Research Key

The Impact of Social Background on English Language Proficiency: The Case of Some Level 400 Students in the English Department

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International: $20
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Qualitative research
Analytical tool
Descriptive statistics
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This study set out to examine if the social background has any influence on the learning and use of English language by some students in the English Department. The assumption was that besides the classroom setting, students of English still learn and improve on their English elsewhere.

Our hypothesis was that the social backgrounds of Cameroon students directly influence their learning and performance in English as a second language. To verify this hypothesis, a questionnaire was administered with a proficiency test attached.

The questionnaire sought to know the various social settings to which the students associate, the language they often speak and have mostly been speaking across those social units as in their families, churches and playgrounds.

The test was designed to check how well the students could appreciate a wide range of words most common in social relationships. The results proved that most of the students have a fine mastery of such English words and phrases common at their various social associations, thereby confirming the above hypothesis.

We therefore strongly encourage students to speak good and more English everywhere, and the Ministry of Education to provide all necessary support for language teachers to remain veritable instruments at all times so as to secure the future of young Cameroonians, given the important place of the English language in our country and the world over.



Background of the Study

The society does not exist as a vacuum. In it, are people who live in groups or communities, interact with one another and work together to make life beautiful, easy and noble. However, certain common bonds do exist among people, and which help to promote their welfare and encourage growth in diverse domains of the society concerned.

These common bonds include, among others, language, games, religion, culture and tradition of the people concerned. These bonds constitute the bedrock of people’s social background but this paper will focus on English for the most part.

Social Background Examined Vis a Vis the Mastery of English

According to Holbrow (1999: 3), language is part of human consciousness, and it is also the way humans grasp the world around them, make sense of it, interact with one another and contribute towards changing that world. This is therefore an indication that social interaction has an indispensable role to play in the language development of an individual in particular and a people in general.

Avenues for meaningful social interaction in any given society are a credit to that society in varied ways: playgrounds may help the young ones to discover their talents in areas as arts, music, sports, and others which could with time be developed into a life career; a church will spread the gospel message of peace and thus prompt love, unity, solidarity and moral integrity among people, while a school will train academically and morally sound minds, alleviate illiteracy and enlighten various facets of society for effective functioning and positive growth.

The afore-mentioned social institutions and much more, alongside an individual’s relation with the people around him, do have language as a prime factor for communication, identity and of course unity for people of the same speech community.

In case the vehicle for communication in social settings as such be English- the most globally recognized language; widely used and of course the most selling language of our time, what influence will it have on individuals who are striving to acquire it as a second language?

How will their manner of expression be affected? Is it positively or negatively? What impact will it have on their performance in academics? And to a greater extent, how will it aid them to achieve some of their goals in life? Questions such as these are the concern of this investigation.

From the fore-running discussion, it can therefore be easily deduced that a harmonious social set-up will experience meaningful growth from the positive contributions of its members.

The availability of family support, mutual collaboration and the freedom of expression and association could be very vital incentives on the performance of second language learners such as young Cameroonians, who hail from diverse linguistic backgrounds, and yet have to study English for integrative and instrumental purposes in schools, colleges and universities around the country.

Statement of the Problem

English is a second language to all Cameroonians. Being a language of officialdom in the country, students are obliged to learn and have a good command of the language in order to arm themselves for public life and service.

It is therefore realised that for the most part, students’ contact with the English language is more in the classroom than elsewhere- reasons why most students view the English language as a very challenging subject to study.

This paper, therefore, seeks to investigate whether apart from the classroom situation; there are other social arenas where young Cameroonians meet which can, as a result, have a bearing on their proficiency and performance in English as a second language.

Aims and Objectives of the Study

This research attempts to describe the effectiveness of social background on English language performance amongst Cameroonian students. It will also reveal whether the social background is merit to second language learning in Cameroon or not.

The Impact of Social Background on English Language Proficiency: The Case of Some Level 400 Students in the English Department

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