Language Barrier as a Challenge of Intercultural Communication

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Updated: Jul 04, 2022
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Modern academic environment is becoming increasingly multicultural, therefore higher educational faculty have the added responsibility to learn more about students’s cultural, educational, linguistic background. Since Englishes spoken in the classroom can vary greatly from Standard British English norms, it is essencial for educators to be aware of possible deviations in order to enhance communication and boost student achievement. The phonetic alterations in the Nigerian English are being discussed as the one widely represented in Ukraine. Key words: intercultural education, language barrier, phonetic alterations, linguistic background, a mother language influence 

 Ukrainian academic environment has been demonstrating an increased tendency for multiculturalism since foreign students were given an opportunity to study in Ukraine in 1994. Nowadays, more than sixty-six thousand students from 147 countries are enrolled here [1]. Yet, challenges caused by intercultural education appear to be the gap that has not been given the needed attention. The objective of the paper is to highlight the importance of higher educational faculty awareness of students’ cultural and linguistic background which is understood as the total of a person’s experience, knowledge, and education [4]. Traditionally, the range of multicultural issues faced by lecturers encompasses different learning styles, cultural diversity, non-verbal behavior, viewing historical and religious events from different perspectives, different educational experiences and expectations, language barrier. [6; 8] However, the latter mainly deals with the situation when a lecturer speaks a mother tongue while a student speaks a foreign language. In reality, neither lecturers nor the majority of international students speak English as a first language in Ukraine. 

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In other words, English has become a language of contact and a medium of instruction. In the Nigerian English example, we will reveal what challenges academics must be aware of before entering the classroom. Due to the distinctiveness they hold, the most striking to Ukrainian speakers of English phonetic characteristics of Nigerian English will be addressed. By now over five hundred and twenty-one languages spoken in Nigeria neither one has acquired a statues of the lingua franca [Cit. 5, p. 253]. It is only English that has grown into the nation’s official national language. Henry Hunjomaintains: “The English language in Nigeria has assumed the status of a second language considering its unique role. The language, apart from its status as the country’s lingua franca is the language of official communication, educational and political administration” [3, p. 52]. However, researchers state that, in the long process of ‘nativisation’ or indigenization of English in Nigeria, it has developed into a new form significantly different from Standard British English [Cit. 5: p. 253–254]. Accents and fluency is the first thing lecturers encounter in their classroom activity as there is a number of phonetic features which may lead to confusing and misunderstanding. Researchers maintain that the major concern is the substitution of consonant and vowel phonemes and omission of phonemes [7, p.21–22] . 

Primarily, these changes are attributed to mother tongue interference. Some examples are presented here. Consonant phonemes variations vary from one ingenious language of Nigeria to another. Victoria Udon states that some languages lack the phonemes /z/, so its speaker would substitute the unavailable phoneme with /s/. Similarly, the speakers of other languages substitute /f/ for /v/ and /s/ for /ts/. Breaking up of the English consonant clusters is a common practice among interlocutors of some Nigerian languages like Yoruba and Igbo [7, p. 21]. The dental fricatives /?/ and /?/ are invariably replaced by the alveolar plosives /t/ and /d/ respectively. From the data collected by Udon, the following words are mispronounced: path /pat/ then /den/ father /fadar/ they /dei/ theme /tim/ thank /tank/ thick /tik/ three /til/ [7, p. 34]. Vowel phoneme substitution. Most Nigerian languages do not have the vowels /æ/, /?/ and /?/. For instance, /æ/ is substituted for /?/; in a word like bitter / bit?/ , / ? /, is substituted by /?/ and /a/ is /?/. British Received pronunciation /?: / is replaced sometimes by / ?: / as in /w ?:st/ for Received pronunciation /w? :st/ or /e/ as in fest/. [7, p. 21]. 

Omission of the glottal fricative /h/ when it occurs at the initial positions. Thus, they pronounce the following words as follows: Helicopter /elikppt?/ Happy /æpi/ heat /i:t/ hot /ot/ [7, p. 34]. Insertion the glottal fricative /h/ where it is not required: enough /hin?f/ hour /haur/ honour /ho:ne/ eye /hai/ Another interesting phonetic feature is violation of reading norms. Nigerians say the word the way they it is written: whistle /wistil/ [7, p. 34]. Coming back to an issue of intercultural education, it is highly important to remember that education is a double-sided process, i.e. educators learn from students just as well as those learn from them. “Teachers who learn more about their students’ backgrounds, cultures, and experiences will feel more capable and efficient in their work as teachers. Teachers should work continuously to improve the lives of their students” [9], whereas ignoring the linguistic peculiarities of students’ English may lead to language barriers bolstering and become a reason for significant incomprehension. 


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  3. Udoh V. Ch. Linguistic Features of The Language of The Nigeria Police Force, Onitsha [Electronic resource] / V.Ch. Udoh : MA paper ; Department of English And Literary Studies, University ?f Nigeria. – Nsukka, 2010. – Mode of access: – Date of access: 28.01.2019. 
  4.  Veinhardt J. The Attitude of Students of Different Cultures to Barriers to Learning in Foreign Higher Education Institutions: Case of Lithuania and Pakistan [Electronic resource] / J. Veinhardt, A. Rizwan, E. Stonkute. – Mode of access: – Date of access: 28.01.2019. 
  5. White Teachers, Diverse Classrooms: Creating Inclusive Schools, Building on Students’ Diversity, and Providing True Educational Equity / Ed. by J. Landsmann and Ch. W. Lewis. – Stylus Publishing. 2011. – 384p.                                         

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Language Barrier As a Challenge of Intercultural Communication. (2022, Jul 04). Retrieved from