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Opera News Writers as liabilities to English learners

By Aladesohun Sola
19 January 2023   |   3:32 am
Except it is for stylistic purpose, the English used by many Opera News writers is way off beam and poses a challenge to learners of English in Nigeria.

Photo: StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay

Except it is for stylistic purpose, the English used by many Opera News writers is way off beam and poses a challenge to learners of English in Nigeria. Featuring in their headlines and content are ambiguity, subject-verb disagreement, bad spelling, vagueness, illogicality, poor punctuation, incoherence, disregard for number (i.e., singularity/plurality) and omission of grammatical words where they are obligatorily required. As it is the custom with the Press, newspaper headlines dispense largely with grammatical words, but many Opera News writers don’t follow this tradition in the professional manner expected.

Social media subsumes Twitter handlers, blog authors, etc. who can’t be exonerated from the above-mentioned ‘sins’. Amongst the social media users, there is an appetite for gossip, rumours, newspeak, fake news, and cases of hacktivities and other unethical practices many of which have been reported. Quite often, the Opera News writers publicise garbled stories accompanied by comments couched in racy and vulgar terms, all in poor uninspiring English. Assuming the writers never had formal education, their news headlines dressed in grotesque garb and which have become their trade mark would be overlooked to an extent. Really, very many Nigerians who became online authors overnight are charlatans whose unEnglish headlines and content reflect the degree of falsity associated with their stories.

Although social media has its own good, agree with me that it is typically distraction and threat to your privacy. It is more of a platform for showcasing people’s fake lifestyles and worth. For the guardians of correct usage of English, much of the post on social media violates language rules. Opera News stories¾real or fabricated¾contain such faulty headlines as: ‘A JSS2 Boy Allegedly Impregnanted A Female Corper In Cross River State’. ‘Nigerian Celebrities Who Owns Houses In Banana Island’. ‘Doctor Who Kill Firman Generator Owner With Lethal Injection In Hotel Finally Confess’. ‘Huge Feet Appera In Street, Passers-bys Were Trampled, What Happened’. ‘Cashless Policy: Banks Stops Dispensing Redesigned Naira Over The Counter’. ‘Heavy Security As Peter Obi Arrives Osogbo For Campaign’. ‘Whenever A Private Number Calls You, Don’t Panic, Dail This Code’. ‘The First And Only African Country To Owns A Nuclear Weapon’. ‘Emefiele: Constitutional Lawyer, Agu Calls For Prosecution Of DSS Officials’ (omission of an appositive comma after Agu). and ‘Tears, Mourning Hits PDP As Top 2023 Election Candidate Dies’. The errors are infinite. Nevertheless, it is not every post found in Opera News that is poorly written; there are other news brands whose stories appear in Opera News and which use perfect English.

With English playing pivotal roles in Nigeria and the world at large, it has become the aspirations of many to gain some level of competence in the language. But this prospect seems bleak considering the influence being exerted on British English by Pidgin English on the one hand and Nigerian English and local dialects threatening to displace British English, on the other. Whilst English is soaking up new words, for example doomscrolling and ghost bike, lexicographers are adding to the Oxford Dictionary words of Nigerian origin, e.g. ‘agbada’. Internalising, and using Nigerian words alongside British English will interfere with the learners’ mastery of English.

As Pidgin English, Nigerian English and local dialects strive to submerge British English, grammatical errors associated with Opera News writers who are natively Nigerians will soar and a perfect grasp of English remain far from them. Thus, to protect the schoolkids, teenagers, secondary and post-secondary school students, who are preparing for interviews, WASSCE, TOEFL, UTME, SAT, IGCSE, and visa applicants for IELTS, etc. it is strongly advised that stories posted by such writers be vetted. Since Nigeria doesn’t have an Academy to standardize its English, Opera News bunglers should use English that tellingly captivates their audience. The headlines supplied in this write-up violate the rules of English grammar, and shouldn’t for any reason be imbibed by learners of English.

Effective communication won’t take place in English if Opera News readers can’t understand such ambiguous headlines as: ‘Why We Killed The CAN Chairman And Our Next Line Of Action – Boko Haram’ (meaning: Boko Haram Killed the CAN Chairman and also killed their next line of action) and ‘Kanu’s Gorgeous Wife And Daughter Lights Up Social Media With Adorable Pictures’, taken from another writer, (meaning: Kanu’s gorgeous wife is also Kanu’s daughter), especially when the rationale behind the choice of the singular verb ‘Lights’ is considered. Of course, these are not the actual meanings the writers intended to convey. Also taken from Opera News is: ‘Anthony Joshua – Why I Prostrate To Greet President Muhammadu Buhari’, which should have been (let’s ignore the tense) ‘Anthony Joshua: Why I Prostrate myself to Greet President Muhammadu Buhari’ or ‘Why I Prostrate myself to Greet President Muhammadu Buhari- Anthony Joshua’, because the verb ‘prostrate’ requires a reflexive pronoun as its object in this context.

Errors are innate, and it can be risky criticizing people’s English especially when the critic is not a native speaker, with English being his or her first and primary language. But where the errors discovered are irritating, capable of stultifying both the intellectual and the market traders, hindering effective learning of English or putting the image of a nation’s mass media at risk, such errors should be deprecated. The more Nigerians abuse English on social media and get swayed by money, the more native English speakers will underrate Nigeria’s educational standing and the competence of its English Language teachers, especially as teachers from Nigeria prepare to relocate to UK this year.

With the advancement in science and technology, the Internet has become an avenue for obtaining quick information-bogus or reliable-about every area of life. On and on, it has played host to numerous cooks whose purpose is to serve their consumers substandard products after heavily stoking up on their broth in the cyber kitchen. Amateurs, upstarts, school dropouts and illiterates, who are still grappling with a noun, want to be heard on the Internet. Sadly, the linguistic infelicities afflicting social media are too numerous to stop, making Opera News items never a surest route to gaining competence in English. Instead, learners of English are advised to have recourse to texts written in Standard British English if they want to perfect their English.

‘No news’, the saying goes, ‘is good news’. It is not flattering to conclude that Opera News writers are doing a good job by publicising the news even before the incidents occur, and through the ’bunglers’ we are kept abreast of the latest developments and sometimes made to laugh off our sorrows. The business of news and information dissemination, however, is not a cushy number that everyone can dabble in; it requires technical expertise. Therefore, online writers in Nigeria should always edit their post: the more literate their English, the more prestige they get. Such effort will boost the originality of their stories. Government, too, should regulate Opera News. For parents, just as they should stop their children from listening to present-day indecent Nigerian music, they should also stop them from imbibing Opera awkward English. To promote standards amongst learners of English in Nigeria, Opera News writers should either wake up or quit the ‘new media’.