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Environmental Barriers to the Learning of English Language

Environmental Barriers to the Learning of English Language in Public Secondary Schools in Ebonyi State of Nigeria: A Study of Ezza High School, Amuzu and Izzi High School Ishieke.

ABSTRACT

This research examined the environmental barriers to the learning of English language in public secondary schools in Ebonyi State of Nigeria. A study of Ezza High school Amuzu and Izzi High school in Ezza south and Ebonyi Local Government Area in Ebonyi state. A descriptive survey design and structured questionnaire advocated by Emile Durkherm (1858-1917) was used for the study. One hundred and ten (110) respondents comprising fifty (50) students, four (4) teachers and one (1) principal from each school were randomly sampled and questionnaire addressing many environmental barriers in the learning of English language were administered. The Likert type scale of four(4) response pattern designed by Dr. Rensis Likert in 1932 was used to rate the responses of the respondents. Data were analyzed using simple percentages. The findings reveal that mother tongue is a barrier to the poor performance of students in the learning of English language. Other environmental barriers include students’ motivation, learning environment, lack of materials, poor method of teaching, poor language policy and planning in Nigeria, unskilled teachers and varieties of English language. On the whole, the performance of students in English language is poor and if the observed facts from this study are not timely tackled; there will be drastic decline in standard of education.   

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

This research focuses attention on unveiling the environmental barriers to the learning of English language in public secondary schools in Ebonyi State of Nigeria. This implies finding out the environmental problems that limit the effort in the learning of English language among the students of Ezza High school in Ezza South Local Government Area and Izzi High School in Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

These barriers could be internal or external, and are arranged from the following factors: Motivational factor, Materials and Environmental factors, factors of interference, varieties of English and lack of skilled teachers. By English language, we mean the language of Britain, and it is use in most countries like United State of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some other African countries like Nigeria.

Historically, the advent of British colonialists in Nigeria Brought about the introduction of English language in the country. Following this, Nigeria has become one of the African countries to embrace the use of English for communication. Also the introduction of western education in the country facilitates the general acceptance of English language in Nigeria, and today English language has not only gained prominence but it is dominating other languages in the country. In fact, it has become the lingua franca of the country.

Given the multilingual setting of Nigeria, there are over 400 indigenous languages and dialects spoken together with English as a second language (L2). This means that every Nigeria with a minimum of formal education or have a contact with other Nigerians outside the most restricted rural setting is at least minimally a bilingual. According to Adegbite (2003): the over 400 languages in Nigeria have been categorized in different ways by scholars, based on the parameters of sequence of acquisition, number of speakers and roles assigned to languages with the following labels:

  1. Dominant language: English.
  2. Majority languages: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
  3. Minority languages: Edo, Efik, Tiv, Fulfude, Kanuri.

Whenever a group of Nigerians meet and find out that they do not share a common language; say Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Edo etc they chose to interact in English. English serves as a lingua franca, a unifying force among the various ethnic groups, the medium of instructions in schools, the means of communication with outside the world, the language of the mass media, law, commerce and industry. It is the major communication and learning tools, the access or window to the world politics, culture, economy, social and technology.

In the process of learning English as a second language (L2) with the realization of its purposes and functions, it was observed through direct interview and questioner with data collected, that the above barriers listed have affected tremendously in the learning of English phonology, syntax, morphology, lexis and semantics among the students of Ezza High school and Izzi High school in Ebonyi state.

As the Ezza and Izzi students learn and use English language, they are bound to encounter the above problems and it was manifested through the mother tongue interference and translation wholesomely the items in their indigenous language into the English language. It is because of the above challenges that the researcher is interested in finding out the solution to affects the trends.

1.2    Statement of the Problem

The statement of the problem shows that teaching and learning of English language in the educational institution today is expensive and above all inadequate and many setback.

However, the problem of learning of English language and setback purely depends on the inadequacy of basic learning materials, lack of the need or functions of English language in our everyday communication and also improper motivation of education policy markers. You can not learn or teach English language without basic facilities.

The learners and teachers of English language are required to be properly motivated and mobilized towards realizing the basic objectives of communication development. To successfully enhance better learning and understanding of English language means that the psychology of the people should be improved and a communication report will be enhanced between the teachers and learners of English language respectively.

An efforts should be made to reduce vernacular dialects and pidgin in the learning environments and this could be achieved by overhauling the teaching and learning system of the language, and it is therefore, the preoccupation of this research work to find out how unavailability of teaching aids and unskilled teachers, harsh environment and Ezza/Izzi dialects have affected their students in the learning of English language.

1.3    Purpose of Study

There are certain functions and purposes which English language is expected to fulfill in the society. These include communication, interaction and unity among people.

Therefore, the purpose of this research work is to identify the important factors that will improve the learning of English language and reduce the number of failures among the students.

It will also find the extent to which inadequacy of materials for learning and unskilled teachers have affected the students and call government for provision.

It will improve the quality of learning and teaching of English language through the teaching personnel and teaching preparations as professionals.

It will equally reduce the poor performance of students on the English language and call for proper motivation throughout Abakaliki metropolis.

1.4    Significance of the Study

It is hope that with the successful completion of this research work, many other researchers will be encouraged to research on those variables deeply so that students, teachers, parents, learners, administrators, curriculum planners as well as ministry of education will gain from the study.

The research work will be useful and will act as the background to the students to realize their deficiencies. The suggestions offered in the study will help the students and teachers to adjust and develop interest in the area of phonology, syntax, lexis, morphology and semantics.

There will be an improvement among the teaching personnel in regards the teaching preparation as professionals.

It will reduce the amount of failures in English language as a compulsory subject in secondary schools.

This will reduce the poor performance of students in the use of English language in our society as a language of wider communication (Lingua franca).

1.5    Scope/Limitation of the Study

The research only concentrated on the following areas:

  1. Problems encountered during the learning of English phonology, syntax, lexis and semantics.
  2. Learning method that will help the students go closer to the target English.
  3. Identifying peculiar areas of problems posed by Ezza and Izzi dialects.

In addition, the researcher will concentrate on some selected secondary schools in Ezza south and Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

The research was limited by many factors such as inadequate power supply, lack of relevant materials in the library, high cost of money charged on the use of generator in typing the project and the academic situation that contributed to the delay in assigning supervisors and project topics approval to the students.

1.6    Research Questions

The researcher is expected to give answers to the below research questions in the course of this research:

  1. Are there environmental barriers to the learning of English language in public secondary schools?
  2. Do these barriers exist in Ezza south and Ebonyi Local Government Area?
  3. What extent have these barriers affected the performance of the students in the English language
  4. Do they contribute to the poor performance of students in the use of English language in our society?
  5. What can the teachers do to motivate students to the learning of English language?
  6. Does interaction theory fit in with English as a second language learning (ESL)?

1.7 Theoretical Framework: The interactionist theory.

The analysis of this research is based on interactionist theory. Vygotsky laid the foundation for the interactionist view of language acquisition, and the central view of this theory is that language acquisition is influenced by interaction, and it was based on the number of factors: physical factor, linguistic factor, cognitive factor and social factor (Cooter and Reutzel, 2004).

Our major interest in this theory is to reveal the role of interaction in the learning of English as a L2. The question is how does the interactionist theory fit in with English as a second language learning in the classroom?

  1. Interaction in language acquisition is the key factor in the learning of English as L2.
  2. Conversational interaction facilitates language acquisition because it connects what learners hear and read (input) called internal learners’ capacities and what learners produce (output) in productive ways (Long, 1996, pp.451-452).
  • Interaction provides the students or learners with opportunities to receive comprehensive input and feedback as well as to make changes in their own linguistic output. (Gass, 1997; Long, 1996; Pica, 1994; Swain, 1995).
  1. Interaction motivates the learners and improves their mental developments.

INPUT: According to Long (1981) is the linguistic form such as morphemes, words, utterance known as the stream of speech in the air, directed at the non-native speaker (Long, 1983, p. 127)

OUTPUT: What learners produce in productive ways and the analysis of interaction describes the functions of those forms in conversational discourse” (Long, 1983, p127).

For instance: When faced with the learning of English as a second language (L2), the students are essentially an infant. They cannot communicate with the teacher except through non-verbal communication. Therefore, it is the duty of the teacher to act as the adult in the infant adult relationship. The teacher is responsible for leading all interaction at first, and students become more familiar with English language and are able to communicate. The control of the interaction can be stopped a bit and the students can take more control of their own language learning and learn that it is wrong to make mistakes; they will be able to discover such mistakes and learn how to combine words and phrases to form full sentences and dialogues.

THE ROLE OF INTERACTION IN THE LEARNING OF ENGLSH AS L2

The focus of language learning or acquisition has been traditionally based on ‘nurture’ and ‘nature’ as posited by two critics: Social interactionist and Nativist.

  1. SOCIAL INTERACTIONIST: This critic sees language as a rule governed cultural activity learning through interaction with others. They believe that environmental factors are more dominant in language acquisition. Learners reconstructed the new language through social interaction (Brown, p. 287).
  2. NATIVIST: Nativists perceive language ability as an innate capacity to generate syntactically correct sentences. They believe that inborn factors are dominant (language is inborn). Nativist like Krashem posits that there is natural internal mechanism that operate upon comprehensible input which leads to language competence. This is the basis of Choamsky’s competence or language acquisition device. Language acquisition takes place during human interaction in the target language environment.

The application of interactionist theory in this research shows that if teachers provide oral discussion in their class, it will encourage learners to initiate topics and put some responsibility on the part of their learners, the class would be enjoyable, creative and initiative.

For those students who are either reserved or reluctant to participate in the classroom, the teacher can directly ask them to speak rather than waiting for their responses. The interaction can have positive effects on L2 development and that complex matter of individual differences needs to be considered carefully. This theory if applied can not only improve but also reinforce the motivation of the students of Ezza and Izzi people entirely.

 

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