Research Key

Attitudes towards English language_learning and language use among secondary school students

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International: $20
No of pages
Qualitative research
Analytical tool
Descriptive statistics
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Despite at least eleven years of English language education, many Cameroonians are still not proficient in the language which is leading to higher education, as employers complain about the level of English language proficiency among graduates. This present study examines to what extent the respondents use English at home and with their peers, to what extent are the respondents motivated to use and learn English, and to what extent are the patterns of language use and attitudes related to their proficiency in English. This study comprised a questionnaire distributed to 30 respondents from different ethnic groups and different backgrounds from an urban secondary school in Cameroon. The questionnaire was designed to obtain information about the respondents’ use of English, their attitudes towards English, and their motivation for learning English. Nine respondents, among the 30 were interviewed to obtain in-depth insights on these elements. This study reveals that ¿he respondents generally had a positive attitude towards learning English and were motivated to learn it regardless of their family backgrounds and proficiency levels. The respondents whose parents held professional jobs tended to be more proficient than those whose parents did not.





English being the global language plays a crucial part in order for one to fit into the real world and fit into the group of people that they are planning to communicate with. The English Language enjoys a global privilege as the language of international relations, technology, aviation, commerce, and education in almost every community in the world. English education is meant to prepare individuals for the real world. This study examines how attitude affects English Language learning among a group of Form 5 students in an urban school in Limbe.

Education plays a crucial part in every country which does not only help in the growth of the economy, but it is also important in the development of the nation. In today’s global economy, the success of the nation depends mainly on the skills and the knowledge that the individuals show in competing towards growth. It is not new that individuals with higher levels of education tend to enjoy greater economic prosperity. The education system in Cameroon has become the center of attraction. The parents are expecting their children to perform and excel in education and the employers are getting stressed as the quality of students that graduate from local universities are not able to perform because they are not prepared to face the real world as they are only good to perform well in examinations. Cameroonian students are expected to be proficient in English, which is the national language, to foster national unity. English should not be neglected as it is an important language for communication. The aim is to produce Cameroonians who are able to speak at least two languages, which are French and English Language as the national languages.

Interestingly, English has grown beyond its national boundaries into new contexts where it has been adopted and adapted, according to various contextual ecologies. Consequently, the English that is spoken in these new contexts has undergone serious indigenization and is significantly different from Standard British English at all linguistic levels. The marked peculiarities of the New Englishes are evidently divulged through such appellations as Singaporean English, Indian English, Nigerian English, and Cameroon English. Students, who complete their education and move on to the higher education level, are not able to use English fluently. The main reason why one is unable to secure^ a good job, especially in the private sector is due to the lack of proficiency in English.

Language Policy in Cameroon

Over the years, the use of English has gradually decreased in usage. The limited use of English led to a gradual decline in English Language proficiency among Cameroonians. This has always been an issue argued as the government was reminded by various parties about English which is not the first language for most Cameroonians. English being the second language for Cameroonian school students, especially among the young learners, the implementation of it was problematic. It was expected to affect the teaching and learning process among young learners.

Since reunification in 1961, Cameroon has implemented an exoglossic language policy based on the exclusive use of English and French as the languages of teaching and learning (Chumbow, 1990; Chiatoh, 2012). In adopting this policy, politicians preoccupied with the desire to consolidate national unity completely ignored the eventual consequences of such an educational option on the critical question of educational quality. Today, more than 50 years afterward, these consequences are surfacing with concerns being intensified about the falling standards of the English language in particular and the decline in academic performance across the curriculum in general. A closer look at the present situation reveals that even though concerns about quality decline are genuine, their causes have not been properly diagnosed. Arguments tend to center almost exclusively on peripheral areas such as linguistic interference, the training of teachers (Fontem & Oyetade, 2005) choice of pedagogic materials, and teaching methods. 

As yet, only very passive attention has been paid to the central question of the proper choice of language of instruction which research and classroom practice has revealed to be the most fundamental factor in establishing the quality of educational provision. As such, half a century since the adoption of this policy, its application has still not been adapted to the realities of the Cameroonian classroom. In this study, we contend that the standards of English language proficiency (as a second language in Cameroon), as well as overall academic performance, depends fundamentally on the appropriate choice of language of instruction since this greatly determines not only the type and quality of curriculum contents but also the degree of effectiveness and efficiency of teaching methods and actual learning in the classroom.

The language or medium of instruction is thus the language in which children acquire their basic literacy skills. It is the language in which they learn different content areas such as reading and writing, numeracy, natural and environmental science, etc. We argue that so long as educational reforms continue to ignore the crucial question of the language of instruction, concerns about standards of English and quality education will remain a permanent worry in the country.

The role of English in Cameroon

English Language performance or grades have always been one of the requirements when applying for jobs not only in Cameroon but also abroad and when applying for universities. English is important and it is necessary for students from secondary schools to be fluent in it in order for them to use the language efficiently at the tertiary level or in their jobs. English is a necessary language for students and they need to master this language to prepare them for the world which is full of competition. To meet the demands of globalization, they will also need to have good communication skills, as only the best will be selected by employers.


Statement of the Problem

Despite the value attached to the English language in Cameroon and all the initiatives that English teachers and some parents have taken in order for their students and children to master this language respectively, it has been observed that many students in Cameroon, upon receiving a minimum of eleven years of English education in schools (primary one to form five), are still unable to use the language proficiently. This leads to institutions of higher education, having to teach English to graduates as these graduates are having difficulties in obtaining jobs. A primary cause for the Cameroon students’ attainment in English is believed to be related to the learners’ negative attitudes towards learning the English language.

However, in native and non-native settings, attitudes towards non-native Englishes are varied. While conservatives, such as Quirk (1985), Honey (1989), and Chevillet (1999) are of the opinion that features which differ from Standard British English (SBE henceforth) are haphazard deviations, pragmatists such as Bamgbose (1971), Kachru (1985) Brown (1989), Modiano (1999), Simo Bobda (1994), Ngefac (2008) and Itachi (2008, 2010), are of the opinion that, it is a total waste of time to continuously impose native norms on non-native speakers. Pedagogic efforts should rather be made to standardize and promote the New Englishes which have patterns that are simple, straightforward, systematic, and predictable. Amidst this controversy, some scholars, like (Crystal 1988:7), have maintained a moderate stance, based on their arguments that every speaker of English should have a public and a private voice. The public voice is to help them communicate with the rest of the world while the private voice is to uphold their respective cultural realities.

Many Cameroonians, just like other speakers of English in other parts of the world, ascribe a relatively significant degree of prestige to the English language through a sustained interest to study it. This interest in the English language is born out of instrumental than integrative reasons. Cameroonians want to use this language to obtain international opportunities available to proficient speakers of English around the world and not for national integration. With the fervent proficient speakers of English around the world and not for national integration. With the fervent interest to leam SBE for instrumental purposes, and considering the sustained use of Cameroon English (hereafter CamE) in almost every sphere of life in Cameroon, the question of the variety of English to be used for pedagogic purposes is unavoidable. Simo Bobda (2000:66) sees two problems that may militate against the use of a non-native variety in the English language teaching industry. First, the limited professional and educational opportunities in a world, controlled by the west, and second, the lack of codification of these alternative standards which is the sine qua non for the design of didactic materials.

Objectives of the study

This study aims to examine why, despite studying English from primary school, many Cameroonians are still not proficient in English. This study specifically looks at a group of secondary school students to examine what are their attitudes towards the use of English and English Language learning. It was noticed that the students in school prefer using pidgin, amongst others compared to English. The main objectives for the present study are:

  • To examine the use of English among the group of students in Form Five
  • To examine the attitude of the respondents towards English language learning and English in general
  • To examine the relationship between language use and their proficiency in English

Research Questions

  • To what extent do the respondents use English at home and with their peers?
  • To what extent are the respondents motivated to use and learn English?
  • To what extent are the patterns of language use and attitudes related to their proficiency in English?
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