Coping with Meaning Changes in a West African English Language Classroom

Abstract:

This illustrative paper presents some of the common semantic changes that have taken place in English in West Africa. It uses findings made by various researchers in the past two decades to situate the place of the external environment to the acquisition and use of a language – especially one foreign to it as English is. Although English in West Africa is taught almost exclusively by West Africans, it is sometimes important to have a broad base understanding of the West African environment in order to cope properly with these challenges especially in an English language class. This is because many of these semantic changes, some identified below, are influenced by the sociocultural environment or the new ecology within which the language now finds itself. This ecology is composed of a multitude of native African languages, a predominantly similar Pidgin English and several languages of wider communication. These languages are used in a complex framework of individual multilingualism that compels people to make use of several languages (in some cases up to three) in the course of one day.