Some Difficulties Encountered in Written English: The Case of 500 Level Bilingual Students of the University of Buea

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Qualitative research
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Descriptive statistics
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This work set out to identify some Difficulties Encountered in Written English: The case study was 500 level, bilingual students, in the Department of Bilingual Studies at the University of Buea.

Data was collected through an essay given to students and 15 scripts were selected among those scripts.

The result revealed that bilingual students have difficulties in written English in the following aspects: Mechanical accuracy errors that comprise of capitalization especially at the level of lexical or content words in titles, difficulties in the capitalization of proper nouns and proper adjectives; the students also have difficulties in punctuation especially in using semicolons, colons, dashes, and commas; they had difficulties in tenses principally on the use of past tense.

The result also revealed that bilingual students had difficulties in sentence construction especially fragments, comma splices, and run-on sentences.

Finally, this work revealed that bilingual students had difficulties in vocabulary expressions principally on the use of the plural marker (s),(ies) in proper nouns and proper adjectives, the present and past participle (ing), (ed) in verb form endings; they also had difficulties in demonstrative pronouns and wrong vocabulary expressions. As such, a sum total of all these errors show that 500 bilingual students faced difficulties in written English, thereby hindering their successes in the university.

This work recommends that teachers should intensify their strategies in teaching these areas of difficulties that students faces in written English., This will be possible if serious correction of assignments is done.



English is one of the learned languages in the world today. Crystal (1965) stated that English is spoken by about 400 million people and 380 thousand people learned it as a second language, and since the inception of English, many countries have included the English language into their school curriculums. This is because English is a global language and it is the language used in media politics, commerce, and as a subject in schools. Johnson (2001,p.3) states that there are about a billion people in the world today learning English as a foreign language. Cameroon is one of the countries that have included English in the school syllabus.

Before the spread of English to the whole world and Cameroon in particular, there were other languages that were already in existence such as Fulfulde in the northern part of Cameroon and Mungaka in the western part of Cameroon leading to the concept of bilingualism. Bilingualism is defined as the use of at least two languages by an individual (ASHA, 2004). Celce- Murcia(2001,p.345) used the term bilingual to refer to an individual or a person who has age-appropriate language skills in two languages, though the nature and extent of skill in each language will vary to many individual and situational influence. As such, many people in Cameroon speak and write at least one or two languages (Mba, 2009) and he points out that the majority of Cameroonians are multilingual though in most cases they only write one or two of the languages they speak (p.553).

Background To The Study

Cameroon, a Central African country, was colonized by the Germans in 1884, but the Germans were ousted in 1918 after the First World War. Cameroon was ceded to Britain and France as a mandated territory under the League of Nations. They on their part divided the country into two, the French took the greater part of the country and the British the smaller part following the Simon-Milena agreement in 1919.The French instituted the teaching of the French language in their own subsystem of education while the British instituted the English language in their own part of the country. In 1961 the French part of Cameroon (French Cameroon) reunified with the British part of Cameroon (British Cameroon) with two official languages English and French thereby making it a bilingual country. This marriage led to what is known today as Anglophone and Francophone.

The Bilingual Situation Of Cameroonians

English and French are the two official languages in Cameroon that are taught both in the English subsystem of education and the French subsystem of education. These two languages are used in the media, politics, and commerce.

In Cameroon, it is commonly assumed that each citizen has a home language besides the two official languages-English and French. Many children in some communities speak two or more languages and most especially among children from the ethnic background (Tenjoh-Okwen, 1985, pp.18-20). There also exist indigenous languages in Cameroon, a lingua franca and a quasi¬pidgin English (Achimber, 2005)

In Cameroon, those who live in the Northern part speak Arabic, Fulfulde, Kanuri, and Hausa. Amd those who live in the central part of Cameroon speaks Beti, Bulu, Ewondo, and while those who live in the North Western part of the country speak Bamum, Ghomala, and Mungaka.

In the Anglophone subsystem of education, children are taught on how to read and write in English and French right up to Form five where they have to seat in for the General Certificate of Education (G C E). Beside these two official languages, the students still speak their mother tongue alongside pidgin.

But in the Francophone subsystem of education, it is the contrary. For instance, at the primary level, French is the main language and English is studied as a foreign language. Besides these two official languages, the Francophone learners have to learn any other language at the secondary school level. They either choose between German, Arabic, and Spanish. At the university level, francophone learners register to study subjects like mathematics, French language, English language, and some bilingual studies. In the same vein, there are also two hundred and seventy-nine (279) mother tongues and four languages reported to be out of existence (Grimes, 2000). These mother tongues are used by fourteen point seven (14.7) million people (UNCountry Report, 2001) giving an approximate average of 52oo speakers per language.

As a result, those who are doing bilingual studies at the University of Buea have a complicated linguistic background due to where they are coming from because of some of their local languages. Those students who are from the Francophone background have to study in English for the first three years, and in their final year, they study in French (Tagne Safotso, 2011). This also applies to their Anglophone counterparts who study in the French language for the first three years and in their final year they study in English.

Therefore, one can say that the linguistic background of bilingual students in Cameroonians has a lot of influence on their ability to write perfectly in English, this is either positively or negatively combined with their personal variables (Gardner and MacIntyre, 1992, 1993). And one of the things that the writer has to anticipate is the readers’ reactions and so produces a text which will adhere to Grice’s cooperative principle (1975). According to this principle, the writer is obligated (by mutual cooperation to fry and write a clear, relevant, truthful, informative, interesting, and memorable text.

Statement Of The Problem

It has been observed that many bilingual students face difficulties in written English. Some of these difficulties stem from their background and the influence of their mother tongue on their performances in written English. One of the main problems that they face is the level of punctuations, spellings, and sentences. Many students who are especially from the French background often say English is difficult, while those of their friends who are from the English subsystem also complains that French is difficult.

Ramies (1983,p. 13) said when students complain how difficult it is to write in a second language(or a foreign language like French students), they are talking not of the difficulty of finding the right words and using the correct grammar, but also about the difficulty of finding and expressing ideas in a new language. This is the case of bilingual students in Cameroon and the University of Buea in particular.

Therefore, this study is to identify some difficulties that 500 bilingual students at the University of Buea face and bring out some possible solutions to the problems.

Research Questions

Research questions are the questions that will quid the researcher concerning the problems and looking for ways to solve the difficulties. They are the questions the researcher seeks to answer at the end of his research.

>       What are the specific aspects in written English that act as hindrances to 500 level bilingual students in the University of Buea?

>       To what extent do these hindrances limit their success in the academic milieu?


The 500 level bilingual students in the University of Bùea face some problems in writing English.

Objectives Of The Study

>       The goal of this study is to identify some difficulties faced by level 500 bilingual students in the Department of Bilingual Studies at the University of Buea.

>       And to come up with possible solutions

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