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Towards mastery of basic elements in English language



Towards mastery of basic elements in English language

This book is an introduction to the practical use of English and communication skills. The book’s bifurcated content is Okafor & Okafor’s way of breaking the trite norm of separating the use of English from the practice of communication skills. It is the authors’ effort at showing, while contributing intellectually both to the fields of language and of communication; the fundamental, symbiotic relationship between language and communication.


While Okafor & Okafor’s book is like Akinbande (1999), it is unlike Adegbite, Adekoya & Adegoju (2012) in that there is first a detailed introduction to English Language use, as it is required for undergraduates and other non-native users of the language. This sets a commendable background that suffices for the application of these basics to the eventual communicative performance of the language user (or reader).


The book is written in 15 chapters, which may be categorised into two parts of nine and six chapters respectively. The first part discusses topics in language, its total concept and history; grammar; comprehension and essay writing; literature; and the requisite study skills for the reader’s active competence in all aforementioned. The second part discusses topics in communication and its forms, as realised in oral presentations, correspondence and report writing – the last two of which are primarily guided by the adequate knowledge of registers and the expression of meaning such as denotation and connotation.


Communication, the practical product of the use of language, Okafor & Okafor (2017, p.181) define it as “the exchange of information from a sender to a receiver.” This position is further supported by certain relatable illustrations cited in their explanations of the forms of communication, especially non-verbal communication where elements like drama, gestures are regarded as pieces of information that may be exchanged between one entity – the sender – and another – the receiver.


Equally, the discussion of the growingly popular view of functional linguistics that the understanding of contexts of situation brings into play the “tenor of discourse” – one of three determining elements – illustrates that there is no communication without a sender and a receiver, both of whom may be persons or groups of persons.


It should further be noted that correspondence, as discussed in the book, illustrates that communication – especially that of this kind – is “exchanged between two or more parties” (Okafor & Okafor, 2017, p.227). As it has already been stated, the book is a rare and commendable effort at integrating the concepts of language and communication (compare Akinbande, 1999). While this may elsewhere raise the question of methodical, stylistic and theoretical inconsistency; Okafor & Okafor have done relatively well in maintaining both method and style but theory.


Unarguably, the established choice of theory in the book is Traditional Grammar – a rather prescriptive, restrictive, unrefined and non-scientific approach to language study, which despite this, remains favoured in the teaching of the use of English even in tertiary institutions. It is our opinion that TG is favoured in this environment because of its definitive rules which are more easily taught and learnt than the similarly prescriptive but computational Chomskyean theories and the largely descriptive Hallidayean theories in English as a Second Language, ESL situations What makes these theoretical inadequacies not spelt out is that the authors have not gone into the description of the many models available for use.


They have instead described elements of the language and the communication process themselves using a chosen model. The rigid and prescriptive nature of this model tends to make one presume that the authors would take it as far as specifying, for instance, steps to be taken in answering comprehension questions. While this may be a good guide for non-native language users, its restrictiveness might limit the expressive skills and ability of the said user.


The method used in the book however, calls the stated points “(some) tips and strategies to answering comprehension questions” (Okafor and Okafor, 2017, p.130). This reaffirms the fact earlier stated that the method applied in the book is relatively consistent, but since consistency is not adequacy, it is important that we address this issue. Okafor and Okafor’s method of handling the description of examples and exposition of concepts is clearly inadequate.


It is an advantage that both language and communication have almost exhaustively been addressed in the book, but the authors have not given non-native language users with only little or poor background in both fields enough to understand the book’s overall content. This problem starts with the table of contents. A book with 15 chapters discussing two clearly defined but interrelated concepts should be organised into two parts that may easily be titled: Language and Communication, respectively, where Part One has the first nine chapters and Part Two, the last six chapters.


Adding to this inadequacy of method is the consistent introduction of exercises for students to test themselves after studying each sub-topic in the book. While it is understandable that the authors have done this to avail students and other readers of a large number of exercises, it should be noted that students would because of it, be prone to inconsistency of thought and unwanted breaks in study.


Lastly, the causal relationship between an inconsistent theoretical background and an inadequate method is that the authors have largely borrowed from other authors who, as it would turn out, probably have opposing theoretical inclinations to that of Okafor & Okafor (2017). For instance, with irregular differences, sections under the functions of human language, the process of communication, and consonant sounds are almost direct writings from Adetutu & Akinyode (2008a; 2008b).


The last chapter, Fifteen on report writing is in fact culled from Adetutu & Akinyode (2008b). While most of these large chunks are referenced, it allows for inconsistency in the authors’ thoughts. This book is a primarily traditional approach to the teaching of the use of English and communication. The advantage of TG as a model that states definitive rules for the effective use of language and its practical result – communication – makes the book comprehensible to its target readers. In summary, the text, though theoretically and methodically defective, has in the overall, employed a style that is functionally effective in achieving the purpose of teaching at least the basics of language and communication.

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