Nigeria has over 521 languages and dialects with English as its official language for business. Pidgin English is the lingua franca that bridges the gap between the educated elites who are fluent in English and those that are not. It unites the people in ways that no other language does.
Pidgin English is not only spoken in Nigeria, but in Anglophone West and Central African countries. It first came about in the 17th and 18th centuries when the Europeans colonized Africa. It began as combination of English vocabulary and the different languages spoken by the ethnic groups the British traded with at the time.
In West Africa for instance, Pidgin is hailed as the “great equalizer” and the default language for blue collar trade and merchants.
Broken English as some call Pidgin is spoken by everyone from children to adults and it creates a certain level of intimacy among the people that transcends ethnic barriers. One might say it is a “survivalist approach to everyday living and hustling” in the streets of Nigeria.
Although Pidgin is widely spoken and amazingly adaptive, many still frowned upon it, especially educators and parents who thought it would ruin the chances of children being gainfully employed in white collar jobs. They thought of its speakers as not being “civilised” but now they have also come to realise how much of a cultural force it is.
With Pidgin, you need not be a literate to speak it as it is defined by its practicality. Advertisers, the media, the music, and movie industries are all capitalising on the reach pidgin must ‘sell’ their products.
“Wazobia FM has been broadcasting entirely in Pidgin to Nigeria’s 75 million Pidgin-speakers for almost a decade.” Interestingly, BBC also caught on with Pidgin in recent times and now has a dedicated outlet for the language.
Here are some few Pidgin words or phrases from Nigeria for beginners.
- How Bodi? / How You Dey? – How are you doing today?
- I dey fine – I’m fine. I’m doing well.
- Wetin dey happen? – What’s going on? What’s happening?
- Wahala – Problem/Trouble. Example – Why you dey give me wahala? Which means why are you giving me so many problems?
- Wetin? – What?
- I no sabi – I don’t understand
- Comot! – Get out of here!
- How Far? – Hey, Hi
- Comot for road – Make way
- Dem send you? – Have you been sent to torment me?
- I no no – I don’t know
- Vex – Upset. Example – Make you no vex me! ; Which means “Don’t upset me!”
- Gi mi – Give it to me.
- I Wan Chop – I want to eat
- Abeg – Please, but usually not a repentant plea. Example – Abeg! No waste my time!; Which means Please! Don’t waste my time!
- I no gree – I don’t agree, I disagree
- Abi? – Isn’t it?
- Wayo – Trickery. Example – That man be wayo; which means “that man is a fraud!”
- Na so? – Is that so?
- Area boys –Street-smart young men that loiter around neighborhoods.
- Go slow – Traffic jam
- Listen well well – Pay attention