English Language, no doubt is not our first language, but a borrowed tongue and Lingual Franca. Every Nigerian grew up learning this foreign language and after so much effort trying to speak English, we realize our mother tongue remains the easiest to understand and speak properly. For some Nigerians, pidgin is a better language to use in communicating with another Nigerian whose exact tribe is unknown. For some other Nigerians, English language is all they can speak, while the third categories of Nigerians, speak English language, pidgin and their native dialect fluently.
However, Nigerians from these 3 categories most times prefer to use some Nigerian words to express themselves in certain scenarios, even while communicating in English language. We fall back to these words either because we can’t remember their English equivalent, or because the Nigerian word explains the thought or feeling better than the English word. Here are some examples of such words, although most of them are generally accepted and widely understood even by Nigerians who are not origins of the tribe that own them, it is inappropriate to use these words in a corporate environment.
- Abi: This word is used to ask questions, or said to confirm something. Nigerians use abi as a question mark while speaking, but still add the mark in writing after the word. “You heard me abi?”
- As-in: Girls use this phrase a lot and it fits into almost any form of sentence. It is actually used to explain further something already said. “I am so hungry, as in I need good food badly.”
- Chei: This word originated from the Eastern part of Nigeria, it is used to show regret and also pity. “Chei, the boy is dead.”
- Ehen: “Yea” would be the English word replaced by Ehen. This word is used in various ways; (a) To concur – “ehen, its true.” (b) To recall – “ehen, I remember “ (c) To appraise – “ehen, now you are talking.”
- Eiya or heiya: This is used when you feel sorry for someone. “Eiya, that was bad, hope he didn’t hurt you?”
- Ewo: Ewo is more like an exclamation expressing surprise, pain or fear. It originated from the Igbo tribe.
- Haba: This word originated from the Hausa tribe, it is their own version of eiya but used more when scolding someone or showing disapproval.
- Jare: Jare is an “I don’t care” word used in similar scenarios as Joor. It is a Yoruba word.
- Joor: This word seems to lack a substitute. It usually portrays some kind of aggression and anger when used, and can also be used playfully, depending on the tone of voice. “Leave me alone joor” The ambiguous word can also mean please and is derived from the Yoruba word ejor.
- Kpele: Most Nigerians have forgotten how to say sorry with a word like Kpele constantly in use.
- Kukuma: The south south Nigerians are most guilty for using this word. It simply means “at once” or “already”. “Make I finish the food at once.” “Make I kukuma finish the food.”
- Na: There’s not yet an English word that can be substituted with this. We tend to use it when we are trying to make something clear to people or for emphasis. The black one na. It can also be used to persuade someone. “Help me na”. Na can also mean “now”. “come na.”
- Ngwa: Ngwa is the Igbo version of the Yoruba Oya. They are both used to hasten someone. “Ngwa make we dey go,” “Oya na let’s go.”
- Nko: This means “how about,”what about”. “Your pikin nko?”
- Omo: Omo originally means child in Yoruba but Nigerians use it for other things. It can be used in an exclamatory form to show surprise. “Omo, see money na”.
- Sha: Nigerians use Sha in place of the word “though“. “I’m tired but I will still work sha“.
- Shakara: The word “Shakara” is used to express style, beauty, body consciousness or great fashion sense . “That girl too like shakara.”
- Shebi: This word is a combination of two other Nigerian words – abi & shey. It can be used as a confirming word or in place of the word “right”. “Shebi you will come?”
- Sef: We often use this word in place of anyway. “What is it sef?“ In the real sense, it was derived from self. “You sef”.
- Shey: This one is used instead of “right“. It is often applied when asking a question. “You saw Stella yesterday, shey?” The word took the place of “right” in the sentence.
- Shuuuu: This is a Delta state originated slang used to express shock, anger or used before an interrogatory statement.“Shuuu, you wan break the door?”
There are a lot more of these words that Nigerians infuse into the English vocabulary everyday. Do well to identify the ones you use more often and try to replace them with the English words for it. You never can tell the impression you would create when you say “Let me kukuma finish my speech” in a formal conference meeting.