Language Posts, mostly

Dis Nigerian Pidgin Sef: A Review

I started (very casually) studying Nigerian Pidgin English, or Naija, with an online tutor back in 2020. I still can’t speak it, but I can vaguely understand a little when it’s spoken. While my online classes really helped to grasp some aspects of the language, the biggest blockers for me were the lack of resources to consume, both in terms of media, and formal resources like textbooks. However, I’ve noticed that there’s been an uptick of resources released for Pidgin. Among them, Dis Nigerian Pidgin Sef, which, in my opinion, is one of the best formal resources for Westerners to understand and learn the language.

So what’s so good about it? What I found personally useful was its grammar explanations – while it’s still a formal resource, it delivers its knowledge in a very pragmatic and practical way – all of the examples are very straightforward, and it directly explains concepts in a manner that’s most suitable for Westerners. For example, currently, there’s no standard orthography for Pidgin. What’s that mean? Consider Mandarin – If you’re learning Chinese and Chinese characters, you’ll start learning the Pinyin system alongside these Chinese characters – it’s an alphabet that lets you know how to pronounce words and their tone. After all, if you look at Chinese characters, without inherently understanding the character, you won’t know how to pronounce it. You learn Pinyin to fill in the gap.

EG: 你是狗

How would you say this? Here’s the Pinyin:

Nǐ shì gǒu

That's an orthography - it's an alphabet system that lets you read words. For Mandarin, it captures two things - the pronunciation of the word, and the tone.
Going back to Pidgin - Pidgin has no standard orthography, because it's mainly spoken in informal situations. consequently, the authors of the book presents multiple commonly used orthographies, but for the purposes of the book, it uses the one less likely to be seen in every day use, but one more palatable to Westerners, in order to aid them in understanding the language.

It also has the best explanation of Pidgin tenses I've ever come across. It does all this without being dry - I've read many a grammar book that, while contain useful explanations of language grammar points, are incredibly boring to read. Dis Nigerian Pidgin Sef is very direct, in that it goes, "Look, here's this word. Here's how it's used, and how it's changed from standard Western English. Here are some examples."  Ogbonge book, I have to say. Highly recommended.

List of resources I’ve found for Pidgin (Presented in no particular order):

BBC Pidgin: A version of BBC news that publishes articles in Pidgin.

Nairaland: A popular Nigerian forum. Good for text content if you want a feel for how locals write.

Youtube: I just search for Nollywood movies – The best I found for listening to Pidgin. Unfortunately, it’s only native level content – I wish I had access to some beginner and intermediate level resources to consume as comprehensible input – if there’s too much to take in at once, I get overwhelmed.

Dis Nigerian Pidgin Sef: Obviously – It’s the book I’m reviewing in this article. Great formal resource yet still a straightforward and breezy read.

A Fun Guide to Learning Nigerian Pidgin English: Contains very useful example conversations, which the author walks through to help you learn certain concepts in Pidgin. Also links to their youtube page, in which they read through their example conversations, which is great for listening practice. Unfortunately, it’s is a bit light on content – there are only five conversations. Would love to see the author expand on this book.

Naijalingo: Good Pidgin to English dictionary.

Master the Pidgin: Also a good formal resource for learning Pidgin. However, this teaches Ghanaian Pidgin. There’s a lot of overlap with Nigerian Pidgin, so it can still help you learn, but I’m not nearly enlightened enough to tell you where the differences lie, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt when studying Pidgin.

Learn Nigeria Pidgin-English: This is a dictionary of Pidgin to English words. I haven’t compared this side by side to Naijalingo, but it doesn’t seem bad.

A Dictionary of Nigerian Pidgin English: I haven’t read this one yet, but I skimmed through a couple pages and it seems pretty good. One thing I like about it is it also tells you which language the word is derived from.

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