This work was focused on the problems of mother tongue (l1) interference in the learning and teaching of English language (l2) in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State Nigeria. Four research basic assumptions concerning the problem area were formulated. Extensive related questionnaire and “on the spot assessment” were used as the research instruments. Eight schools were used on the study.

          The data collected as well as the review of related literature show that the problem of mother tongue (l1) interference in the teaching and learning of English language (l2)is attributable to the following: lack of some English phonemes in the phonological system of Igbo language, substitution of English phonemes with their language. Lack of modern language, laboratory insufficient qualified teachers, the students’ addition to their first language insufficient time, and lack of good models.

The recommendation was made that concernment should provide schools with language laboratories and professional philologists. Schools should organize extra-curricular activities like debate society.

The curricular planner should make spoken of English to be taught separately, parents should try and encourage their children and students should develop themselves by reading extensively and make proper used of the dictionary. 













English language is a second language to all the Nigerians including the students of Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. English language was introduced in Nigeria during the colonial era by the British colonial masters. Due to the fact that Nigerians were colonized by the great Britain in the 19th century, Nigerians patronized the British model of English language. There are other varieties such as American English, Substandard English and Pidgin English.

English language is used as the official language in Nigeria because of the multi-ethnicity nature of Nigeria with more than five hundred and twenty-five linguistics ethnics. Consequently, the English language is chosen as our official language because no ethnic group would like her language to be neglected.

English language serves as a means of communication accommodation participation and social mobility. As a means of accommodation, it makes every citizen feel at home whenever the language is spoken; therefore, it helps a person from one ethnic group to travel to another without feeling like a stranger.

However, as a second language English poses many problems in speaking, reading and grammatical and expressional error in parts of speech, punctuation, work order concord, spelling pronunciation resulting from mother tongue interference as encountered by students in Nsukka Local Government Area which is the major thrust of the study.

1.1     Background of the Study

When confronted with something new, whether it is a new food, a different kind of music or just new information, it is a natural instinct to look for similarities with things that are familiar, to try to draw some comparison with what we know already. Consciously or unconsciously, we bring what we know to what we do not, making it impossible to learn anything entirely from the scratch.

Learning problems, in most cases often arise from mother tongue interference. According to Uzoezie (1990), for a second language learner, the problem is much more than it is express so far.

He usually gets into the dilemma of illogical relationships between the sound spelling of his mother tongue and sound spelling of the target language. The study of English language in Nigeria is confronted with many problems arising from phonological differences between the first language and (l1) and the second language (l2). This leads to phonological interference as the l2 learners attempts to substitute some elements of sound in the l2 with those in the l1.


In addition, the facilities are grossly inadequate. The result is that in many English languages teaching situations the textbook is disadvantageously the only material available to both the teacher and the learner.

This notwithstanding, the English language has remained the greatest legacy of the British administration, the national official language. It is the language of instrument and indeed the fulcrum of the new educational policy in Nigeria. Therefore, it is imperative for us to try as much as possible to speak it properly if not perfectly, for different speakers of English to understand us whenever we interact with them through the language.

1.2     Statement of the Problem.

It is an established fact that Igbo speakers and users of English language as a second language perform poorly in their use of English language. Their problem is as a result of the difficulties encountered in learning English language in an environment where there is an existing language already in use.

With the introduction of the new language, a child finds it difficult to master the phonological, syntactical, lexical and semantic features of the new language. There is therefore the tendency for the Igbo learner to transfer the features of his mother tongue (Igbo L1) into (English L2).

L1          –        First language acquisition

L2      –        Second language acquisition

The questions that arise at this juncture are:

  1. What are the causes of mother tongue (L1) interference in the studying and teaching of English language (L2)?
  2. How do differences in phonemes and structure of the mother tongue (L1) make the learning of the English language (L2) difficult?

The answers to the above questions prompted to the present study.

1.3     Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research is to investigate the mother tongue (L1) interference in learning of English language (L2) in secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. Specifically the research set out to:

  1. Identify the causes of mother tongue (L1) interference in the study of English language (L2)
  2. To determine the extent to which the teacher contributes to wrong pronunciation of English words
  3. To find out how to eradicate the interference of the mother tongue (L1) in the study of English language (L2).


1.4     Significance of the Study

The study on the mother tongue (L1) interference in the learning of English language (L2) in secondary school in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State is important because it would enhance public awareness on the study of the target language (English language). Awareness and understanding of these problems would help in eradicating them.

Apart from this, it would also help to improve the spoken English of Igbo learner, since English is being taught in schools because of its position and function in Nigeria. It would help the teachers as they would discover that those are some of things that pose as problems to students. The findings would hopefully raise the awareness in both the learners and teachers regarding these errors.

Nevertheless, it would give the student confidence in their use of English language and at the same time help to produce those who speak Standard English with a variety that has mutual intelligibility.

In summary therefore, the findings from this research would be of use to language policy makers, students, teachers, and educators as well as textbook writers.

1.5     Scope of the Study

This study is based on mother tongue (L1) interference in English language (L2) in some selected secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The study is limited to English language teachers and the students.

The study required them to identify the problem they encounter in the teaching and learning of English language in their schools in general and classes in particular.

It is believed therefore that the problems confronting the Nsukka Local Government Area speakers of English language in Enugu State could, by extension be said to be the same in some parts of Enugu Communities.

1.6 Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What are the causes of mother tongue (L1) interference in the study of English language (L2) in secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area?
  2. What are the ways teachers are contributing to wrong pronunciation of English words?
  3. What are the strategies to adopt as to eradicate the interference of mother tongues (L1) in the study of English language (L2)?