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Jehovah’s Witnesses attract huge crowds with Pidgin English at conventions



The advancement of Pidgin English received a great boost recently at Ota, Ogun State at the Nigerian Pigdin Convention Series of Jehovah’s Witnesses which held from September 29 to October 1, 2017.

This was the eighth in the series of the 2017 “Don’t Give Up!” Regional Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It drew by far the largest crowd of 10,067 delegates.

The  convention was the first in Nigerian Pidgin to be held in Ota.

Many of the delegates arrived a day earlier so as not to miss the opening session of the annual event.

Recently there are clear indications that Jehovah’s Witnesses are seriously using Pidgin as tool to reach the heart and they have risen beyond the general stereotypical description of  it as ‘Pidgin English’ or ‘Broken English.

Jehovah’s Witnesses adopted Nigerian Pidgin as a formal language of worship in 2015.

Already ,we gathered that some are  switching the language of the congregation from English to Pidgin,because they  realized that majority of the publishers benefit more in Nigerian Pidgin.

Speaking on the development,Afolabi Odeyemi,a local media contact person at Ota said, ”It is all about communication, reaching the heart.Whatever language communicates best to those we are speaking to is the language that should be used…The apostle Paul told the congregation in Corinth that unless we use speech that is easily understood, how will anyone know what is being said? He then added: “You will in fact be speaking into the air.” (1 Cor. 14:9-11)

Paul understood the importance of clear communication.

Explaining Jehovah’s Witnesses  line of thinking, Odeyemi said”,Today many focus on promoting the English language. The world encourages the thinking that speaking English means that one is intelligent or educated. Thus, parents and family members are very eager to speak English or teach their children to do so. However, we as Jehovah’s people are different. The purpose of the Christian Congregation is not to learn English nor is one elevated if he speaks English.In fact, it is not unusual to hear pidgin spoken by those with a high degree of education, including professionals.”

”Interestingly, the truth of God’s word was not originally written in English but in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Therefore, just as English is a translation, other languages are also translations and are thus considered equal. For a number of years Jehovah’s people have shown great interest in translating publications into various languages for the needs of those in the field and in the congregation’.Happily,a translation team has been formed  at Nigeria branch, Bethel,Igeduma and  hard work is ongoing to produce publications that can be used in the pidgin fields.’ he concluded

Now, it is accepted by most people as a very useful language for public enlightenment campaigns, radio and television programs, inter-ethnic communication, commercial advertizing, sitcoms, stand-up comedies, popular music, religious music and for conducting common everyday business transactions in many parts of the country.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently started pidgin programs too.

While the status of the Pidgin English has improved tremendously as a language that can be used for serious purposes, only a small body of literature exists in the language.

There are ongoing efforts among local linguists and writers to see that this aspect of the language is developed.

Current estimates show that around 5 million people speak Naijá as first language while over 75 million people use it as a second language in Nigeria and in Nigerian Diaspora communities in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

Nigeria is one huge and complex multilingual community with several different languages used within the public and private social space from city to city in Nigeria.

This has made it possible for several different lingua francas to exist across Nigeria. But in the last twenty or thirty years, Naijá has become one of the most important, most widely spread, and perhaps the most ethnically neutral lingua franca used in the country today.

Current estimates show that around 5 million people speak Naijá as first language while over 75 million people use it as a second language in Nigeria and in Nigerian Diaspora communities in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

Although English is still remains the country’s official language and the language of education in Nigeria, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba prominently feature as regional languages in the northern, eastern and western parts of the country respectively. But Pidgin is not just endemic to the Niger Delta area alone, it is also widely spoken in many of the country’s big cities, tertiary institutions, police and military formations and the sabon-gari areas of northern Nigeria.

Huge crowds have been attending the convention meant for people living in parts of Lagos and Ogun states, and which holds every Friday to Sunday.

The series started on August 25 and ends on December 25, 2017.

“We are inviting interested members of the public to attend subsequent conventions”, he added.

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