To Pidgin or not to Pidgin ?

To Pidgin or not to Pidgin? That is the question. I’ve been having this debate with the guys in the studio, Bino and Fino fans and others for over a year now. Do we do a pidgin English version of the show? I know for some, the immediate answer is ‘NO!’. I understand that response and I also felt the same way to be honest. However some of the arguments for the ’YES’ camp have been really compelling and have made me think.

So to settle this once and for all we decided to produce an animated segment that had two versions. One in standard English and the other in pidgin English. In the segment we have Bino from the cartoon learning about the colour red. That way people can have a taste of it and have a debate based on something they have seen.

Those who are for the idea are not saying that pidgin should be taught in schools. It’s more about inclusion. Many parts of the population in Nigeria have pidgin English either as a first ’language’ or a strong second. That’s the current state today. Now do you exclude those children who fall under that bracket? When adverts or public health /service campaigns need to have maximum reach and efficiency they always produce pidgin versions of their content within the respective media campaigns. Whether it’s AIDS awareness, malaria, or just selling milk. Can’t the pidgin version be used to also educate children and form a bridge between them and standard English? Some teachers have told me that in some schools to help pidgin English speaking children learn standard English they have to speak in pidgin English. And of course some argue that English itself was a broken form of Latin with borrowed words from Greek and a host of other languages.

Those against say pidgin has no business being used in the arena of education. Standard English is the official language of Nigeria. Pidgin is informal. It’s like teaching in slang. If you want to teach children only use official and recognised languages not pidgin. It’s a step backwards. In terms of usefulness you can’t use it outside of some regions of Africa and we want to teach children skills that make them useful globally. Pigdin is fine but keep it on the streets and not in classrooms or in the educational sphere.

I believe in inclusion and I want Bino and Fino to be accessible to as many children as possible. That’s the long term goal. Would creating a pidgin English version be a proper way of doing that? That’s the question.

Watch both versions and join the debate.

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About BinoandFino

A new black cartoon made in Africa for kids all over the world.
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7 Responses to To Pidgin or not to Pidgin ?

  1. iRepNGR says:

    And again this is another reason I like Bino and Fino – because of it’s creators. You are always asking questions to better your products and owing to infant stage, you are able to respond (almost immediately to fans and critics alike). Please keep that up. Now to my reply

    I believe the goal of B&F is to entertain, and in entertaining, teach. Growing up, we all watched Disney and other cartoons, we connected with their entertainment value first, and in some case learned from them after repeated playbacks in our heads and TV sets. I have always stood by the opinion that says communication is not language dependent, but emotion dependent. One of the greatest Disney educators – Mickey Mouse barely even spoke, and we also have Hanna Barbera’s Tom and Jerry, from whom I am sure a majority of Nigeria kids (literate/illiterate) learned from. Educating our kids in pidgin and then hoping to teach them English later on is working in the wrong direction, it’s like trying to drive a car on empty, you might get it to move a bit, but soon enough it gives up on you, and maybe even kills your engine in the process. An English teacher doesn’t teach a Spanish speaker English by speaking more Spanish in the classroom. As for the argument that English is broken Latin, and so equating the situations, that is very wrong. English is not broken Latin, yes it does borrow words from Latin and Greek, but it is not the illiterate versions of them. And are people making those argument to imply that Pidgin can become a globally accepted language??? That would just be folly wishful thinking.

    The teachers that say pidgin is needed to educate are just lazy (no offence). They are starting off placing limits on the kids and that’s no way to start the conversation, the most receptive time for learning is when we are kids, so why fill that time up with mediocre and you can top up on the best (Yes English is the best, and no not because it is Western, but because it is our official language, thus by inference the best. If Swahili was our official language, that would be best too and not cheng – Swahili pidgin)

    A teacher that places preconceived limits on kids has no business teaching. Part of the excitement of teaching is that there is limitless possibilities for what the kids can learn, it’s why there are always going to be Phd candidates in the world. This “pidginify” everything is the same bias/prejudice we complain about when we see a Westerner beat on drums or acts uncivilized in an attempt to communicate with Africans he/she meets in their journeys. It is insulting to the intellect of those you are trying to reach. Personally, I don’t support all those pidginified PSAs, I’ll suggest proper English with visual stimulants, besides if you can speak pidgin, you are halfway towards speaking English. If K’Naan can go from not speaking English in Mogadishu to being as eloquent as he is on his raps and interviews all from semi-adult education, then it’s our educational system that needs to be changing not the language with which we deliver the lessons. The teachers, like lots of other Nigerians are thriving from placing limitations/obstacles to their teaching rather than problem solving.

    The same goes for pidgin in music, it is very irritating when musicians just throw in forced pidgin into their music all because they think that that would connect with the masses, on the contrary, when Daddy Showkey sang in pidgin, it wasn’t because that was what the masses understood, it was because that was how he has been expressing himself, and of course ones expression can be multi-dimensional like in Onyeka Onwenu’s choice of language in her songs. An example of an artist that does this honestly is M.I., the only song that was full pidgin was “My Belle, My Head” and it doesn’t feel out of place because it was done in another’s voice, it was the actors in the story, that were singing to you. It was how persons in that situation would talk to you.

    A taking a hint from M.I. maybe if B&F wants to still throw in pidgin, it can come B&Fs interaction with someone that already speaks pidgin, an example that comes to my head right now is, a new not so fluent English speaking classmate having difficulty with something (multiplication) and B&F try to help and maybe even eventually take the problem to mama mama or papa papa, such that it is not about correcting the English but solving the problem.

    *************************************************************************************

    Side Comments:

    How would you even explain the reason for the different versions to the kids? It might end up even becoming difficult to expect them or give a reason (the two groups of kids) for speaking proper English, unless probably saying that one is bad and the other good, in which case creates a grouping order in their minds and creating groups in such a manner is the first step to prejudice (kinda like the Black and White situations in America).

    Ok done for now, this is a quite long, if I have any additions I’ll send a message 😛

    • BinoandFino says:

      Thanks again for your heartfelt comments. Your arguments are very well thought out and you are even offering alternatives to how we could integrate pidgin English into the show. Good constructive criticism. That’s why, as you said, we try our best to include our fans in our production decision making process.

      I’d like to defend some of those teachers you called lazy though 🙂 . The one I know works really hard and actually believes in the same things you do actually. And she definitely doesn’t place limitations on the kids. I suppose she is trying to work out a different way of getting to that point. As to the exact origins of English I will defer to you as I’m not a language expert or a linguist. But people have raised that as a reason not to be too rigid.

      One thing though. Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry weren’t really about educating. They were purely entertainment and fun for the kids until they changed in the last decade or maybe to (at a stretch) to becoming educational. Disney now saw they could use their global cartoon brands to now help educate as well as entertain. I’d say Sesame Street are the guys who started out with that mission right from the beginning.

      Your idea of introducing a pidgin speaking character is a very interesting one and it could be a solution. We’re already discussing the possibilities of it.

      Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: Pidgin English and it’s Educational Value. — Maneland Media

  3. here’s my response to this post. Hope you enjoy it.http://www.manelandmedia.com/2011/07/pidgin-english-and-its-educational-value/

    P.S. Did not know there was a poilitician with the same name as you….lol

  4. Toyin says:

    Hello Adamu, interesting topic, quite thought provoking. Reminds me of the debate in the US to introduce Ebonics as a medium for teaching and learning in the schools. While it is is true that Pigin is an ‘almost universal language’ spoken in Nigeria (other British colonies have their own pidgin: patwa, creole, etc), it is not a language of economic value on the global scene. It does not mean that those who speak it as a first language should be looked down upon but having B&F in pidgin will not be strategic. Start with the standard African languages first. If you are looking at this from the inclusion perspective, follow iRepNGR’s advise and have a “non-demeaning” character who speaks pidgin.

    • BinoandFino says:

      HI Toyin,
      Good to hear your views on this. I think in the future we might incorporate a character to help weave pidgin into the show. After much thought I think I have similar views to yours. But I’m sure people could argue that pidgin might have as much economic value as say Igbo for instance and we definitely want to do teach some igbo in the cartoon. In the informal sector most of the deals are done in pidgin and thats in countries in the ECOWAS region. It might not be as global as English but it does have more clout than we all realise sometimes.

      But bringing it back to the cartoon. The new character seems to be the best option for now. Take care and thanks for your thoughts.

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