Finally, Pidgin English Goes Digital!

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British media powerhouse, BBC yesterday launched an online portal that will deliver its expressions in Pidgin English. The new media expression will disperse content through text news, features and podcasts. This is an exciting news for many across Africa and this is why.

Pidgin English, the now popular informal lingua franca of Nigeria has grown into a strong and highly accepted medium of communication across Nigeria into west and central Africa. The language originated from Portuguese speakers who came into West Africa during the colonial era.  Since its birth, Pidgin English has evolved, from being a medium of communication for uneducated, impoverished and lower class communicators who were not literate enough to express themselves in proper English Language to a popular and accepted language. Though still informal, Pidgin English cuts across class, age, tribe, borders and cultures.

Staying mostly oral with no standard writing or literary rules, the language has many variation in expression varying from place to place. The language laces Basic English Language with slangs and local African Languages, mostly of its (host) speakers. Pidgin English for Millennials and many young people across Sub Saharan Africa forms a big part of popular culture today, as being displayed across the media. Most young people are comfortable communicating with this language as reflected by its constant use by top Musicians and actors across the region. From Wizkid to Davido to Mr Eazi to Tekno, all  are exporting the language beyond the Nigerian and West African region

Wizkid, Popular Nigerian Afropop Artiste fills a Stadium | Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters/Newscom

Wizkid, Popular Nigerian Afropop Artiste fills a Stadium | Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters/Newscom

What does this mean for Pidgin English in Africa?

This definitely means more media penetration and more reach, uncovering of the unreached and more a closer-to-home reach for the reached. Where local languages and English language will not reach, Pidgin English bridges the gap. Though Nigeria’s Media house Wazobia has been on a similar Journey through the years mostly through radio broadcast and their recent TV channel launch, the effect of this reach has rather been not as explosive as expected. Nevertheless, credit must be handed to the Wazobia media house for holding on to the task against all criticisms and even setting the pace for digitalizing Pidgin English. BBC Pidgin English predictably may just form a new united Africa, one without local language barriers. Isn’t this something to be excited about? Beyond this, with BBC stepping up to this challenge, there may soon enough be a harmonized standard of written and spoken Pidgin English across West and Central Africa. Since their launch yesterday, there has quite an excitement online. For me, all I see here is endless possibilities in an untapped soil.

Check out this BBC Feature