Acculturation is derived from the verb root ‘culture’. Culture is learned. No person can live above their culture, or else he becomes a social misfit.
The Place of Acculturation in Second Language Acquisition
Acculturation is a process or program through which a second language learner learns the language within the native speakers’ environment that is, an environment where this language is being used as the official first language. The program provides the learners with practical exposure to the day-to-day use of the language.
Benefits of acculturation
There are acculturation program benefits that need to be considered in this article. The following are listed below.
Acculturation is a vital tool for second language acquisition
There is no gainsaying the fact that the acculturation program has remained a vital tool for second language acquisition. Out of one hundred respondents, five admitted that they had pre-knowledge of NL2 before being admitted. All the respondents were 200-level students.
The research was conducted after the students came back from the acculturation program in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. They admitted that the exercise helped to achieve communicative oracy in the two languages.
As a staff of the Igbo language department, the writer engaged some Igbo students in a slight conversation. There was evidence of communicative competence.
Acculturation helps language to reduce tension and anxiety.
Language is best acquired in a low-risk environment, with less tension and anxiety. The acculturation exercise provides that forum. The fear of teachers’ presence is no longer felt.
The students interact with the villagers, market women, and other members of the community in a relaxed environment. With this conducive atmosphere, they are in the best position to learn. They are also in a good position to practice what they have theorized.
Places of historical importance are visited; naming and traditional wedding ceremonies are attended. Hence, they learn the culture of the Igbo or Hausa and Yoruba people in their natural habitat. One remembers ninety percent of what he sees.
Acculturation destroys the fear of the unknown.
The fear of the unknown is finally destroyed through the acculturation program. An average Yoruba man sees Igboland as a jungle, a land of cannibals. On arrival, the students confessed that the Igbo are the most hospitable people they have come across.
Without acculturation, this revelation would not have been possible. Two former female students of the writer got married in 1997. They have married too young Igbo men.
The relationship that culminated in marriage started when the students went for their acculturation, in Owerri in 1995. The benefits of the acculturation program are many.
Problems of the Acculturation Program
There are also the problems of the acculturation program that need our attention. They are listed below.
Issue of conception
Despite the numerous benefits of the acculturation program, there are still hitches here and there. The first serious problem that needs urgent review is conception.
According to NCCE (1995), the acculturation exercise should be done during the long vacation, and yet the students are expected to teach their second majors to students in their cooperating schools, usually secondary schools. How are they expected to teach students who are on holiday? This is a big flaw.
The program suggested that the students should be attached to families in their acculturation states. The question that reoccurs regularly is, is it possible for predominantly Hausa Moslem families to accommodate a born-again Christian and vice versa?
Most of the cooperating schools are located in big cities and towns. The acculturating students are expected to live in traditional villages devoid of Western influence and adulteration.
Lack of political will
The lack of political will on the part of the government is making a mockery of the program, and the NL2 program in general. Except during the era of Aliu Fafunwa as Education Minister, no successive officer of the federal government has made any serious policy statement on the future of the Nl2 program.
After all, no child of the elite can go to school to study Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba languages. That is why all the repeated appeals for the subsidy of the acculturation program have fallen on deaf ears.
Students have been footing all the bills for the program. No financial help is forthcoming from the local, state, and federal governments.
This is disturbing! It is very sad to note that some institutions in the country have continually been unable to participate in the program because of the huge amount needed to finance it.
The burden is too much on the part of the students. This has led to the death of students in the departments of Nigerian languages.
The political problem is equally affecting the program.
During the June 12 crisis in the mid-1990s more than twenty Igbo students who came to study Yoruba L2 at the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta had abandoned the program. Constant riots in the North discouraged some people from seeking admission into the colleges in the North.
Problem of economy
The Nigerian economy has been so bastardized that an average student finds it difficult to have three square meals a day.
Most of the students hardly find money to transport themselves to and from the school, and conservatively a student is expected to spend around ten thousand nairas (N10,000.00) for the program.
Their respective colleges are not in a hurry to help, even to assist with the payment of transport fares. It will be a disaster if this educative program is allowed to die by those who are in a position to rescue it.
The way out of the problems
If the acculturation program is to make any meaningful impact, strictly following recommendations should be followed.
- The acculturation program is very costly, hence both the federal and state government and possibly the colleges should subsidize the exercise by paying at least half of the cost.
- The acculturation program should be done when students in secondary schools are in session and not during long vacations.
- Students who are studying second-generation Nigerian languages should be encouraged by giving them adequate incentives. This will go a long way to encourage more candidates to apply for the course.
- The twelve weeks provided for the program should be adhered to strictly.
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), traditional rulers, and ministry officials should mobilize to appreciate the advantages of the acculturation program.
- Lecturers should accompany the acculturating students, and stay with them throughout the program.
- Logistics problems that have been a stumbling block to the success of the exercise should be tackled by the colleges by providing buses for the participating students.
Like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the National Council for Colleges of Education (NCCE) acculturation is one of the good programs introduced in the Nigerian school system.
Since some obstacles are being encountered by parents and students, the benefits being derived are more significant than the problems.
The government should be courageous enough to fund the program so that the country can achieve much-needed national stability. If the ‘I’s’ are dotted and the ‘ts’ crossed acculturation will be a viable tool for a second language acquisition system.