Produced by the Ibadan Playhouse, the performances will hold at the Amphitheatre, Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, Lagos, on Sunday March 4, 2018.

 

Set in the fictional village of Ilujinle, The Lion And The Jewel tells a griping story involving four major characters – Sidi, the village belle; Lakunle, the village school teacher with Western ideals and believe in cultures such as eating with cutlery, kissing and bogus dressing; Baroka, the ageing but nimble witted Baale (head) of Ilujinle; and Sadiku, Baroka’s senior wife and head of the harem.

 

 

As the play opens Sidi, carries her pail of water past the school where Lakunle, approaches her and chastises her for carrying her water on her head and stunting her shoulders, but she is unruffled.

 

 

Lakunle loves Sidi and wants to marry her. Sidi does not love Lakunle; she finds him and his ideas about making her a modern, Western bride strange. However, she plans to marry him if he can pay the price as the village traditions necessitate. He refuses to pay her bride-price because he considers it an archaic tradition.

 

Meanwhile, Baroka has ‘got his eyes’ on the “feisty but voluptuous” Sidi. Baroka considers Sidi another conquest but Lakunle, whose cunning reluctance (or inability) to pay Sidi’s bride price, remains an obstacle. Sidi on the other hand will ‘not give’ unconditionally.

 

All three as well as the entire village are embroiled in a game that must be won by one.

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Literature

Tribe and Prejudice: Omatseye’s musings in service of humanity

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Title: Tribe and Prejudice
Author: Sam Omatseye
Publisher: Parresia Publishers Ltd, Lagos
Year of Publication: 2017
Pages: 63
Reviewer: Tony Okuyeme

 

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” The above statement by Plato, one of the world’s best known and most widely read and studied philosophers, underscores the essence of poetry.

 

 

Sam Omatseye, award-winning Nigerian journalist, poet, novelist and playwright, in his latest collection of poems titled ‘Tribe and Prejudice’, demonstrates his commitment to the making of and desire for a better Nigeria, where though “tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”.

 

 

 

In this collection, titled ‘Tribe and Prejudice’, Omatseye takes the reader, indeed Nigerians, on a reflective journey. While the last collection, Scented Offal, looks at Nigerian history with a view to “capturing some of the essence of the conflicts, crises, and challenges of our history over the years”, in this latest collection, Tribe and Prejudice, Omatseye interrogates further the sundry ills that have plagued the nation. He wants us to look at ourselves critically and realise the kinds of social ills that have bedevilled our nation for so long.

 

He laments the tribal psychosis and ethnic rivalry pervading our society. In this 63-page book containing 30 poems, the poet reminds us, with clarity of expression and vivid imagery, that “a nation which normalises evil can never make any progress”.

 

 

This is clearly captured in the eponymous poem – the first in this collection of 30 poems – Tribe and Prejudice. In it, Omatseye looks at the metropolitan city of Lagos, home to variety of people from different tribes and culture, living together happily, united by a foreign language, which they have adopted to suit their purpose. In the words of the author, “Tribes knitted beneath a tent/All tongues tied by one thread called English…”

 

But as politics and election came, ‘things began to fall apart’, tribal and cultural differences too centre stage. For, according to the poet, “but in that poll the cosmopolis/came apart one part at a time / One pact was one pact. / The Yoruba past / I jaw past / Igbo past and so on / But past make the present tense / Yoruba of the west / Igbo of the east / Were no longer at ease / The twain met in

Lagos / Not as friends or foes but as / Foes feinting as friends. “Suddenly all our past no longer met / In the pidgin English / We no longer convene in / one tongue.”

 

 

He laments the antics of the key politicians, especially Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe, two of the prominent political leaders of Yoruba and Igbo descent respectively. In the third poem, Massacre, 1967’, the author laments the invasion of Asaba by the Nigerian Army and the massacre of unarmed people – old and young – who had come to welcome them with songs and dance for liberating them.

 

 

Again, in another poem entitled ‘The Fart of War’, the poet expresses his personal view of war. He sees war as a foolish and destructive venture, an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

 

 

The poet notes: “A war does nothing / But build up / A ruin… Cities become fragile like / Human bones / Fields once green recoil to grey…”

 

With vivid description and haunting imagery, the poet captures other areas of tribalism and its attendant prejudice which are no doubt nauseating.

 

These include the supremacy battle in Niger Delta, among the Ijaw, Urhobo, and Itsekiri, the Ife and Modakeke case in Osun that raged for years until peace returned; and the activities of the Niger Delta militants and that of the Boko Haram insurgents. They also include Strangers Invocation; ‘Indolent beauty,’ ‘Girl Bomber,’ ‘Corruption’ Almajiri, Tyranny; ‘The Sham I Am’, ‘Wretches’, ‘The Vultures’ and others.

 

 

 

The collection is not just about historical events. The poet looks at some current issues such as the Awo statue at Alausa, Lagos, the Almajiri phenomenon, and some glorious moments such as the victory in the Under 17 World Cup Final in 2015 which he also celebrates in the poem, ‘A Mexican Tear’.

 

 

In all of these in Tribe and Prejudice, Omatseye shows us, with a deep sense of patriotism, his desire for a better Nigeria. Notes the Executive Editor of TheNews/PM News, Kunle Ajibade, author of ‘Jailed for Life: A Reporter’s Prison Notes’, Omatseye’s Tribe and Prejudice is passionate honest descriptive lyrical and reflective.

 

“The arguments here are empowered with measured rhetorical flourishes.

 

We are roused to rage, shame and pity as the poet confronts us with stupidities, madness, and calamities. We are roused to joy as he celebrates with us moments of glory and triumph. We are roused to value tenderness and to love even in our castle of miseries. We are admonished to consider constantly the futility of life. The poet reaffirms his faith in the goodness that will make humankind endure.”

 

Reading this collection, you cannot but agree with Ajibade when he also notes that the poet reminds us that “a nation which normalises evil can never make any progress”. Omatseye’s Tribe and Prejudice is a must read.

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Literature

Entrepreneurship, innovation as panacea for unemployment

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Book title: How They Started: Innovative Nigerian Brands
Author: Kachi Ogbonna
Publisher: MiH Consulting Limited, Lagos
Year of publication: 2016
Pages: 252
Reviewer: Adejoro Cornelius

 

Every government in Nigeria in the past few decades have had to battle with the challenge of unemployment without much evidence of success yet. In fact it is safe to say that of all the challenges that are facing Nigeria as a country today unemployment is top on the list. Governments at various levels, private establishments as well as individuals have adopted different approaches as a remedy to this. Kachi Ogbonna’s approach is somewhat different. For him, not only is entrepreneurship the solution to unemployment, he also argues that Nigeria is the best place to start and run a successful business in the world. This, obviously, is contrary to the general opinion that businesses cannot thrive in a place like Nigeria. His book, ‘How They Started’ is therefore a detailed research which presents an empirical proof that it has been done successfully in Nigeria before and that it can be repeated even now. The author is an entrepreneurship consultant. He has established different businesses and today helps many universities to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in their students. He is also committed to helping startups grow.
The author argues that the solution to graduate unemployment in Nigeria is not rocket science. He maintains that it is first of all a matter of mindset and orientation. He maintains that if the young people can look inwards to discover the latent potentials within them and attempt to match them with the various problems they see in their surroundings with the aim of offering solutions and adding value, they would have succeeded in creating businesses with or without government’s special support.
In showing how Nigeria has always been a land of great opportunities, the author traced businesses that started as far back as the immediate post-independence era and still waxing strong today, down to those that were launched in 2012 and have grown to become multinationals in less than four years. The author’s ability to group the 25 brands featured into sectors (eight sectors in all) shows that opportunities abound in almost every sector of the Nigerian economy.
It is probably just a coincidence that this book was released at roughly the same time that Nigeria is passing through what can be described as the biggest economic decline since independence. The price of crude oil has fallen in the international market, the Nigerian currency the naira has depreciated significantly in value, investors are leaving, companies are retrenching with reckless abandon and with the obvious need to diversify the economy and also reduce importation, I am forced to say that if government and those that run our universities are serious about ending graduate unemployment then they must find a way to liaise with Nigerians in the mold of the author of this book and also adopt it as a practical entrepreneurship manual for building entrepreneurial universities.
It is difficult not to commend the author’s liberality and unbiased selection of the featured brands. However, the more he attempts to lay down the criteria for the selection the more we are forced to ask whether they are the only 25 brands that met those criteria. Yet, it is impossible for me not to recommend this book to all entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and indeed everyone that seeks to contribute in growing the nation’s economy through entrepreneurship. Let me also add that every undergraduate deserves to have a copy of this book before leaving the four walls of university.

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