This study set out to analyse grammatical errors in written French composition committed by Senior Secondary School Students in Nsukka Zone, Enugu State, Nigeria. This was with a view to determining the degree of grammatical errors of Senior Secondary School Students and also to find out which sex commits more of these errors than the other.
The study adopted the descriptive research design. To carry out the study a review of literature was done in order to determine the extent of work already done in this area and properly situate it. Two research questions and one null hypothesis were formulated. The hypothesis was tested at 0.05 level of significance. A total sample of three hundred thirty (330) Senior Secondary School Students were randomly drawn from eight secondary schools where French is done in Nsukka Zone. An essay type question was developed by the researcher and was validated by research experts in Education. The same essay type question also validated by research experts in education/French was administered on twenty secondary students in Obollo Education Zone to test their performance in French grammar. Mean and percentage scores were used to analyse the data collated. The major findings of the study were.
- The Senior Secondary School Students committed the five grammatical error types studied namely spelling, concord, Adjective, Verb–Conjugation and Article errors.
- These five error–types were committed by the SS Students at varying degrees
- There is no significant difference between percentage scores of SS male and female students in this zone.
- The SS female students had the highest percentage of 66% in spelling error
- The SS male students on the other hand had the highest error percentage of 66% in Verb–conjugation
- Article error had the least percentage of 7% because students avoided using articles in sentences.
- Based on the results, the null hypothesis was upheld. Concord errors were also proved to present the greatest difficulty to the students, next were spelling errors, verb-conjugation Adjective errors and lastly Article errors.
The educational implications of the findings were discussed; recommendations as well as suggestions for further research were also made.
Background of the Study
It appears that French is the only world-wide known language spoken by the French people. The original inhabitants of France as passed down to us by history were the ‘Gaulois’. David WWW. WWW.Originofriations Origin of France and the Peoples Eventually the western Franks in France lost the use of their own native Frankish tongue and spoke the Celtic Gallic tongue and absorbed many Gallic customs. The Western Reubenite Franks intermingled and intermarried with the Reubenite Gauls”. Much later in the second century before Christ the Romans invaded France. With successions of invasion in the third century, many kingdoms were built of which the French gradually conquered all other countries around. David WWW.Originofriations Origin of France and the Peoples. The name France is derived from the Frank.” In the 5th century ‘Gaule’ metamorphosed into the present-day ‘France’ with ‘French’ as the only language in use. However, practical experiences show that though French is the only language spoken in France by the French, there are different versions of the same French as one goes from one geographical area to another in terms of dialects. For instance, there are such dialects as ‘oc’ which is the dialect of the south and “oil” which is the northern dialect and of saying ‘yes’ in the Middle Ages. This implies that there are variations in dialect depending on the area or part of France one may find himself or herself. For instance, in spite of all other dialects in France, the one spoken in Paris is that which is internationally accepted as the standard French. This does not however preclude other dialects from being in use elsewhere. Furthermore, history also has it that what is now known as the ‘French language’ is a combination of ‘Latin’ and ‘English’ which, having undergone considerable changes, has given rise to what is now regarded as ‘modern French’. On account of these changes, French has become very highly standardized and consequently attained a high international acceptance such that it is being rated as the second international language the world over. David WWW.Originofriations “Many Reubenite French would love to see the French language displace English from its world dominance”.
In the dim past, many European countries were inspired by varied reasons to scramble for African countries. Some people attribute this need for such scramble to social, cultural, political and economic reasons while others link it with religion. Whatever be the case, what interests us at this point in time is the fact that France took active part in colonizing African countries hence the introduction of French as the ‘lingua-franca’ in her African Colonies.
Consequent upon this incident of colonization of some African countries by France, French is the only official language spoken and used by such countries as Senegal, Upper Volta, Zaire, Ivory Coast, Niger, Togo, Republic of Benin and a part of Cameroon etc.
An international language though French is, its compulsory inclusion in Nigeria’s curriculum could be traced to the unavoidable diplomatic, economic as well as socio-cultural constraints its non-inclusion or absence might impose on Nigeria. Apparently, Nigeria appears to be the only West African country that is almost completely surrounded by fellow West African countries whose official language of communication as well as that of commerce is French. On this, Ojoade (1999:8) says:
Nigeria offers a very strong attraction and pull to another language group, the French speaking people of the world. This is particularly so because of the geographical position of our country as well as the friendship that is gradually developing between France and our country.
There is no doubt that apart from Cameroon a part of which adopts English, all others mentioned above use the French language as their Lingua- Franca. Nigeria is almost completely surrounded by such sister-French speaking West African –countries as the republic of Benin, Niger Republic Cameroun Republic etc. Moreover, the world is at its jet age and in order to keep pace with the fast- moving world, she (Nigeria) is but naturally constrained to make the teaching and learning of the French language compulsory at the primary and junior secondary school levels of her education.
On the great need for the teaching and learning of the French language in Nigeria, Ikeme and Offorma have this to say:
Une deuxieme langue europeene doit être considerée nonseulement comme un moyen de communication entre des Anglophones d’Afrique mais aussi comme une langue internationale ayant un but étendu, qui cojointement avec la première langue europeene devrait permettre aux africains de pouvior communiquer avec d’autres pays du monde (Ikeme and Offorma, 1984).
The above stresses the great necessity there is for Nigerians not only to teach and learn French in schools, but also to be able to use French in communicating effectively with her African sister countries already mentioned earlier on as well as other countries of the world.
For instance, Nigeria engages in commercial relationship with many of those countries mentioned above from which she makes a lot of economic fortunes. She also relates diplomatically, politically as well as socio-culturally with these countries. In order to foster such relationships between her and these neighbouring nations therefore, she has a great need to introduce and make the teaching and learning of the French language compulsory at the primary and junior secondary school levels. This is in consonance with the declaration of the French language the second official language in Nigeria in 1998 by the late military head of state-General. Sani Abacha.
Thus French was introduced in t o the nation’s curriculum for teaching and learning. This, as contained in the 2004 National policy on Education (NPE), is in addition to the compulsory teaching and learning of the three Nigerian major languages Viz- Housa, Igbo and Yoruba.
In recognition of the relevance of the French language to Nigeria as a nation, the ‘National Policy on Education’ (2004:10) says that:
For smooth interaction with our neighbours, it is desirable for every Nigerian to Speak French Accordingly, French shall be the second official language in Nigeria and it shall be compulsory in primary and junior secondary Schools but Non- vocational Elective at the senior secondary school.
From the above discussion and subsequent quotation from the 4th edition of the National Policy on Education, it is glaring that the teaching and learning of the French language is but a necessity in Nigeria. This, it is hoped, if actualized, will enhance close cooperation between Nigeria and such countries as Benin Republic, Cameroun, Ivory Coast etc in general and with French in particular.
Moreover and more importantly too, Nigeria is currently keeping very strong diplomatic relations with France – the mother country of such sister countries as Republic of Benin , Republic of Niger, Cameroun Togo etc from which she makes a lot of economic fortunes. This, therefore, informs the current introduction of French into many polytechnics and colleges of Education such as Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Benue Polytechnics Ogbokolo, Federal Polytechnics, Ida, Federal College of Education, Eha-Amufu, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, College of Education, Nsugbe, College of Education, Akwanga Collge of Education, Katsina Ala. e t c For instance, in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, apart from the department of foreign languages and literatures, French is optionally compulsory as an elective course for the department of fine and applied arts etc. The University of Jos also offers French as an elective course in the department of English etc in addition to the department of French. So many vital books in different subject areas such as philosophy, psychology, architecture, medicine, law, languages and language learning theories etc are written by great French authors in the French language. Such authors as Albert Camus, Rousseau, Jean Paul Sartre, Moliere, Victor Hugo, Balzalc, Baudelaire, Chateaubriant etc wrote in different areas using the French language. The compulsory teaching and learning of the French language, if achieved, will go a long way, no doubt, in bridging the gap posed by lack of knowledge of the French language. This is because Nigerian scholars, who currently have no sound knowledge of this language have no choice and are constrained to look for paid translators who may end up betraying the translation of such texts originally written in French.
In view of the above fact therefore, it becomes very exigent that Nigeria should address this issue of French Language learning with the seriousness and sense of commitment it deserves as a matter of urgency. This is a situation where the Nigerian learner has already learnt his mother-tongue first, English language-second as the nation’s official language before beginning to learn French as the third language and second official language. This matter is even aggravated by the fact that the structures of the first two languages already learnt have become deep-rooted in the Nigerian French language learner. Very unfortunately, most early language theorists base their argument on monolingual language learner, losing sight of either bilingual or multilingual learning. On this, Elliot (1981:73) has this to say, “It is a serious shortcoming of current theories of language acquisition that they are generally formulated with the monolingual (normally English speaking) child in mind”. This goes to butress the fact that most of the theories formulated on language learning are solely based on one/first language learning which may not go to any meaningful length in helping to comprehend the processes involved in second language acquisition into which group the French language falls as far as Igbo learners of language(s) are concerned.
As a result of the difficulties encountered in the course of the teaching and learning of the French language in Nigeria as a whole and the Igbo people in particular, one can hardly ever find students at Senior Secondary levels offering French in the senior secondary school certificate examination. Such grammatical errors as agreement between nouns /subjects and adjectives in gender and number, errors in verb- conjugation including pronominal verbs like se laver, se peigner, se promener, concord errors, spelling errors etc appear to be more frequently committed by students in senior secondary school classes. There is also doubt as to which sex commits more of these grammatical errors than the other. The researcher therefore, tried to find out if these errors are peculiar to a particular sex or not. There is the glaring lack of interest on the part of students which could be blamed on some obvious factors as lack of competent/qualified teachers, poor teaching methods, lack of instructional materials or inadequate teaching materials, the possession or presence of mother tongue and English language and a host of other enabling teaching conditions. Consequently, most of the schools where French is taught are unable to produce students that offer French at external examination levels. This informs why there is only one WAEC French marking center in the whole country and that is Ibadan.
Grammar obviously, appears to be the most important aspect of any living language. It is no doubt, the vehicle by means of which any meaning is conveyed to its destination. If for instance, any grammatical structures are misplaced or distorted, the consequence shall be that the message supposed to be transmitted by means of such structures are either misconstrued or totally misunderstood. A good example in French is the wrong conjugation of ‘verbs involving the first person singular ‘je’. If it is erroneously used thus: (a) J!ai faim – “I have hungry” (b) Elle a dix ans – “she has ten years” (c) vous avez soif – “you have thirsty” etc The tendency is that one gets the message in a disjointed form. Learners may wrongly interpret them thus: I have hunger instead of I am hungry or I have thirsty instead of I am thirsty. The ambiguity so created might have been caused by the different usages and meanings of the verbs involved in English and French. The only incontestable fact is the use and meanings of the verb ‘avoir’-“to have” and ‘faim-hunger and soif’ thirst. Confusion arises as to the nature and form of verb used in expressing such meanings in French .The confusion so posed here is vividly traceable to the user’s inability to identify the appropriate grammatical structures to be used at any given time( appropriate verbs).
Experientially, another example could be taken from that of the plural formation using names (nouns, verbs and, or adjectives). The confusion in this case, more often than not, emanates from interference from either the mother- tongue (Igbo) or the English language which even tends to take upper hand in Igbo children’s communicative processes. A glaring example is that when an Igbo child wishes to say that he/she is going to the market, the thought process first begins in Igbo then translated into English before finally being translated to French. These longish thought-processes are normally accomplished consecutively due to the fact that the three languages may have been learnt consecutively.
Reports of some researchers in the past have adduced certain reasons for lack of interest or poor performance of students in French especially in written French grammar. For instance Obanya (1985:15) rightly says that: “the shift in emphasis from literacy to oracy in secondary school syllabus has necessitated the need for the production of books for both teachers and students” As an experienced professional teacher of French for about thirty years at different levels and more importantly too, having been in continuous close contact with Igbo learners of French and their peculiar grammatical problems, the researcher has decided to undertake the analysis of written grammatical errors in French language by secondary school students. This is with a view to identifying, analyzing, suggesting and recommending possible measures to be adopted in order to ensure improved performance in French grammar by Igbo learners of the language. The study aims at analyzing grammatical errors of students in secondary schools the outcome of which shall no doubt, help in redirecting both teachers and students toward improved performance in written French grammar. It is also hoped that the result shall help future researchers in this or other related fields.