ABSTRACT 51(85%) of the students considered avoiding content

 

ABSTRACT

Arabic
is the official language of Saudi Arabia. But English is continually gaining
ground as the language of instruction in higher institutions in the kingdom.
The need for English Language goes beyond educational needs. However, learners
of English Language in Saudi Arabia continually face problems in learning the
language. Paramount among the problems facing English Language learners is
English Language writing. This shows that the objectives of English Language in
the kingdom have not yet been achieved. This study was carried out to determine
the challenges faced by King Saud University (KSU) students in English Language
writing. Students were purposively selected for having English Language as
language of instruction for their course of study. A total of sixty (60)
students were randomly chosen in this category. Useful information for the
attainment of the objectives of this study were gathered through the use of a
questionnaire. Students answered questions which evaluated their own
performance in English Language Writing, their interest in the language, and
how important or unimportant they considered the language. The perception of
English Language Course teachers on the performance of students’ English
Language writing skills – spelling, punctuation and content were also gathered.
Data collected were analysed through the use of descriptive statistics. This
quantitative study revealed that students’ efforts albeit positive enough, did
not match teachers’ expectations. Even though students considered avoiding
spelling and punctuation errors to be important or very important – 45(75%) of
them attested to this, teachers believed that a total of 46 (77%) of the
students did not perform well enough. These differences were found to be even
greater in English Language Writing content. Even though 51(85%) of the
students considered avoiding content errors in English Language writing to be
important or very important; teachers believed that only 28(46.67%) performed
well enough. Only when such small units as grammar, vocabulary and punctuation
are considered can such complex structures like clarity, coherence and
paragraph be amended. This shows that more strategies have to be put in place
for teachers to consider students’ English Language writing proficiency at par
with their own expectation.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

 

 

INTRODUCTION

English
as a Second Language in Saudi Arabia

 Arabic is the official language of Saudi
Arabia. But English is continually gaining ground as the language of
instruction in higher institutions in the kingdom. This is due to the influence
of English language as the language of record for many disciplines in the
world. To learn science, accounts, engineering, medicine, business, computer,
commerce and technology, English Language is inevitable. Many course materials
are written in English. It thus becomes important for Graduate level students
to learn English language. It would help them in their study, in their
environment, and avail them of opportunities of work.

The
need for English language goes beyond educational needs. Its’ importance is
revealed in its being a prerequisite for many job positions. This is even more
so for engineering and medical fields. English Language is important when
graduate-level students travel beyond the kingdom. They would not be set back
by the lack of understanding of the language, denying them of work
opportunities. They would also be able to cope with their colleagues and
contribute to team work effectively. It is a window to the outside world;
especially, because English-speaking countries are numerous.

 

The
Status of English Language in the Kingdom

The
learning of English language in the Kingdom serves many purposes. It develops
Saudi students’ proficiency of the language. It lays the basis for students who
will find it a requirement in pursuing their courses of study (Khan, 2011). Learning
English Language provides students with knowledge of at least one international
language; more so, this language being English because of its importance in
many parts of the world, particularly regarding education. An additional
advantage is that students will be able to represent their culture beyond the
kingdom.

Because
of the increase in globalisation, most gulf countries have adopted a foreign
language. In many cases, this language is English, because of its importance in
education and other fields. And many adopt it from Kindergarten onwards. This
is done with the hope that students would be able to study required courses in
English in the university (Al Othman & Shuqair, 2013). Teaching English as
a Foreign Language (TEFL) was originally designed in 1999 in the Department of
English in the Saudi Educational Directorate of Curriculum in Saudi Arabia. Teaching
English from Grade 6 onwards was mandated in 2003 to eliminate communication
barriers with other nations and increase the possibility of co-operation (Al-Zayid,
2012; Ur Rahman and Alhaisoni, 2013). The goal of this
curriculum was to focus on the four language skills: listening, speaking,
reading and writing. The government plays an important role in designing the
curriculum and providing textbooks for learning of English language in Saudi
Arabia. Parents are also willing to pay higher fees and sacrifice time to
ensure students attain proficiency of the language. Still, the development of
actual English Language skills remains an ardous task (Alhmadi, 2014).

 

English
Language Writing Skills

Saudi
learners of English Language communicate in Arabic at home. Ultimately, several
challenges are faced when they learn English Language. Learners acquire the
language through the four language learning skills: listening, speaking,
reading and writing.

Listening:
Listening is the first skill acquired in any language. It is a receptive skill,
or a passive skill. It requires the learner’s attention. It is one of the first
two necessary skills required to acquire language.

Speaking:
Speaking is the second language learning skill to be perfected. It is known as
a productive or active skill. For words and sentences to be produced, the
student must comprehend the language.

Reading:
Reading is the third language skill. It is a receptive or passive skill. It
requires the use of eyes and brains for comprehension.

Writing:
As with reading, it is a productive skill. It requires the
use of hands and brains to produce written symbols that represent the spoken
language.

All
language learners need all the four skills. Acquiring English Language remains
a major problem among learners. It is an indication that the objectives of
English Language in the kingdom have not yet been achieved (Al-Naseer, 2015).
Paramount among these problems is English Language writing. For learners, it is
more difficult to learn English Language writing because it is one of the productive
skills of the language. Although teaching English is mandated from Grade
6 onwards, it still remains a problem even at the university level. To solve
this problem, universities institute a language unit to enhance English
Language learning among students. As with other universities, in King Saud
University, English Language support at all levels is provided by the languages
unit. This is of essence because English Language is required for academic
writing in certain courses, test and exams. It is non-evitable.

 

English Language Writing Challenges

Traditionally,
reading and writing of English Language as a second language is taught
separately from each other. However, some experts have argued that reading and
writing are clearly connected and should be taught together. In Saudi Arabia,
English is studied from Class 6 to the university level (Ur Rahman and
Alhaisoni, 2013). Still, one of the challenges learners
of English Language face is time constraints. Six to eighteen year-old students
are not exposed to sufficient amount of learning time for English language
(Alhmadi, 2014). This affects their proficiency in English Language writing. Consequently,
this creates problems in their foundation year in the university (Wang, 2011).

Academic writing
requires students to have the capability to gather information, summarize and
organise ideas in a logical manner (Ankawi, 2015). To do this, students need to
master the language first – punctuation, grammar, vocabulary and structure. A
good knowledge of vocabulary, writing style and effective content arrangement
are important. Learners of second language encounter problems in expressing
their ideas effectively. Some studies suggest that this problem arises because
of students’ lack of practice of English Language writing skill (Ankawi, 2015).

The social and
cultural background of students can also be a factor. Arabic is the official
language of the Kingdom. It is the medium of communication in students’ homes.
Saudi students get to hear little spoken English (Al- Seghayer, 2014). Cultural difference signifies a big
difference in the way thoughts are expressed (Bacha, 2010).

Apart from sociological
differences, students also encounter difficulties with grammar and structure of
the language.

–         
Difficulties with grammar: The
grammar rules are in English and Arabic are different (Sayidina, 2010). All
words in Arabic follow the pattern of being compiled using at least 3
consonants as well as vowels. While vowels are visible in English Language, it
is not visible in Arabic. Therefore, Saudi students often omit it in English Language
writing; this tendency is called ‘vowel blindness’ (Khan, 2013).

–         
Difficulty with different
structures of language: Arabic and English Languages differ in writing styles.
Arabic tends to have more metaphoric phrases and lengthier sentences (Fadda,
2012). Apart from learning new alphabets, the concepts of nouns, verbs, tenses,
and so on are different. Writing is also in a different direction – Arabic
Language is written from right to left while English is written in the opposite
direction.

–         
Also, many teachers of
English Language in Saudi Arabia are themselves non-native speakers. Many are
from Pakistan, Malaysia, India, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Many are produced by
similar educational systems. They can only pass on limited knowledge of the
language to students.

 

METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY

This
study was carried out to determine the challenges faced by King Saud University
(KSU) students in English Language writing. The following details the study
group, sampling technique, data collection method and data analysis. A quantitative
approach was used.

Study
Group

The
study was primarily carried out on KSU students who require English Language as
a medium of instruction in their studies. These students all graduated from
Saudi Arabian high schools, and have never studied in a foreign country.

Sampling
technique and Sample size

The
sample population consisted of KSU students who require English Language as the
language of instruction in their courses of study.  So, students were purposively selected for
having English Language as the requirement for their courses of study. Then, random
sampling method was used to select a total number of sixty (60) students in
this category. Hence, the total number of students who participated in this
study was 60. Sample size, n = sixty (60).

Data
Collection Method

Useful
information for the attainment of the objectives of this study were gathered
through the use of a questionnaire. Students answered questions which evaluated
their own performance in English Language Writing, their interest in the
language, and how important or unimportant they considered the language. Questions
also evaluated perception of English Language students’ performance in writing
– grammar, spelling, content, and so on.

The
perception of English Language Course teachers were also gathered to ensure a
balanced information collection process. Teachers graded the adequacy of
English Language students in spelling, punctuation and content. This sheds more
light on the expectation of teachers. And would ultimately, help students
improve their performance, to bring them at par with English course teacher’s
expectations.

 

Data
Analysis

The
information gathered were recorded. Data collected were analysed through the
use of descriptive statistics. The data were analysed using Statistical Package
for Social Sciences (SPSS) V.16.0. The results are presented in frequencies and
percentages. Students’ responses were compared to the responses of teachers.
Students’ perceived importance of the English Language course and their efforts
were compared to the expectations of English Language Course teachers.

 

RESULTS
AND DISCUSSION

The
following were the responses of students to questions asked about their own
performance in English Language Writing skills, their interest in the language,
and how important or unimportant they considered the language. Other responses
detailed the performance of students in English Language writing – grammar, spelling
and content.

 

Students’
English Language Skills

A high percentage – 35 (58.3%) – just
over half the population considered themselves to have average English Language
skills. None, 0(0%) considered themselves to have excellent English Language
skills. Still, a few considered themselves to have low English Language skills 21(35%)
– more low, than very low. This shows that efforts should be put to improve English
Language skills of students. Four (6.67%) considered themselves to be
proficient enough. Ultimately, only half of the students considered their
performance to be average; a very small percentage (6.67) considered themselves
to be proficient enough in English Language skills. This shows that more efforts
are required to improve English Language skills of students.  Such improvements will result in more
confidence in students regarding their English proficiency.

 

Table
1:          Students’ English Language
skills

 

Frequency (%)

Very low

6 (10%)

Low

15 (25%)

Average

35 (58.3%)

High

4 (6.67%)

Very high

0 (0%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

 

Students’
English Language Writing Skills

When
English language writing skill was particularly considered, the results got
even lower. The number of students who considered themselves to possess average
English Language writing skills were only 23%. The majority, half (50%)
considered themselves to be low in English writing skill. Further, 12(20%)
considered their English Language writing skill to be very low. And only 4
considered themselves to have high English Language writing skills.

 

Table
2:          Students’ English Language
writing skills

 

Frequency (%)

Very low

12(20%)

Low

30(25%)

Average

14(23.3%)

High

4(6.67%)

Very high

0(0%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

 

Student’s
Interest in English Language

The love for English language was
considered to determine students’ interest levels or change of interest in the
language. Many, 38(63.3%) proclaimed that they did not like English at first,
but they came to like it later. This interest could have been developed because
they continually realized the importance of the language. Twelve (20%) said
they liked it right from the start to the end. Still, 4(6.67) said they liked
it in the beginning but came to dislike it later.  This interest in the beginning could have
waned because they considered the language more difficult as they advanced in
English Language. Two (3.3%) claimed not to like it at all, neither in the
beginning nor at the end. 4(6.67%) were indecisive.

 

Table
3:          Students’ interest in English
Language

 

Frequency (%)

I liked English Language from
the start.

12 (20%)

I liked English Language first,
but came to dislike it later.

4 (6.67%)

I did not like English Language
first, but came to like it later.

38 (63.3%)

I did not like English from the
start to the end.

2 (3.3%)

I don’t know if I liked it or
not

4 (6.67%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

 

Students’
English Language Writing Errors

When asked how important it is to avoid
few errors in English Language writing, the following results were revealed. Thirty-two
(53.3%) affirmed that avoiding errors is important. In fact, an additional 14
(23.3%) considered it to be very important. Only 4(6.67%) considered it to be
unimportant. And 10 (16.67%) were indecisive. Summarily, a high percentage of
the students (77%) considered avoiding errors to be important. This means they
hold it at a high status. This could lead to an overall improvement in English
Language writing among English Language learners.

 

Table
4:          Students’ English Language
writing errors  

 

Frequency (%)

Not important at all

0 (0%)

Not important

4 (6.67%)

Neither

10 (16.67%)

Important

32 (53.3%)

Very important

14 (23.3%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

 

Students’
Spelling and Punctuation Errors

When students were asked whether
they prefer English teachers to point out their spelling errors, they responded
thus: Twenty-nine (48.3%) considered it important. Sixteen (26.7%) even
considered it very important. Five (8.3%) considered it to be unimportant. One (1.67%)
considered it to be absolutely unimportant. Nine (15%) were indecisive. The
results were similar for students’ punctuation errors. The results revealed
that a higher percentage of the students considered avoiding spelling and
punctuation errors to be important, 29 (48.3%) and very important 16 (26.67%).

 

Table
5:          Students’ Spelling and
Punctuation Errors

 

Frequency (%)

Not important at all

1 (1.67%)

Not important

5 (8.3%)

Neither

9 (15%)

Important

29 (48.3%)

Very important

16 (26.67%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

When
English Language students’ performance in spelling and punctuation were graded
by teachers, only 7(12%) of the results were considered adequate. Twenty-six (43%)
of the students were considered to have performed inadequately. And a third, 20(33.3%)
of the results were considered weak. Only 5(8.3%) of the results were good
enough. And 2(3.3%) of the students performed excellently in spelling and punctuation.

Even
though students considered avoiding spelling and punctuation errors to be
important or very important – 45(75%) of them attested to this, teachers
believed that a total of 46 (77%) of the students were inadequate or weak in
their performance. This disparity shows that improvement strategies are required
in order to enhance students’ performance in these aspects.

Table 6:          Teachers’ perception of student performance in English
spelling and Punctuation

 

Frequency (%)

Weak

20 (33.3%)

Inadequate

26 (43.3%)

Adequate

7 (11.67%)

Good

5 (8.3%)

Excellent

2 (3.3%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

 

Student
Content Errors

When students were asked how they
viewed content errors in English Language, the results were slightly different.
Thirty-one (51.67%) considered avoiding content errors in English Language
writing to be important. Twenty (33.3%) even considered it to be very
important. Four (6.67%) considered it to be unimportant, and 1(1.67%)
considered it to be absolutely unimportant. The remaining 4(6.67%) were
indecisive. This means that majority of the students held avoiding content
errors in English Language writing in a high esteem.

 

Table
7: Student content errors      

 

Frequency (%)

Not important at all

1 (1.67%)

Not important

4 (6.67%)

Neither

4 (6.67%)

Important

31 (51.67%)

Very important

20 (33.3%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

For
teachers’ perception on organisation of content by students – clarity,
coherence and arrangement of paragraphs, 14(23.3%) of the students were
considered to have performed adequately. Twenty (36.67%) of the results were
considered inadequate. Ten (16.67%) of the results were considered to be weak.
But 14(23.3%) of the results were good enough.

Even
though 31(51.67%) and 20(33.3%) of the students considered avoiding content
errors in English Language writing to be important and unimportant,
respectively; teachers believed that only 14(23.3%) and 14(23.3%) of the
students were adequate or good enough, respectively, in their performance. This
disparity shows that improvement strategies are required in order to enhance
students’ performance in these aspects.

Table
8:          Teacher’s perception of
student performance in organization of content

 

Frequency (%)

Weak

10 (16.67%)

Inadequate

22 (36.67%)

Adequate

14 (23.3%)

Good

14 (23.3%)

Excellent

0 (0%)

Total

60 (100%)

Source:
Field Survey, 2017

 

The
Focus of English Language Education in Students’ High School

The
following statistics were recorded for what students considered to be
the focus of English Language course study in their various high schools.

According to this multiple-choice result,
the four aspects of English Language which were focused on in high schools were
reading, writing and grammar and vocabulary. These show that writing of English
Language writing is considered important, albeit being considered less
important than reading and grammar.

 

Table
9:          The Focus of English Language
Education in Students’ High School

 

Total participant (60)
Frequency (%)

Total boxes ticked (207)
Frequency (%)

Listening

10 (16.67%)

10 (4.83%)

Speaking

10 (16.67%)

10 (4.83%)

Reading

50 (83.3%)

50 (24.16%)

Writing

40 (66.67%)

40 (19.32%)

Grammar

55 (91.67%)

55 (26.57%)

Vocabulary

40 (66.67%)

40 (19.32%)

Others

2 (3.33%)

2 (1%)

Total

207 (100%)

 

 

CONCLUSION

This
quantitative study revealed that students’ effort albeit positive enough, did
not match teachers’ expectations. This shows that more strategies have to be put
in place for teachers to consider students’ English Language writing proficiency
at par with their own expectation. The differences in spelling and punctuation
were found to be substantial.  They were
found to be even greater in English Language Writing content. Only when such
small units as grammar, vocabulary and punctuation are considered can such
complex structures like clarity, coherence and paragraph be amended.