Description of English Language Proficiency of Students in the University of Buea
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A language is a communication tool necessary to interact with others. The aim of this study was to describe the English language proficiency level of students at the University of Buea. This work described the various methods used in the study which contained and explained the following: the research design, the sample and sampling technique, the method of data collection and the method of data analysis.
This was accomplished through the use of quantitative data collection with the aid of a test. The works of other authors related to the study were reviewed under the variables of the study and some theoretical construct. The population of the study was the students in the University of Buea of the year 2008-2010.
The study identified and analyse the level of proficiency of students in English at the University of Buea. The findings revealed that the students of the Faculty of sciences are more performant than the other faculties and the boys performed better than the girls.
This chapter is titled general introduction and here, we will lay the foundation for the study by discussing the background to the study, the statement of the problem, Aim and objectives of the study, scope, significance of the study, research questions and hypotheses, limitation of study and definition of terms.
Background to the study
According to Crystal (1997), a language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognized in every country. This might seem like stating the obvious, but it is not for the notion of “special” role has many facets. English is a mother tongue, second language, foreign language and even a language for specific purposes to different people across the globe.
As early as 1780, John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and its second president commented that ” English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the last or French is in the present age” (Adams, 1852).
A language achieves a truly global status only when it develops a special role that is recognised in every country. Besides countries like the USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa which have English as a mother tongue, other countries such as Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, Luxembourg just to name these, use English where necessary.
The beginning of the 21st century has shown a renewed interest in language learning, in the domain of science, technology, research publications, journals, just to name a few. Studying
English as a second or foreign language helps students understand English grammar better and improve their overall communication and problem-solving skills. Beyond the intellectual benefits, knowledge of a foreign language facilitates travel, enhances carrier opportunities, and enables one to learn more about different people and cultures.
As Met and Galloway (1992), state, political and economic concerns play a major role in a nation’s perception of the value of learning English. This is to say that English has created an international relationship between countries, providing access to the cultural treasures of other countries, and opening up opportunities especially in business.
Met and Galloway (1992) also state that, there is an increasing acceptance of the role that multi-lingual’s can play in an increasingly diverse society, with emphasis on the academic, cognitive and other benefits they enjoy by knowing different languages, especially English.
Linguist and economists have admitted that monolingual English speakers will be disadvantaged in an increasingly globalized world as well as users of any single language. As English language proficiency becomes the basic must-have skill, those who speak a second or third language in addition to English will have a competitive edge (Graddal, 2006; Clyne, 2005).
Many companies require knowledge of a foreign language and applicants who are bilingual or multilingual, have more chances of getting the position. Also, knowledge of a second or foreign language can give people a competitive advantage in the workforce by opening up additional job opportunities (Villano, 1996). It can also be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience studying in a foreign country.
European students may enrol in Erasmus programs all over Europe due to their knowledge of a foreign language. Speaking a foreign language therefore provides additional opportunities for internship, research or service-learning abroad (Curtain and Dahlberg, 2006). Curtain and Dahlberg also state that advanced study of the literature, history, politics or culture of a particular country requires proficiency in a language.
Individuals who therefore speak and read more than one language have the ability to communicate with more people, read more literature and benefit more from travel to other countries. Then learning a second language helps improve memory, critical thinking and study skills. Hence, those who do not have English as their first language need it to be able to cope on the international stage and especially with education or academics (Bamford and Mizokawa, 1991).
According to Muriel Saville-Trolke (2006), a second language refers to both the study of individuals and groups who are learning their first one as young children and to the process of learning that language. The additional language is called a second language (L2), even though it may actually be the third, fourth or tenth to be acquired.
It is also commonly called a target language (TL) which refers to any language that is the aim or goal of learning. The scope of the second language includes informal L2 learning that takes place in naturalistic contexts, and formal L2 learning that takes place in classrooms, and L2 learning involves a mixture of these settings and circumstances.
For example “informal learning” happens when a child of Japan is brought to the US and “pick up” English in the course of playing and attending school with native English children speaking without any specialized language instruction, or when an adult Guatemalan immigrant in Canada leams English as a result of interacting with native English speakers or with co-workers who speak English as a second language. Formal learning occurs when a high school student in England takes a class in French when an undergraduate student in Russia takes a course in Arabic.
Atenchi (2015) observed that the republic of Cameroon is a multilingual country, comprising some 250 languages, two official languages (English and French), one lingual Franca (Cameroon Pidgin English). These official languages are the heritage of Franco-British rule in the country between the end of the First World War and independence Echu (2003).
This peculiar heterogeneous language situation does not facilitate linguistic communication in the sense that the multiplicity in indigenous languages helps to create little groups. These groups are made up of people with the same dialect, same culture. This could have constituted a major handicap to linguistic communication but the adoption of English and French and the development of the lingua franca solved this problem.
Also, it could have been difficult to control a country with such a multiplicity of languages thus the adoption of the language of the colonial masters (English and French). Moreover, the unequal distribution in the usage of English and French as official languages is also a cause for concern since it negatively affects the policy of official bilingualism.
Due to this inequality, there cannot be effective bilingualism because one language dominates the other leaving a negative impression in terms of official bilingualism. It is also important to note that there is the presence of two distinct educational subsystems where English and French are the languages of instruction. There is the francophone subsystem from nursery to the high school, and the Anglophone subsystem from nursery to also the high school.
But English is taught to the Anglophone from nursery to five as a compulsory course but at the A’ level, it becomes optional. To the Francophone, they have French as their main language of instruction but learn English from nursery up to high school as a class subject.
So far, the GCE Advanced Level and the Baccalaureate (the French equivalent) are also the two main entrance qualifications into institutions of higher learning or Universities. But after the GCE Advanced Level, and the Baccalaureate certificate, it is noticed that due to the different methods of evaluation, the francophone students are generally more prepared to affront bilingual education at the University than their Anglophone counterpart. Generally, the English students have to increase their efforts more emphases on learning the English language in order not to lag behind.
The University of Buea created on the 19th of January, 1993 is situated in the South West Region. It’s an Anglo-Saxon University and the courses are disposed of exclusively in English. In other words, English is the main language of instruction. In Cameroon an officially bilingual (French, English) country, English is taught at the University of Buea, one of the two English speaking Universities as a compulsory course for all students, irrespective of their major.
It should be noted that the University of Buea has many faculties and schools: the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Sciences, Faculty of social and management sciences, the Faculty of health sciences, College of Technology, Faculty of agriculture and technology engineering.
But the main faculty which focuses on language learning is the Faculty of Arts. For Anglophones to be admitted to the University of Buea, they should have the OTevel English, and for the francophone’s, the should go through the intensive English programme or take the University of Buea English language proficiency test compulsory to a student studying at the University of Buea.
Statement of the problem
According to Pop (2011), studying a second or foreign language from Kindergarten to University provides and individual with a better understanding of grammar which in turn will train him or her to clearly express their thoughts. It will also give them strong vocabulary skills and a broader perspective in their thinking.
Although English is the language of instruction at all levels of the Anglophone Cameroonian subsystem of education and also a subject of the curriculum, many students at the University of Buea still face difficulties using the English language in spite of the number of years they have spent learning the language. It is expected that Anglophones should have OTevel English before entering the University of Buea. And for the francophone’s, they must have to pass the English language proficiency test.
Moreover, at the University of Buea, there is an English course “the use of English” that the students must do unless those reading bilingual letters because, during their programme, they learn intensive English. The students, especially those in the Faculty of Arts still have difficulties expressing themselves despite the fact that they have been learning English for about ten years. Why then is their proficiency level’s still low?
The Aim of the study
The aim of this study is to describe the English language proficiency level of students of the University of Buea.
Objectives of the study
-To observe the performance of boys stating the trends.
-To find out the strengths or weaknesses of students of the different faculty of the University of Buea.
-To observe the performance of girls stating the trends.
- What is the performance of boys of the faculty of Arts as opposed to boys of other faculties?
- What is the performance of girls of the faculty of Arts as opposed to girls of other faculties?
- Are the students of the faculty of Arts strong or not?