ABSTRACTArabicis the official language of Saudi Arabia. But English is continually gainingground as the language of instruction in higher institutions in the kingdom.The need for English Language goes beyond educational needs.
However, learnersof English Language in Saudi Arabia continually face problems in learning thelanguage. Paramount among the problems facing English Language learners isEnglish Language writing. This shows that the objectives of English Language inthe kingdom have not yet been achieved. This study was carried out to determinethe challenges faced by King Saud University (KSU) students in English Languagewriting. Students were purposively selected for having English Language aslanguage of instruction for their course of study. A total of sixty (60)students were randomly chosen in this category.
Useful information for theattainment of the objectives of this study were gathered through the use of aquestionnaire. Students answered questions which evaluated their ownperformance in English Language Writing, their interest in the language, andhow important or unimportant they considered the language. The perception ofEnglish Language Course teachers on the performance of students’ EnglishLanguage writing skills – spelling, punctuation and content were also gathered.Data collected were analysed through the use of descriptive statistics.
Thisquantitative study revealed that students’ efforts albeit positive enough, didnot match teachers’ expectations. Even though students considered avoidingspelling and punctuation errors to be important or very important – 45(75%) ofthem attested to this, teachers believed that a total of 46 (77%) of thestudents did not perform well enough. These differences were found to be evengreater in English Language Writing content. Even though 51(85%) of thestudents considered avoiding content errors in English Language writing to beimportant or very important; teachers believed that only 28(46.67%) performedwell enough.
Only when such small units as grammar, vocabulary and punctuationare considered can such complex structures like clarity, coherence andparagraph be amended. This shows that more strategies have to be put in placefor teachers to consider students’ English Language writing proficiency at parwith their own expectation. INTRODUCTIONEnglishas a Second Language in Saudi Arabia Arabic is the official language of SaudiArabia. But English is continually gaining ground as the language ofinstruction in higher institutions in the kingdom. This is due to the influenceof English language as the language of record for many disciplines in theworld. To learn science, accounts, engineering, medicine, business, computer,commerce and technology, English Language is inevitable. Many course materialsare written in English. It thus becomes important for Graduate level studentsto learn English language.
It would help them in their study, in theirenvironment, and avail them of opportunities of work. Theneed for English language goes beyond educational needs. Its’ importance isrevealed in its being a prerequisite for many job positions. This is even moreso for engineering and medical fields.
English Language is important whengraduate-level students travel beyond the kingdom. They would not be set backby the lack of understanding of the language, denying them of workopportunities. They would also be able to cope with their colleagues andcontribute to team work effectively. It is a window to the outside world;especially, because English-speaking countries are numerous. TheStatus of English Language in the KingdomThelearning of English language in the Kingdom serves many purposes. It developsSaudi students’ proficiency of the language. It lays the basis for students whowill find it a requirement in pursuing their courses of study (Khan, 2011). LearningEnglish Language provides students with knowledge of at least one internationallanguage; more so, this language being English because of its importance inmany parts of the world, particularly regarding education.
An additionaladvantage is that students will be able to represent their culture beyond thekingdom.Becauseof the increase in globalisation, most gulf countries have adopted a foreignlanguage. In many cases, this language is English, because of its importance ineducation and other fields. And many adopt it from Kindergarten onwards. Thisis done with the hope that students would be able to study required courses inEnglish in the university (Al Othman & Shuqair, 2013). Teaching English asa Foreign Language (TEFL) was originally designed in 1999 in the Department ofEnglish in the Saudi Educational Directorate of Curriculum in Saudi Arabia. TeachingEnglish from Grade 6 onwards was mandated in 2003 to eliminate communicationbarriers with other nations and increase the possibility of co-operation (Al-Zayid,2012; Ur Rahman and Alhaisoni, 2013).
The goal of thiscurriculum was to focus on the four language skills: listening, speaking,reading and writing. The government plays an important role in designing thecurriculum and providing textbooks for learning of English language in SaudiArabia. Parents are also willing to pay higher fees and sacrifice time toensure students attain proficiency of the language. Still, the development ofactual English Language skills remains an ardous task (Alhmadi, 2014). EnglishLanguage Writing SkillsSaudilearners of English Language communicate in Arabic at home. Ultimately, severalchallenges are faced when they learn English Language. Learners acquire thelanguage 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 firsttwo necessary skills required to acquire language. Speaking:Speaking is the second language learning skill to be perfected. It is known asa productive or active skill. For words and sentences to be produced, thestudent must comprehend the language.Reading:Reading is the third language skill.
It is a receptive or passive skill. Itrequires the use of eyes and brains for comprehension.Writing:As with reading, it is a productive skill. It requires theuse of hands and brains to produce written symbols that represent the spokenlanguage.Alllanguage learners need all the four skills.
Acquiring English Language remainsa major problem among learners. It is an indication that the objectives ofEnglish Language in the kingdom have not yet been achieved (Al-Naseer, 2015).Paramount among these problems is English Language writing. For learners, it ismore difficult to learn English Language writing because it is one of the productiveskills of the language. Although teaching English is mandated from Grade6 onwards, it still remains a problem even at the university level. To solvethis problem, universities institute a language unit to enhance EnglishLanguage learning among students. As with other universities, in King SaudUniversity, English Language support at all levels is provided by the languagesunit. This is of essence because English Language is required for academicwriting in certain courses, test and exams.
It is non-evitable. English Language Writing ChallengesTraditionally,reading and writing of English Language as a second language is taughtseparately from each other. However, some experts have argued that reading andwriting are clearly connected and should be taught together. In Saudi Arabia,English is studied from Class 6 to the university level (Ur Rahman andAlhaisoni, 2013). Still, one of the challenges learnersof English Language face is time constraints. Six to eighteen year-old studentsare 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 writingrequires students to have the capability to gather information, summarize andorganise ideas in a logical manner (Ankawi, 2015). To do this, students need tomaster the language first – punctuation, grammar, vocabulary and structure. Agood knowledge of vocabulary, writing style and effective content arrangementare important.
Learners of second language encounter problems in expressingtheir ideas effectively. Some studies suggest that this problem arises becauseof students’ lack of practice of English Language writing skill (Ankawi, 2015).The social andcultural background of students can also be a factor. Arabic is the officiallanguage 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 bigdifference in the way thoughts are expressed (Bacha, 2010).
Apart from sociologicaldifferences, students also encounter difficulties with grammar and structure ofthe language.- Difficulties with grammar: Thegrammar rules are in English and Arabic are different (Sayidina, 2010). Allwords in Arabic follow the pattern of being compiled using at least 3consonants as well as vowels. While vowels are visible in English Language, itis not visible in Arabic. Therefore, Saudi students often omit it in English Languagewriting; this tendency is called ‘vowel blindness’ (Khan, 2013).- Difficulty with differentstructures 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 – ArabicLanguage is written from right to left while English is written in the oppositedirection.- Also, many teachers ofEnglish Language in Saudi Arabia are themselves non-native speakers. Many arefrom Pakistan, Malaysia, India, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Many are produced bysimilar educational systems. They can only pass on limited knowledge of thelanguage to students.
METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDYThisstudy was carried out to determine the challenges faced by King Saud University(KSU) students in English Language writing. The following details the studygroup, sampling technique, data collection method and data analysis. A quantitativeapproach was used.StudyGroupThestudy was primarily carried out on KSU students who require English Language asa medium of instruction in their studies.
These students all graduated fromSaudi Arabian high schools, and have never studied in a foreign country.Samplingtechnique and Sample sizeThesample population consisted of KSU students who require English Language as thelanguage of instruction in their courses of study. So, students were purposively selected forhaving English Language as the requirement for their courses of study. Then, randomsampling method was used to select a total number of sixty (60) students inthis category.
Hence, the total number of students who participated in thisstudy was 60. Sample size, n = sixty (60).DataCollection MethodUsefulinformation for the attainment of the objectives of this study were gatheredthrough the use of a questionnaire. Students answered questions which evaluatedtheir own performance in English Language Writing, their interest in thelanguage, and how important or unimportant they considered the language. Questionsalso evaluated perception of English Language students’ performance in writing– grammar, spelling, content, and so on. Theperception of English Language Course teachers were also gathered to ensure abalanced information collection process. Teachers graded the adequacy ofEnglish Language students in spelling, punctuation and content.
This sheds morelight on the expectation of teachers. And would ultimately, help studentsimprove their performance, to bring them at par with English course teacher’sexpectations. DataAnalysisTheinformation gathered were recorded. Data collected were analysed through theuse of descriptive statistics. The data were analysed using Statistical Packagefor Social Sciences (SPSS) V.16.0. The results are presented in frequencies andpercentages.
Students’ responses were compared to the responses of teachers.Students’ perceived importance of the English Language course and their effortswere compared to the expectations of English Language Course teachers. RESULTSAND DISCUSSIONThefollowing were the responses of students to questions asked about their ownperformance in English Language Writing skills, their interest in the language,and how important or unimportant they considered the language. Other responsesdetailed the performance of students in English Language writing – grammar, spellingand content. Students’English Language SkillsA high percentage – 35 (58.3%) – justover half the population considered themselves to have average English Languageskills.
None, 0(0%) considered themselves to have excellent English Languageskills. 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 EnglishLanguage skills of students. Four (6.67%) considered themselves to beproficient enough. Ultimately, only half of the students considered theirperformance to be average; a very small percentage (6.67) considered themselvesto be proficient enough in English Language skills.
This shows that more effortsare required to improve English Language skills of students. Such improvements will result in moreconfidence in students regarding their English proficiency. Table1: Students’ English Languageskills 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 SkillsWhenEnglish language writing skill was particularly considered, the results goteven lower.
The number of students who considered themselves to possess averageEnglish 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 4considered themselves to have high English Language writing skills.
Table2: Students’ English Languagewriting 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’sInterest in English LanguageThe love for English language wasconsidered to determine students’ interest levels or change of interest in thelanguage. 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 becausethey continually realized the importance of the language. Twelve (20%) saidthey liked it right from the start to the end.
Still, 4(6.67) said they likedit in the beginning but came to dislike it later. This interest in the beginning could havewaned because they considered the language more difficult as they advanced inEnglish Language. Two (3.3%) claimed not to like it at all, neither in thebeginning nor at the end. 4(6.
67%) were indecisive. Table3: Students’ interest in EnglishLanguage 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 avoidfew 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 beunimportant. And 10 (16.67%) were indecisive. Summarily, a high percentage ofthe students (77%) considered avoiding errors to be important.
This means theyhold it at a high status. This could lead to an overall improvement in EnglishLanguage writing among English Language learners. Table4: Students’ English Languagewriting 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 ErrorsWhen students were asked whetherthey prefer English teachers to point out their spelling errors, they respondedthus: Twenty-nine (48.3%) considered it important. Sixteen (26.7%) evenconsidered it very important.
Five (8.3%) considered it to be unimportant. One (1.67%)considered it to be absolutely unimportant. Nine (15%) were indecisive. Theresults were similar for students’ punctuation errors. The results revealedthat a higher percentage of the students considered avoiding spelling andpunctuation errors to be important, 29 (48.
3%) and very important 16 (26.67%). Table5: Students’ Spelling andPunctuation 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, 2017WhenEnglish Language students’ performance in spelling and punctuation were gradedby 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 goodenough. And 2(3.3%) of the students performed excellently in spelling and punctuation.Eventhough students considered avoiding spelling and punctuation errors to beimportant or very important – 45(75%) of them attested to this, teachersbelieved that a total of 46 (77%) of the students were inadequate or weak intheir performance. This disparity shows that improvement strategies are requiredin order to enhance students’ performance in these aspects.Table 6: Teachers’ perception of student performance in Englishspelling 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 StudentContent ErrorsWhen students were asked how theyviewed content errors in English Language, the results were slightly different.Thirty-one (51.67%) considered avoiding content errors in English Languagewriting to be important. Twenty (33.3%) even considered it to be veryimportant.
Four (6.67%) considered it to be unimportant, and 1(1.67%)considered it to be absolutely unimportant. The remaining 4(6.67%) wereindecisive. This means that majority of the students held avoiding contenterrors in English Language writing in a high esteem. Table7: 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, 2017Forteachers’ perception on organisation of content by students – clarity,coherence and arrangement of paragraphs, 14(23.3%) of the students wereconsidered to have performed adequately. Twenty (36.67%) of the results wereconsidered inadequate. Ten (16.
67%) of the results were considered to be weak.But 14(23.3%) of the results were good enough.Eventhough 31(51.67%) and 20(33.
3%) of the students considered avoiding contenterrors in English Language writing to be important and unimportant,respectively; teachers believed that only 14(23.3%) and 14(23.3%) of thestudents were adequate or good enough, respectively, in their performance.
Thisdisparity shows that improvement strategies are required in order to enhancestudents’ performance in these aspects.Table8: Teacher’s perception ofstudent 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 TheFocus of English Language Education in Students’ High SchoolThefollowing statistics were recorded for what students considered to bethe 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 werereading, writing and grammar and vocabulary. These show that writing of EnglishLanguage writing is considered important, albeit being considered lessimportant than reading and grammar.
Table9: The Focus of English LanguageEducation 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%) CONCLUSIONThisquantitative study revealed that students’ effort albeit positive enough, didnot match teachers’ expectations. This shows that more strategies have to be putin place for teachers to consider students’ English Language writing proficiencyat par with their own expectation. The differences in spelling and punctuationwere found to be substantial. They werefound to be even greater in English Language Writing content. Only when suchsmall units as grammar, vocabulary and punctuation are considered can suchcomplex structures like clarity, coherence and paragraph be amended.