REQUIRED EFFORT IN ORDER TO ACQUIRE A PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE BETWEEN DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES AGED 15-30
Learning a second language is becoming vital in almost every developed country in the world, because it can be a truly powerful tool. English language, not only considered to be as one of the most common among spoken languages, but also one of the most learned as a second language, can be learned for many purposes (Crystal, 2010). For example, English is commonly learned for business and work, to facilitate communication with partners from different parts of the world. Hence, to achieve highly ambitious goals in terms of international business cooperation, proficiency in English is absolutely crucial. However, the effort made for attaining proficiency varies significantly, depending on a range of factors. One of those is the cultural factor, the cultural background, because when learning a second language there is a need in adaptation to a different culture (Lai, 2014, p.5). However, English language is not usually learnt to integrate in British or American culture, but just to have an opportunity to explore any other international culture. However, it is often used just as a tool for communication globally (Lai, 2014, p.8).
While estimating the effort, it is also important to consider which language is the native language of a speaker because, if it belongs to another language family, the effort needed to acquire proficiency will distinct so much comparing with if those were in the same. For example, such languages as Chinese, Japanese or Arabic are completely different from English not only in grammar, but in the characters and in the way of writing.
This research aims to identify an estimated difference in efforts put into learning English in various cultures, depending on their mother tongue. Moreover, this statistical data could reveal how much effort needed to reach different levels of competence in English language.
Csizér and Dörnyei (2005, p.28) state that term called integrativeness, as a willingness to have an ability to interact with another cultural group, is a key factor that motivates to learn a second language. However, Gardner, Smythe, and Gliksman (1976 as cited in Yamashiro and McLaughlin, 2000, p.116) claim that motivation is important only at a start of a second language acquiring, because ultimately anxiety during the studies can influence the language proficiency even more. Yamashiro and McLaughlin (2000, p.118) also note that despite the increase in motivation to speak English among Japanese students it does not correlate with more effort and consequently higher competence. On the other hand, Chapelle and Roberts (1986) point out ambiguity tolerance (AT) and field independence (FI) as two important individual factors, high levels of which can increase the chance of successful second language acquisition. As they describe, field independent person tends to solve problems more analytically than globally (Chapelle and Roberts, 1986, p.28). Similarly, person who has more ambiguity tolerance can remain in calm state and less tend to avoid ambiguous situations (Chapelle and Roberts, 1986, p.30).
The research will be conducted mainly among International students from the UK universities INTO City and Newcastle. Research is aiming to recognise the difference in English learning habits between various nationalities, if there is one. Although the research will focus on students who use English as a second language, few native speakers will also be asked. Age of these students is expected to be from 16 to 30. These who took IELTS will only be considered, thus the results could be analysed properly.
Questionnaire consists of 21 questions, most of them are for description how English was learnt, to identify and then compare intensity of learning. Most answers have multiple choice to determine the range, to avoid focusing on an exact figure. For example, age is divided by time-frames 15-18, 19-25 and 26-30.
In order to collect more data and to speed up the process of writing the answers, a program was created using mobile application called Telegram. While the students are interviewed, all the answers will be saved directly in the computer. By the reason of the small project scale, the sample will be narrowed to approximately 30 people. Nevertheless, within this sample it could be possible to identify patterns.
All the data is going to be analysed through charts in the program Microsoft Excel.
There were 29 participants in this survey, 62% and 38% of them were men and women respectively. Most of the respondents were from separate countries, however among them, 4 were from Russia, 4 from China and 5 from Ukraine. There were only 3 participants older than 25 years, thus the results will be focused on the age range of 15-25. Less than 8% of the participants have English as their mother tongue. IELTS scores were distinctive to a certain extent, vary from 4.5 to 8.5, with the average score of 6 – 6.5. All the students learned English in school and a vast majority attended additional classes either of General English, or specific courses such as these which focus on writing/reading techniques, or IELTS courses. All students who had additional English lessons, attended them at least once a week, although nearly half of all studied more frequently, 2-3 times a week. More than a third of respondents had an average lesson of 2 hours and more. Half of all people said they always had a desire to learn English language and the other half said their parents influenced them to start learning it. Almost 80% of respondents enjoy watching films in English, with or without subtitles. Interestingly, 60% and 52% of participants enjoy reading books and listening to radio or podcasts in English respectively. This doesn`t include taught materials. Nonetheless, most of them agreed that it doesn`t happen very often during intensive studies.
According to findings, school lessons of English provide just very basic knowledge, thus most of the participants took additional courses of English, to acquire higher proficiency. As the survey was done mostly between foundation and graduate students, it is clear that just after school all of them lacked proficiency in English for abroad studies. It is can be compared with 4 — 5 IELTS grade, which can be enough for a foundation course, but definitely not for a graduate or a postgraduate.
A third of the students were asked about the purpose of learning English and the majority of them agreed that it is primarily learnt for instrumental purposes. They intend to attain such ambitious goals as entering the top university, being able to acquire high quality education and as a result, becoming a professional with a diploma of high standard. These responses were predictable, as the research was done among students, however, what separated them from each other is that whether they are going to return back home, or not; and whether they are going to use English at the future work. Generally, there was a slight correlation between higher IELTS band if the intended job requires English.
Another interesting pattern derives from the chart of IELTS and Gender relationship. Among all participants, women performed slightly better than men on average of IELTS bands.
Significant limitation of this survey is the small sample, because all the variables which account for the intensity of learning doesn’t clarify the relationship with the higher performance. Furthermore, high intensity of learning sometimes takes place when a student has a very short period for learning and, in that case, might correlate with lower language acquisition.
The collected data, presented in this paper, can hardly establish a strong relationship either between any habits of learning a second language and a nationality, or between a way of learning and proficiency. Nevertheless, the data indicates that a long-term constant learning of English could be a major factor in high proficiency, even more contributory than a single short-period intensive course.
Variables of intensity, such as length of lessons, frequency of lessons and regularity of each single course, can be flattened with low motivation, high anxiety during studies and other factors, like ambiguity intolerance and field dependence. Factors mentioned above explain that proficiency in a second language is a highly individual aspect, so in order to establish a relationship, there is a need in a further deep survey with a larger sample and questions about behaviour determinants.
Chapelle, C. and Roberts, C. (1986) “Ambiguity tolerance and field independence as predictors of proficiency in English as a second language” Language learning, 36(1), pp. 27-45.
Clément, R. (1986) “Second language proficiency and acculturation: An investigation of the effects of language status and individual characteristics” Journal of Language and social Psychology, 5(4), pp. 271-290.
Csizér, K. and Dörnyei, Z. (2005) The internal structure of language learning motivation and its relationship with language choice and learning effort. The modern language journal, 89(1), pp.19-36.
Lai, H.Y.T. (2013) “Learning English as an international language: EFL learners’ perceptions of cultural knowledge acquisition in the English classroom” Asian Social Science, 10(1), p.1.
Yamashiro, A.D. and McLaughlin, J. (2001) “Relationships among attitudes, motivation, anxiety, and English language proficiency in Japanese college students” Second language research in Japan, pp. 112-126.
|1||Age||15-18 | 19-25 | 26-30|
|2||Gender||Male | Female|
|4||Is English your first or second language?||First | Second | Third or more|
|5||What is your first language?||Any|
|6||Does it have any similar words with English?||No | Yes, a bit | Yes, lots of|
|7||How long have you been learning English?||Since you were born | Since 4 | Since 5-8 | Since 9-15 | Few years ago|
|8||Was it learnt at school?||Yes | No|
|9||Did you attend additional classes specially for English?||Yes | No|
|10||Have you learnt it all the time regularly or not?||Yes | No|
|11||If not all time, what were the breaks?||Weeks | Months | Years|
|12||How often did you learn English||Every day | 2-3 times a week | once a week | 2-3 times a month|
|13||How long were your classes?||45 mins | 1 hour | 1:30 | 2 hours | 2:30 and more|
|14||What is your IELTS average score?||Any|
|15||What is the minimum IELTS score needed to enter the intended UNI||Any|
|16||Apart from studying, do you watch films in English regularly?||Yes | No|
|17||Same: read books in English?||Yes | No|
|18||Same: listen to radio/podcasts in English?||Yes | No|
|19||Was it your desire to learn English?||Yes | My parents forced me initially | My parents forced me all the time | I don`t know|