Does Using Local Pidgin Effect the Outcome of English Learning? The Case of Nigerian Students

Academic Paper 2019 55 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies




This study examines the effects of Nigerian pidgin on students’ performance in English studies using selected students of Junior Secondary School, Bwari Abuja as case study. In conducting the research the researcher uses qualitative and quantitative approach method and sources data from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data are collected through the use of questionnaire with open-ended variables while secondary data collection is from existing literature on the project topic. Likert-type scale arranged in order of ‘very significantly’, ‘significantly’, ‘neutral’, ‘insignificantly’ and ‘very insignificantly are used’ to get respondents opinion on the variables. The major research questions include: What are the effects of Nigerian Pidgin on students’ performance in English studies? Are students allowed to use Nigerian Pidgin in academic works? The general objective of the study is to find out the impact of Nigerian Pidgin on students’ performance in English studies while the hypotheses posit for the study include Ho1: There is no significant relationship between Nigerian Pidgin and students’ performance in English Studies; Ho2: There is no significant relationship between students’ use of Nigerian Pidgin on the outcome of their academic performance. The major results of the study indicate that 94% or the respondents posits that Nigerian Pidgin affects academic performance while the test of hypothesis with a degree of freedom (df) of 4 indicate that there is a significant relationship between Nigerian Pidgin and students’ performance in English studies. The study recommends that the use of Nigerian Pidgin in an academic community such as Junior Secondary School Bwari, Abuja should not be encouraged. The study suggests that a more robust examination on the research topic involving other academic communities be conducted; Besides a comparative study on the impact of Pidgin on students’ performance in other English speaking countries should be carried out in order to investigate how its been handled.

Key words: Nigerian Pidgin, students, performance, English studies

Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Background of the study

Poor academic performance has been a disturbing issue especially in recent time with parents and teachers trading blame on the causes. The climax so to say came when the 2012/2013 JAMB result recorded mass failure prompting the Federal government through the Ministry of Education to reduce the tertiary entrant score to as low as 180/400 for University entrants and 150/400 for polytechnics and colleges of educations and other tertiary institutions and its has remained at that score five (5) years down the line. By the released of 2013/2014 Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination result it was clear that academically Nigeria was sitting on what Leadership newspaper of August 29th, 2014 edition called “time Bomb.” According to Leadership, 29/8/2014 issue p.4 31 states fail WASSCE as a result Teachers and, students trade blame. Leadership Newspaper went on to state that: 9 states scored 4%-10%, 9 states scored 15%-24%, 13 states scored – 26 -45%, 6 states scored- 51%-65%. Abuja, FCT the researcher’s constituency and the location area of this study was among those who recorded mass failure. Abuja had 18,153 candidates and it was only 5,668 candidates who made the minimum of five (5) credits and above including English and Mathematics representing only 30.67% while about 70% failed. Commenting on this 2013/2014 Senior Secondary School Certificate examination (SSSCE) result the teachers blame the parents; the parents blame the teachers; the students too blame their woes on the government. But then what are the root causes of this mass poor academic performance by Senior Secondary School student?

Some of the national dailies see the problem as that of the government too who they blame for not funding the educational sector adequately or putting in place appropriate enabling environment for the teachers who are the executors of the school curriculum. According to these News papers and Periodicals, the teachers are well motivated for the stress that they pass through in order to carry out their work effectively and efficiently.

To illustrate:- Thisday Newspaper, August 17, 2014 issue opines that “the trend of overall poor performance “ in the examinations has been Nigeria’s lot since the pass two (2) years with each years being worse than the year before. According to statistics rolled out by West African Examination Council, 38.81% of the candidates that took the SSCE in 2012 passed while 36.57% of those that did it in 2013 passed and currently 2014 recorded only 31.29 passes that is candidates who scored five credits and above including English and Mathematics. Credit passes in five (5) subjects including English Language and Mathematics in SSCE examinations is the minimum academic qualification for admission into tertiary Institutions in the country. Hence the concern for this mass failure.

Unsurprisingly, the poor performance in the SSSCE examinations has been carried over to the higher tiers of the educational system. The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted across the country by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) presents an even more awful picture. Poor performance in this regard compelled the government in 2013 to lower entry scores to 180/400 to Universities and 150/400 to colleges of education and polytechnics. In the UTME result released in April 2014 by JAMB of a total of 1,015,504 candidates that sat for the examination- comprising 990,179 candidates for the Paper Pencil Test and 25,325 candidates for Dual Based Test Modes- only 47 candidates scored 250 and above from 400, consisting of 24 and 23 candidates in the Paper Pencil Test and Dual Based Test respectively.

What is the problem? One of the unfortunate ironies of our national evolution according to Dr Tunji Olaopa, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, is that it is from “mere speculations that we are informed about what could have been a dimension of our national life.” But then, how does speculation comes into this issue of academic performance? Nigerians speculate that government’s attitude towards education is the root cause of this mass failure. Nigerians also tend towards blaming the parents because of their not able to create an enabling environment for the teaching of the wards. Nigerians also speculate that students are to blame for the mass poor academic performance in the SSSCE examinations. Speculation is not the answer.

What sector of our national life has recorded a steady progress- is it the political sector? Is the banking sector that has been talk of the town for over some decades? Is the transport sector especially the railroad transport segment? Some have argued that if only government have allocated 26% of its annual budget to education Nigeria would have achieved perfection academically.

The above group pointed out that some countries in Africa have tended to show greater willingness to fund education. Such countries include: Bostwana 19%, Kenya 23%, Swaziland 24%, Lesotho 17%, South Africa 25%, Cote d’ Ivoire 30%, Burkina Faso 16%, Ghana 31%, Uganda 27%, Tunisha 17%, and Morocco 17 %. A comparative analysis of these economies may prove that budgetary allocation although essential in this instance may not be the answer to improving students’ schools academic performance.

To illustrate: with the increase in the number of Private Secondary Schools where expectations are that students have to carter for themselves financially and otherwise (NPC, 2014: 18), one would have expected a better performance instead of the reverse. What then is the problem?

Many factors have been adduced as causes of this declining performance in the external examinations, which is the appropriate yard stick in measuring students Secondary Schools’ academic performance, - these causes ranges from parental neglect of education to government policies and attitude to education. But “experts” maintain that while the country’s educational curricula have steadily advanced, it is attitude to education that has seen an awful trend of deterioration (Uko, 2014) and this “seems” to be the problem. But that too is yet another “speculation.” The stakeholders in these examinations include: public schools, private schools, private candidates and homeschooled candidates. The percentage from each of these segments may vary but that is presently not the focus of this research.

That this mass failure is a dangerous signal from the senior secondary school certificate examination is not an overstatement. Vincent Obia (an editor with Thisday Newspaper commented that “the repeated mass failure in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination is a “warning signal of graver problems.” Kuni Tyessi et al of the Leadership Friday Newspaper see the mass failure as “Nigeria sitting on a time bomb.”

If actually, as one knows, the growing mass failure and steady decline in academic performance of senior secondary schools portends such “grave danger” to the country there is an urgent need to find the root cause and perhaps offer solution to it.

Dr Mohammed Khalid Othman, a lecturer in the Department of Agric Engineering, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, speaking on the issue said “I feel that the result should be investigated. It is off the shores of normal. I know of several good schools whose students didn’t make the five (5) credits and above including Maths and English.”

Perhaps and perhaps not, Dr Othman’s call for investigation of the result because several “good schools” he knew did not achieve the five (5) credits and above requirement may sound good but does it solve the problem? What makes a good school? Is it the school plants? Is it the human resources or the learners? Othman’s concept of good school and its relationship with good academic performance is not stated. The reality still – what do we do especially the students, the guidance counselors, and indeed all stakeholders in Senior Secondary school academic segment, academic group, academic overseers to make sure this ugly trend is aborted. It must be acknowledged that academicians in Nigeria today- the “book Haram” age have found themselves with a new terrifying problem on their hands: They have found that education which is indispensable tool for national development, pride of place among the comity of nations, on whose wings the entire future and progress of this great country, Nigeria, depend is in a deadly dive to committing academic suicide. What singular factor will pioneer the reversal of this ugly decline and at what stage of academic level? This question is the main thrust of this work.

1.2 Statement of the Problem.

Considering the implications of this customary consecutive decline in academic performance of students at public examinations indicated below: 2012 performance showed 38.81% of the candidates made the minimum five (5) credits and above, 2013 on the other hand showed 36.57% of the candidates made the minimum Five (5) credits and above; worst still 2014 had only 31.29%, Nigeria’s education managers should get back to the basics and examine the kind of attitude that are needed to turnaround the education systems (The Vanguard Newspaper August 29th 2014 p. 1-3). Blaming the government for not allocating 26% of the total budget to education as recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for developing countries is not the answer. The steady mass failure should neither be dumped at the desk of the parents nor the desk of the president through the Minister of State for Education. Real solution does not lie on trading blames or speculation as some commentators and writer have done. There is urgent need to tackle the problem headlong. The SSSCE candidates feed Nigeria’s tertiary institutions which the country look up to for intellectual direction in its quest for development. The future, certainly, looks bleak for Nigeria’s development with the steady decline in SSSCE performance. But the where also could one start in an attempt to find the root cause of this decline?

Mr. Bayo Samagbaye who was an Assessor for an essay competition organized by Consolidated Hallmark Insurance (CHI) Plc, observes that “the entries submitted for the 2018 National Essay Competition were of low quality compared to the previous entries, stating that the quality standard keeps dropping on a yearly basis.” (Leadership Newspaper Monday, July 15, 2019, p. 27 ‘CHI Rewards Winners of Insurance Essay Competition) Thus decline in performance in the academic circle the effects are being felt in our national life as it were.

Thus, if solution is found for this steady decline, Nigeria’s development vis-à-vis her future will be guaranteed. The much needed fund which many individuals are spending in sending their wards to places such as Ghana, South Africa, The Gambia and ecole d’ anglaise in Francophone countries to study will be deployed for other developmental projects in Nigeria. It is against this backdrop the study derives its problem.

1.3 Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of Nigerian Pidgin on students’ performance in English studies using Junior Secondary School, Bwari, Abuja as case study.

1.4 The objective of the study

The general objective of the study is to find out the impact of Nigerian Pidgin in students’ performance in English Studies in Nigeria. The specific objectives are as follows:

- To assess the extent to which Nigerian Pidgin impact on the students’ use of English language.
- To find out if students are allowed to use Nigerian Pidgin in their academic works.
- To determine how students get in contact with Nigerian Pidgin.
- To find out if students are sanctioned when they use Nigerian Pidgin.

1.5 Research Questions

In conducting the research the following questions are fundamental:

i. What are the effects of Nigerian Pidgin on students’ performance in English studies?
ii. Are students allowed to use Nigerian Pidgin in academic works?
iii. How do students of Junior Secondary School get in contact with Nigerian Pidgin?
iv. Are students sanctioned for using Nigerian Pidgin?

1.6 Research hypothesis

The following hypothesis stated in the null form would be tested for the study:

1. Ho1: There is no significant relationship between Nigerian Pidgin and students’ performance in English Studies;
2. Ho2: There is no significant relationship between students’ use of Nigerian Pidgin on the outcome of their academic performance.
3. Ho3: There is no significant relationship between students’ contact with Nigerian Pidgin and their academic performance.

1.7 Significance of the study

Nigeria is going through critical and hard time thus a steady poor performance as has been recorded in recent decades is not an option because it means poor quality workforce and waste of funds in training and schooling. Maximum performance is more than ever highly expected from its students. One insidious factor that plagues students’ performance is poor language capacity. Through this one impediment students perform abysmally a other endeavors are articulated through the use of language. Thus identifying the effects of language usage by students and how to resolve same become imperative.

The outcome will enable Classroom managers (teachers) to reassess their teaching packages to include emphases on appropriate use of English Language for the sake of enhancing performance. The Government stands to benefit when the recommendation from this study is applied and thereby students’ performance enhanced. The man-power and personnel development departments both in the public and private schools will be guided through this study on the need for effective placement of qualified trained and retrained teachers in the English language Departments.

It is the hope of the researcher that performance in all ramifications will be on the increase in both Upper Basic and Senior Secondary Schools academic performance in English Studies which would entail a better image for the school system through the outcome of this study.

1.8 Scope of the Study: Although poor performance is a reflection of the entire secondary school students’ performance in Nigeria, the scope of this work is limited to performance in English studies in Junior Secondary School narrowed to Bwari, Abuja with focus on selected students.

1.9 Operational definition of terms

English studies: English language and literary studies combine in the junior classes

Nigerian Pidgin: This is pidgin grown and natured in Nigeria. It is Nigerian in character and form.

Performance: The outcome of students result in external examination at the end of a program which is usually done numerically.

Pidgin: Pidgin refers to what has been regarded as ‘broken English’ in Nigeria.

Sophophobia: This is defined as the fear of learning.

Chapter Two: Review of Literature

2.1 Introduction

This chapter deals with the review of literature considered vital to this study. The literature review is discussed under the following sub-headings:- 2.1 Conceptual framework; 2.2 Theoretical framework; 2.3 Previous empirical studies; and 2.4 Appraisal of the Reviewed Literature.

2.2 Conceptual framework

The conceptual framework adopted for this study is the concept of community and its characteristics. Community is defined as ‘A group sharing a common understanding, and often the same language, law, manners, and/ or tradition’ (New English Dictionary Goggled December 13, 2019) The same dictionary further explains that community could also be seen as ‘A group of people interacting by electronic means for educational, professional, social, or other purposes’, ‘The condition of having certain attitudes and interest in common’, ‘common character, likeness.’ New English Dictionary further identifies antonyms of the concept of ‘community’ to include ‘anti-community’ and ‘non-community.’

From the above explanation one can deduced that a member of a community is expected to act, speak in a manner expected of ‘citizens’ of such community in line with existing law of the community. Any contrary mannerism of language use for example other than those expected are regarded as anti-community and so are usually frowned at because of non and knowledge -conformity.

Borrowing from this ‘community concept’ for this study the school system belongs to a ‘community’ known as academic community that has an approved and appropriate mannerism and language use common and known for its activities such as interaction, communication and knowledge dissemination (Andrew, 2004) Junior Secondary School Bwari, Abuja as an upper basic school in Nigeria (NPC, 2014: 24) belongs to this academic community hence students are expected to write, to speak, and to communicate in line with the expectation within an academic community. To illustrate Oral English which is part of the curriculum in English studies in the school system has rules which must be obeyed in order to perform well in the studies. According to Odozi, (2017: iii) ‘Oral English requires proper articulation and ability to identify the sounds (phonetics). As a result, some teachers find it less attractive to teach than other aspects of English Language. That, however, is disadvantageous for student who is required to pass it in WAEC, NECO, and other examination.’ Therefore it is the expectation of the academic community that a student compile with this requirement in order to perform well when tested. Either way there are two general communities when it comes to the use of language for communication visa-a-vise: Nigeria Pidgin community, and the English Language community.

2.2.1 Pidgin

Pidgin English according to Basheer (2015:3) “is a language which was developed in a situation where speakers of different languages have a need to communicate but do not share a common or specific language.” Basheer, further, posits that Pidgin English ‘is generally learned as a second language and used for communication among people who speak different languages. Some other scholars have defined Pidgin variously: Ajibade, (2012: 8) opines that any two languages in contact can result in ‘inter-lingual improvisation’; Izenose, (2018) posits ‘a Pidgin crops up from a situation involving a target language and two or more substrate languages, but the socially superior target language is usually inaccessible to the substrate speakers’ (Basheer, 2015:9)

Further, Hassan, (2015: 22) see Pidgin as “A language which has been striped-off everything but bare essentials necessary for communication.” One can deduced from this definition that Pidgin; unlike English Language is a more simplified means of communication. This is so as implied above, syntactic or grammatical details are much less when compared with a language like English. More so, ‘Pidgin is a mixed language, and almost all languages come into being under conditions of communicating among people from different linguistic background.’(Akande & Salami 2010: 39). According to Akande and Salami “most of the existing pidgins advanced along the trade routes of the world, most particularly in those territory where the British, Spanish, Dutch, French and Portuguese built up their empire.” Consequently, one hears of Pidgin English, Pidgin French, and Pidgin Portuguese, and others, based on the language that Pidgin is derived from. Achoimre (2014:6) added that Pidgin normally arises in colonial conditions though it primarily begins as trade language.”

Thus, Jalaludeen Ibrahim 2016 in his“Nigerian Pidgin English: Multi-Prepositional Functionality of “fo” Among Nigerian Staff of Ces in Manchester”, American Research Journal of English and Literature, ISSN (online)- 2378-9026 Vol. 2, 2016:3) opines that ‘It is usually assumed that Pidgins all over the world evolved from contact situations.’ In spite of its universality as an aspect of popular speech, the origin remained highly controversial. According to Chiluwa (2010), Pidgin is defined as ‘a language which arises to fulfill certain restricted communication needs among people who have no common language.” This view is in consonance with Yule’s definition of Pidgin as “a cover-term for languages that arise from situations of semi-communication among a population of potential interlocutors who have no singly language in common” (Yule, 2009) This definition maintains that Pidgins do not have native speakers but begin their “life-cycle” as a makeshift linguistic repertoire to which all participants contribute (Ibrahim, 2016)

In West Africa, Pidgin was accepted as the ‘de-facto language of blue collar trade and merchandizing. Thus, in some West African countries, the trappings of the contact with Europeans promoted the use of Pidgin and consequently relegated the status of indigenous languages. Etuk, (2013:46) reveals that because of its nationwide currency, English-based pidgin is now used in most Commonwealth nations as lingua franca. This is the status Nigerian Pidgin is poised to attain. At this juncture it is vital to consider what is the origin of Nigerian Pidgin?

2.2.2 Nigerian Pidgin

The origin of pidgin in Nigeria can be traced back to the contact established between Nigerians and Europeans. According to Elugbe and Omamor cited in Ibrahim, (2016) NP arose from the contact between multilingual coastal communities of Nigerian and their earliest trading partners the Portuguese starting from around 1469, which brought about a Portuguese-based Pidgin language known as Negro Portuguese. The Portuguese pidgin was short lived with the ousting of the Portuguese traders by other European traders and missionaries: the French, then briefly the Dutch and finally the English. Among these European interest group, the British trade contact which started from the beginning of the 17th century endured, from which an English-based pidgin was developed along the coast.

This English-based pidgin today is what has become Nigerian Pidgin (NP). NP is seen as a version of English and ethnic Nigerian languages spoken as a kind of lingua Franca across the country especially among the majority illiterates (Obiechina, Elugbe; Egbokhare, cited in Izenose, 2018: 36) In an attempt to define NP Unachukwu, (2015:48), sees it as ‘some kind of a marginal language that arises to fulfill specific communication needs in a well defined circumstance’. Perhaps or perhaps not that view may have been responsible for the general unwelcome some literary works written in Pidgin (for example The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) by Amos Tutuola), received at their birth in the 1950s. For example critics describe the language used in writing the novel as ‘young English’ (Thomas, 1952), “modified Yoruba English”(Lindfors 1999:7) ‘primitive’, un-willed’, ‘ungrammatical’(Lindfors, 1999:44) Replying his critics Tutuola posits “Probably if I had more education, that might change my writing or improve it (Lindfors 1999: 143) Thus, earlier attempts to bring NP to officialdom receive distain and outright rejection from the scholarship community. Here too, Amos Tutuola acknowledges that the so called ‘young English’ or ‘primitive’ and ‘ungrammatical’ English used in writing the novel was as a result of [less] education.

Furthermore, NP is a somewhat pejorative label used by native speakers of English to describe the often hysterical violations of basic rules of Standard English syntax by non-native speakers of the language. Isaa (2006:4) further describes NP as a technical term in linguistics that refers to a “contact” or ‘trade’ language that emerged from the fusion of foreign, usually European languages.

According to Jowitt, (2000:65) NP ‘served as a language of trade for communication between Englishmen and Nigerian living along the Nigerian coast and pidgin was useful because it could be learned easily by both races”. Thus, NP began its conquest of Nigerian indigenous languages and currently threatens scholarship, eroding the performance of this academic community.

Be that as it may Gani-Ikilama, (2014:33) comments, “those that stress the makeshift character of Pidgins ignore the fact that it can develop to a considerable of stability and complexity.”

In line with Gani-Ikilama (2014) assertion Nigerian Pidgin is developing to a considerable stability and complexity. Meanwhile, today Nigerian Pidgin’s scope is currently affecting and threatening academic scholarship community. There has been attempt to use Nigerian Pidgin in the mass media: radio, advertisements, business promotion, and in music, religion.

To illustrate instances: Currently, Nigeria has adopted a change in nomenclature from NP to ‘Naija’ because of its expanding functionality. The term ‘Naija’ as used by the speakers of NP refers to ‘Nigeria’ as a country. The change to reformed name according to Ibrahim (2016) ‘is an attempt to erase the negative perception and attitude people have towards NP as “broken English’, argued to be either derogatory or inaccurate. More so, Ibrahim posits that “NPE has become so popular that it is now recognized as one of the four commonly spoken languages in Nigeria while it competes with Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba- the country’s national languages (Emananjo cited in Hassan, 2015:8) Hassan further assert that NP ‘now operates as a de facto lingua franca, a bridge between social classes and ethnicities even when it lacks a standard orthography.” Let pause and consider some examples of use of NP in organized institutions:

Images/ Picture/ Written works in NP Juxtaposed with Standard English publications:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Image 1: Two daily devotional books: Standard English is entitled: Examining the Scripture Daily 2019; while the Nigerian Pidgin issue is entitled: Learn From Bible Everyday, 2019

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Image 2: Two brochures: Standard English is entitled ‘Who are doing Jehovah’s Will Today?’ while the Nigerian Pidgin copy is entitled ‘Wich Pipul Du Wetin Jehovah Want Todey?

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Image 3: Two brochures, Standard English is entitled ‘Good News From God’ while the Nigerian Pidgin cope is entitled ‘God Get Good News For You’

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Image 4: Two pages from Image 1, devotional books: Right-hand side is Monday, December 9 based on Psalm 37:8 “Do not become upset and turn to doing evil” (Standard English) while left-hand side reads Psalm 37:8 “No Vex so that you no go begin do wetin bad” (Nigerian Pidgin)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Image 5: Two copies of brochure: Standard English copy (left-hand) reads “Listen to God and Live Forever”, while the Nigerian Pidgin copy (Right-hand) reads “ Hear Wetin God Tok Mek You Enjoy Life Wey No Go End”

Thus NP is no “longer language use for trading only” as some scholars have posited.

To illustrate, Watchtower magazines published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Inc. has had the its articles in both Nigerian Pidgin and Standard English published for their Nigerian Pidgin and English congregations. More so there are other publications such as brochures, devotional material that are also published in Nigerian Pidgin as shown in Images 1-5 above

In NP, the European language provided most of the vocabulary and the indigenous languages produce the structure of the language. The European languages include English language. Thus at this juncture it is vital to note examine what is English otherwise known as ‘Standard English’ in the context of Nigeria milieu?

2.1.2 Standard English

Oxford English Dictionary (2007) defines English language as “an Indo-European language belonging to West Germanic branch; the official language of Britain and the United States and most of the commonwealth countries.

Nigeria is a member of commonwealth countries and uses English language as lingua franca in view of the diversity of indigenous languages which hinders interaction among the various ethnic nationalities. According to Otagburuagu et al (2012:1) “Every language, including English, has its own patterning and structuring rules which determine its use; this in effect means that all languages have grammar.” Grammar could be seen as the basis for understanding and communication in any language. It is the principles and rules that underlie or govern the use of language. Crystal (2004:1) defines grammar thus:

Grammar is the structural foundation of our ability to express ourselves. The more we are aware of how it works, the more we can monitor the meaning and effectiveness of the way we and others use languages. It can help foster precision, detect ambiguity, and exploit the richness of expression available in English (Crystal (2004:1)



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Title: Does Using Local Pidgin Effect the Outcome of English Learning? The Case of Nigerian Students