How hard is pidgin english?

I have no plans to learn it any time soon, but I just watched a video on pidgin english spoken in Nigeria and I couldn’t understand a word of it. I really think Africa is going to take a very interesting place in the world soon, especially Nigeria. I think I’d like to learn it eventually since it is so widely spoken. I was wondering how difficult this pidgin is to learn compared to other languages? Is the complete lack of understanding only surface level and it’s easier once you start? I can understand more French at this point than this pidgin language. I’m interested in knowing how much work it’d take.

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I had not heard of it before, so I had to go look it up, out of curiosity. I watched a video of a man speaking to three women who speak pidgin. It reminds me of Jamaican English, which is both a strong accent and its own dialect. Speaking without the dialect (just the accent), they are understandable. And I think if they had the dialect but with a more American or British accent, a lot more of what they are saying would be understandable. But as it was, I only got some words here and there. (I’m from the South, so I’m used to English words that have morphed into something else, like my grandmother says “warsh” instead of “wash” and my stepfather says Ca’lina instead of Carolina. Also, a few African linguistic patterns transferred into the Southern dialect which is why sometimes we phrase things differently than the rest of America would.)

I think this would be a Level 1 language to learn, as in the most like English, and therefore the easiest to learn. In the video I watched, they were clearly saying things in English, like “good morning” and “come in.” You would get used to the accent pretty quickly, so that would only leave learning the alternate words/slang. And the most unique words seemed to be for common things like eating, family, jobs, weather, etc. Small talk, in other words. If you were having a deep conversation about some topic, like economics or history, I think you would recognize most of the words as just regular English. It’s the casual, every day language that’s morphed the most. (That’s my impression with Jamaican, too.) So I don’t think there would be a lot of words to have to learn and they would be the ones that you would learn just by talking to people (or listening to them talk about themselves in a YouTube video).

The struggle would be finding enough material. Do you live somewhere where there is a Nigerian immigrant community? This seems more like a listening input exercise rather than learning by reading. (Do they even write in pidgen, or do they just write in standard English?)

In our German university, there are a lot of students from Nigeria and Cameroon. It sounds like a secret language altogether to an untrained ear. And to an outsider, they come across an uneducated bunch who could easily communicate well and sound educated just by using English. In order to understand and speak it well, you need to hang around with them 24/7. For my time I would rather invest it in learning something useful - be a different language or some other skillsets. Not for this pidgin English. If you give a presentation in pidgin English, you will get a straight zero by a German professor.

Thank you for your response. I’ve seen written pidgin but I don’t know if it is official. I don’t live near a Nigerian immigrant community but what you’re saying makes sense. I actually saw the exact same video and I understood the accented stuff but when they were talking to each other I lost them. I’m interested in learning it partially because I think it may be interesting to work in Nigeria at some point (in an office of a consulting firm) or work with folks from Nigeria (potentially for as suppliers for an unspecified company I plan to start as the region industrializes). I just think the region and people are interesting and becoming more important. It sounds like the common advice is just to be around them, though, so I guess I’ll just wait to see if I need it and if I do just listen. Thank you again.

I think you could probably pick it up pretty fast if you were immersed in it. I listened to some warri pidgin right now and I had to play it a couple times but I could get about a half to 3/4 of the words right off the bat. That’s just pronunciation. What’s probably killing you is a combination of the slang plus the pronunciation. Go to Scotland or Ireland you’ll experience the same thing and they’re not even speaking pidgin. But your brain will eventually knit it together. It’s still English under the hood even if they are pronouncing it wierdly and using a ton of splang.

This one depends on how hard you try to read it, but it can be easy given time and how you manage your studies as well. Nothing here is impossible that much if you try to put an effort with the way you attempt to learn it at the very least. This is why it is a big win too.