Assessing the Grammar and Vocabulary Mastery of EFL Learners. The Case of Saint Jerome Catholic University Immersion Students in the University of Buea
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Nowadays, it is undeniable that English has played an increasingly important role as the medium of communication among people from different countries (Somsai and Intarapsert, 2011). Thus, English skills have become essential for students and businesses all over the world as it is the global language for the dissemination of academic knowledge and it helps transform the educational experience of countless students (Akkakoson 2012). English therefore, is not only a subject studied in the classroom but also a medium for social and practical use (Foley, 2005). Learners of English as a foreign language usually encounter problems or difficulties in learning English. Non-English major students have less exposure to English than do students majoring in English. Nyikos and Fan (2007) say that despite more or less regular use of the language both inside and outside the classroom setting, they still encounter problems in their learning and they generally see the limitation of vocabulary knowledge as the first problem to overcome. Saint Jerome University College in Douala, Cameroon is an apt environment that can reveal to us these claims. The problems of learning the English language always lie at the level of grammar and vocabulary. Mastering grammar and vocabulary is one of the most challenging tasks that any learner faces while acquiring another language. Wilkins (1972) stated that without grammar, very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed.
Linguistic Background of Cameroon
The two official languages, English and French came into the Cameroon scene in 1916 when Britain and France shared Cameroon into two unequal parts after defeating the German forces in the country. The newly colonial masters sought to impose their languages in the newly required territory both in the area of education and administration. This led to the sole implantation of two languages during the colonial era, French • as implemented in the section under Frances influence which was the eastern part of Cameroon. Britain equally implemented the English language in the western part of Cameroon. This situation was later reinforced after Cameroon became independent. At reunification of 1961, English and French became the two official languages in Cameroon as the country opted for the policy of official language bilingualism. The English language is a foreign language to the French Cameroonians study French as a second language, while French is the second language to Cameroonians studying English as a second language. Even though English and French may be the first language of some Cameroonians, it is clear that they cannot be fluent as the native speakers of the language.
Background to Vocabulary and Grammar
The knowledge of grammar and vocabulary learning strategies are necessary for language teaching and learning. According to Soureshjani (2011), words are extremely important in language learning because they are the basic building blocks of language and they are units of measuring from which larger structures of language such as sentences, paragraphs, and whole-text are formed. He further explains that lexical problems frequently interfere with language learning. That is language knowledge can be obstructed when learners lack vocabulary knowledge. Therefore, there is an increase in interest in vocabulary knowledge as an important element of language learning.
An English teacher is often portrayed as an unattractive grammar monger whose only pleasure is to point out the faults of others (Baron, 1982. 226). Students always feel uncomfortable when the teacher introduces grammar lessons in class. This is because EFL learner always -cr grammar to be an impediment to their language learning. Previous rudies on students and teachers attitude and perception of grammar instruction in the context of language teaching and learning suggest a disparity between students and teachers (Brindley, 1984). While students favour formal and explicit grammar instruction and error correction, teachers favour communication activities with a less conscious focus on grammar (kumara and Vadivelu 1991, Leki 1995, Schaltz 1996, 2001, Spratt 1999). There are, however, many types of difficulties faced by students and teachers with regards to grammar instructions in an EFL context. Identifying these difficulties and providing attempted solutions to them will help the teachers and students improve in teaching and learning respectively.
A Brief Background of the University of Buea and Saint Jerome Catholic University College
The University of Buea is one among the eight state universities in Cameroon. This University and the University of Bamenda are the only two Anglo-Saxon universities in the country. The University of Buea started off boldly in May 1993 with 768 students enrolled in the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI) and the following three faculties: The Faculty of Arts with degree programmes in English, English and French, and History; The Faculty of Science with programmes in Chemistry, Life Sciences, Geology, Physics and Mathematics. The Faculty of Social and Management Sciences with programmes in Economics, Law and Geography. Subsequently, there are over ten establishments in the University of Buea. Because of the Anglo-Saxon nature, English is the language of instruction of this institution. As a result, English is considered a second language to language for students.
Saint Jerome Catholic University is found in Douala, the littoral region of Cameroon. Because of the francophone nature of education, students in this University study English as a foreign language. This institution stated an immersion programme with the University of Buea in the 2015-2016 academic year with 83 students. The programme lasted for a month.it started on the 11 of February and ended on the 11 of the match.
Statement of the Problem
It has been observed that learners of English as a foreign language always have a poor mastery of grammar and vocabulary. As such, there face difficulties in their study of the language. Some Cameroonian researchers like Fontem (2015) have supported this claim in their works by placing emphasis on grammar and vocabulary. This weakness of a poor mastery of grammar and vocabulary of this language has always been attributed to the linguistic background of the learners by some researchers. Some EFL students complain that the grammar and vocabulary of the English language are very difficult to learn as compared to other languages like French for instance.
As a result, they make little progress during instruction especially when they do not have the opportunity to use the language often. Students who attended the Saint Jerome immersion programme for one month had the opportunity to study grammar and vocabulary in an integrated manner. It is important to see how much progress they made, and what the obstacles they encountered were.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the Vocabulary and Grammar mastery of these students and some obstacles there face in learning Grammar and Vocabulary.
Objectives of the study
The objectives of this study are as follows:
* To describe the difficulties faced by EFL learners in the grammar and vocabulary of English language.
- To assess whether the linguistic background of these students affects their learning of English grammar and vocabulary.
- To assess if the students use the grammar-translation methods to learn English grammar and vocabulary.