Assessing the Importance of Reading Comprehension Skill to the EFL Learners
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Reading in a foreign language is considered one of the most challenging and difficult tasks that most EFL learners face. Due to the complexity of the skill, many students stay without reading for the fear of not being able to achieve comprehension. This explains why these students do not take English reading seriously as they cannot read other materials like magazines, storybooks, and other reading materials out of school milieu, that is, reading for pleasure which greatly improves the students’ reading skills. For this reason, the main purpose of this research is to make the learners aware of the fact that English reading is a very important skill to them, given that English is a global language that can be used for Business and for professional reasons. This work consists of 5 chapters.
Chapter 1 introduces and establishes the topic focus, the linguistic background of the study, reading as a language skill, it highlights the problems in the field of study, outlines the objectives, and discusses the significance of the study.
Chapter 2 describes the review of previous literature which includes the definition of reading by various authors, the purpose of reading, types of reading, problems students face while reading. It also points out the theoretical and conceptual frameworks.
Chapter 3discusses the methods of data collection and analysis, the instruments used are a questionnaire, interview, observation, and proficiency test. It also presents the sampling plan, the research questions, and research hypotheses. Chapter 4 presents the results and analyses the data collected from the field. While chapter 5 presents the discussion of findings, makes recommendations for improving the reading skills of students, and a general conclusion.
In the last few decades, English has emerged as the pre-eminent language for international communication. It is spoken by many people around the world than any other language and is regularly described as the truly ‘global’ language. The English language has four components, that is, Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. Reading being the most important of the four language skills is as well important to the EFL learners. At University, these learners always have many different materials such as textbooks, articles, and stories. Reading is more beneficial to the EFL learners during studies because it enables them to acquire many things about the language and understanding different subject areas. For these reasons, it is more important for EFL learners to have not only the ability to read different text materials but also the ability to understand what they read. So, EFL learners need to achieve comprehension in reading through applying appropriate and effective reading strategies.
Linguistic Background to the Study
The two official languages English and French came into the Cameroon scene in 1961 when Britain and France shared Cameroon into two unequal parts after defeating German forces in the country. The new colonial masters then sought to impose their languages in the newly acquired territory both in the areas of education and administration. This led to the solid foundation of the two languages during the colonial era, a situation that was later reinforced after Cameroon became independent. At reunification in 1961, English and French became the two official languages of Cameroon as the country opted for the official language bilingualism. The English language is a foreign language to the French Cameroonian who studies French as a second language, while French is a foreign language to the English as second language learners. Even though English and French may be the first language of some Cameroonians, the fact remains that they cannot be as fluent as the native speakers of that language.
Reading as a Language Skill
In language learning, there are four skills learners need for complete communication. In the process of learning a language, we listen first, then to speak, to read, and finally to write. Among these skills, reading is the most important in acquiring a language. If language learners are good at reading, then they will be good at other language skills. Sometimes learners face difficulty in reading due to the fact that they lack motivation and because they read only books prescribed for them at school. Therefore they read because they want to be set for their achievement routine in exams not because they want to gain pleasure. As English has become a global language, it is important for learners of English to read books, articles, newspapers, and other documents that will enhance their vocabulary as well as expose them to the world at large.
Back Ground To The Study
Reading is one of the four language skills taught in the English language learning process besides listening, speaking, and writing. However, among all these language skills, reading is considered the most important skill. For people to say that they master language, they must have to master the four basic language skills. Reading is the most readily available form of comprehensible input especially in places where there is hardly any contact with the target language. The only reliable way to learn a language is through massive and repeated exposure to it in context.
It is important to know that reading is of great importance to the EFL learners to master as it is widely recognized. Anderson (2003a) stated that the mastery of reading skills could help the EFL learners achieve success not only in the English language but also in other content base classes where English reading proficiency is required. Reading has played a crucial role in the overall development of language skills and even in academic success for decades (Cochran, 1993). Reading skills help learners expand their knowledge in language, culture, and the world, learners can get more information that they need through reading different materials, such as magazines, newspapers, novels, books, journals, these strengthen reading skills. EFL learners will make greater progress and attain greater development in all academic areas.
Carrel (1988) observes that for EFL learners, reading is the most important of the four skills. Reading is seen as an important medium that helps learners not only to expand their vocabulary but also to improve their grammar. When learners read, they are introduced to a wider range of words and contexts in which the words are used. Through this, learners are exposed to a variety of vocabulary and expressions. It also helps in improving writing; there is a well-established link between reading and writing. Basically, the more you read, the better you write and the better you understand. Reading also creates and sustains motivation to read more. It is evident that students, who have good reading skills, do well in speaking and so have a good mastery of vocabulary and word recognition thereby pronouncing them well. It is noted that the reading skills among EFL learners have always been an issue. Nevertheless, it is good for them to know that reading is of great importance to them.
Statement of Problem
The importance of English language treading skills has reached a new height in the context of a globalized world. Between the 12th of February to the 11th of March 2016, students from the St. Jerome Catholic University institute Douala attended an immersion program under the oasis of the Faculty of Arts, University of Buea. Given that these students are French-speaking, it is necessary to see what progress they made in terms of skill and general proficiency. It is important to ascertain the amount of progress the students made during the one month course.
Aim of the Study
This research work is aimed at assessing the progress made by students of St. Jerome Catholic University in reading comprehension.
Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are to:
- Describe the language use of the students.
- Describe their reading comprehension skills at the end of the immersion program.
- Analyze the progress made in their overall proficiency scores.
- Analyze the implications of the findings for English language teaching.