BBC the first African digital service that aims to provide news, current affairs and analysis of Nigeria, West and Central Africa, as part of the biggest expansion of its World Service since the 1940s has launched its BBC Pidgin. In an interview with newsmen BBC Nigeria’s Editorial Lead said;
“We are really excited that this is the first fully digital service that the BBC is offering in Africa and it is a really exciting opportunity for us,”
“Pidgin is a real language of opportunity across the region, spoken by millions across the West and Central African region. It is spoken by 75 million people in Nigeria alone. By the time you to Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, you are speaking to millions and millions across this region.”
The West African Pidgin English, also known as the Guinea Coast Creole English or Broken English, originated during the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the late 17th and 18th centuries where it served as a language of communication between the British slave merchants and local African traders.
It gradually spread across other parts of West African colonies as a useful trade language, particularly among local ethnic groups who spoke different languages.
There is no official figure as to the precise number of Pidgin speakers in Nigeria but estimates say as a second language, it is spoken by about half of the population – up to 75 million people. And as one moves from southern to northern Nigeria as well as across the sub-region, variants of the language are common among the speakers.
Ms. Labaran said the variants of Pidgin across the region would serve as an opportunity to encourage a lot of engagement from the BBC’s audience.
“We have a network of reporters from Ghana, Nigeria, and others so we could reflect those variations,” she said.
“But with that engagement with our audiences, we will get inputs from them or have a robust debate on what’s the best way to write this word or that word, you know, we will encourage all of that so we could engage one another in agreeing on what’s the standardized way of writing something.
“This is an opportunity, Pidgin is an informal language; it’s not a written language so the BBC sees a role here in encouraging a discourse to reach that consensus so that we will take that opportunity of Pidgin being a lingua franca across the region to communicate.”