The purpose of this research was to gather English as a second language (ESL) learners perceptions pertaining to their experience in learning English language in secondary schools, colleges and local universities. The research methodology incorporated dialogue journal using Facebook. Dialogue journal is a written communication between a teacher and students or other writing partners, which provides a natural context for language development and a new channel of communication outside the classroom. The research incorporated Facebook as it is currently one of the most prominent online social networking sites among Malaysians. 46 respondents from public and private colleges and universities discussed various learning issues including impediments that they encountered during English lessons in secondary school, college and university; learners' views and comments on the issues pertaining to local English language teaching and learning; and suggestions to improve the teaching and learning of English. The discussion revealed varying viewpoints such as difficulties and reasons that students faced in learning the four language skills i.e. speaking, listening, reading and writing; and the lack of confidence which hampered their language improvement. This research hopes to enlighten educators of arduous challenges that students faced in learning the English language so that they may strive to improve and consolidate their teaching skills, thus, making language teaching and learning more effective and meaningful for both teachers and students.
Keywords: dialogue response journal, language proficiency, language skills.
The British colonial education system introduced the teaching of English in Malaysia in the1960s and it is still entrenched in the current Malaysian educational system (Asmah Haji Omar, 1992). English is taught as a second language in all Malaysian schools which is also a compulsory subject in both primary and secondary schools. In the university level, local undergraduates are required to register a stipulated credit hour of English courses based on the result of their Malaysian University English Test (MUET), which is an English proficiency assessment course and a compulsory requirement for students who plan to pursue tertiary education at Malaysian universities (Malaysian Examination Council, 2006).
Studies by Griggs and Dunn (1984), Smith and Renzulli (1984) and Wallace and Oxford (1992) have shown that a match between teachers' teaching style and learners' preferred learning style will increase learners' motivation and learning. However, serious mismatches between both styles will result in students becoming bored, discouraged, becoming inattentive and performing rather poorly in tests and assessments (Felder & Henriques, 1995; Godleski, 1984; Oxford, Ehrman & Lavine, 1991).
There are various definitions of the term 'learning style'. According to Zou (2006) different researchers have their own understanding of what constitutes learning styles. Oxford, Hollaway and Horton-Murillo (1992) define learning styles as the general approaches (as opposed to specific strategies) that students resort to in learning a new subject. Honigsfeld and Dunn (2006) define it as a biological and developmental set of personal characteristics that make the same instruction effective for some learners and ineffective for others. Meanwhile, Peacock (2001) defines it as students' preferred mode of learning.
Students spend between 11-13 years (6 years in primary school and between 5 - 7 years in secondary school) learning English, but a portion of students are still not able to master the language upon completing secondary school. There are various factors that could have contributed to this failure -learners' learning methods, motivation, perceptions, teachers' teaching methods and/or approach, syllabus and lesson plan, among others.
Therefore, it is imperative to understand learners' views and experiences in learning a second language in order to identify the difficulties and impediments that they encounter in the classrooms. …