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The BBC Started A Pidgin Language Service And Nigerian Twitter Is Lit Over It

BBC is the first international broadcaster to use a language spoken by millions in West Africa.

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On Monday, BBC World Service launched a Pidgin service, unveiling a website and radio bulletins that will run entirely in the lingua franca spoken across West Africa.

🙌🏿 "We don land gidigba!' (We've finally arrived!)🎉 Meet the team behind BBC Pidgin, launching tomorrow… https://t.co/Bq0B8JgEJ8

It's the BBC's biggest expansion in 40 years, and means the broadcaster will join the ranks of local stations that already reach audiences of millions through speaking Pidgin — a mashup of English, Portuguese, and a bunch of local languages.

"Pidgin is the language spoken among so many people across West and Central Africa and for the first time we will be connecting with the next generation of speakers. Pidgin is the common thread in the region,” BBC editor Bilkisu Labaran said.

So what does that mean? That a slice of West Africa will now be available on every doorstep.

@BBCAfrica @NonnyUzo All the Nigerians memes will mean so much more now lol

Nigerian Pidgin first emerged almost 600 years ago as a means of communicating with European traders along Nigeria's southern shores. Borrowing from English, Portuguese, and Nigeria's 500-odd languages, Pidgin deftly weaves all of them together and mashes in playful imagery. The result is a language spoken by an estimated 75 million people in Africa's most populous country, cutting across social, ethnic, and generational divides.

People welcomed the news, taking to Twitter to celebrate — in Pidgin, naturally.

@BBCAfrica @afalli Una welcome @BBCAfrica , noting better pass dan say person hear tory for him own language. May y… https://t.co/qDEKwgT7FR

"Welcome @BBCAfrica, there's nothing better than hearing a story in your own language. May your town crier reach every village square!"

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Everything just sounds ~better~ in Pidgin.

FYI I would pay GOOD MONEY for someone to make a bot that translated all of Trump's tweets into Pidgin? ie the only way to make him readable

And folks agreed that hearing news in Pidgin's colorful vernacular makes depressing news less depressing.

Okay but BBC pidgin is the only way to read news from now on https://t.co/V5TKsaTu0i

"A good example is when the word 'died' is replaced with 'delete'. When used in a sentence, we have something like 'the man don delete', meaning 'the man has died,'" Nigerian blogger Uduak Ubak told Agence France-Presse.

Others said they hoped presenters would also speak Pidgin from other countries, like nearby Sierra Leone's Krio, and variants in Ghana and Liberia.

@BBCAfrica @BBCRosAtkins I like the initiative but that's just Nigerian pidgin only. Every part of Africa speaks pi… https://t.co/GYJDHEBmKd

Even within each country, there are different dialects of Pidgin. So, of course, people came out to lobby for their particular version.

@BBCAfrica Sweet ! Make sure say na Warri pidgin .

Linguists in Nigeria have already set up a school called the Naija Languej Akademi, and hope to create the first reference guide for Pidgin English, including an alphabet and comprehensive dictionary.

The show's producers say they're expecting lively debate — a lack of standardization keeps Pidgin exciting and constantly evolving.

@BBCAfrica BBC,una welkom. Man don go look una website sha & e be laik say na Oyibo una take write dat wan. De word… https://t.co/iXWumsRU3c

"Welcome, BBC. I've looked at your website and it's like it was written by a foreigner. It's closer to English than Pidgin," a well-known Nigerian blogger tweeted from the handle @Beegeaglesblog, arguing that true Pidgin would use fewer English words.

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There were, as always, a few naysayers. Like this person, repeating a not uncommon argument that Pidgin isn't "proper."

@BBCAfrica #English is the relevant language one does not build a house from the roof dont let bbc mislead you

But most speakers are proud of their Pidgin heritage.

@BBCAfrica This is great news but NO! Pidgin is already in Africa,dont start by saying it is coming 2 Africa.Its 20… https://t.co/Gcvh3BOxyH

@BBCAfrica @ekowdb For me, it's one big move for decolonization; we are taking what the west gave us and making it our own. Kudos AFRICA

Some were particularly delighted that longtime BBC presenter John Humphrys would no longer be the voice they turned to for news.

SUPER EXCITED ABOUT BBC PIDGIN! 75 million speakers hearing the BBC in their language! Do NOT want John Humphries'… https://t.co/14aWQwCpRd

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And the love came from all corners of Africa.

@BBCAfrica No wahala..... Even us in Uganda we go watch ooooo

BBC pidgin is such a cool idea. Gbosa!!! 👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾

Some people felt the news even eclipsed the eclipse.

The eclipse is cool and all but BBC Pidgin is the greatest thing I've seen all day https://t.co/lSwsJYzepq

Congratulobia, BBC Pidgin!

Well done to @BBCAfrica for creating the BBC #Pidgin digital service for West Africa audiences… https://t.co/WDWqIqS9BJ

Monica Mark is the West Africa Correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Dakar, Senegal.

Contact Monica Mark at monica.mark@buzzfeed.com.

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