Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Investigation of the Difficulties Faced by EFL Undergraduates in Speaking Skills

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Investigation of the Difficulties Faced by EFL Undergraduates in Speaking Skills

Article excerpt


Since speaking well in English is crucial for English language literature undergraduates, the present study aimed at describing difficulties that may be encountered at an EFL setting. The sample was stratified random as drawn from six Jordanian public universities. Survey questionnaires as well as semi-structured interviews were constructed. 64 students were interviewed out of 566 students who responded to a survey questionnaire. The findings of the study exposed a perceived failure of EFL students' speaking skill in English was reported together with reasons that explain such perceived difficulty. The results of the study showed a 'low' speaking proficiency level among EFL undergraduates along with negligible instruction of the speaking skill at university courses' level. More highlighted difficulties by this study were as these of: communication in L1, large classes, and lack of time.

Keywords: EFL, difficulties, Jordanian undergraduates, speaking skill

1. Introduction

One of the main arguments in Jordanian EFL education is over student needs; do Jordanians really need to speak English? No country can have a lively culture without working successfully in English. Regardless of the recognition of English by the Jordanian public in general where English is counted as a major subject in the national curriculum, numerous researchers highlighted 'low' achievement scores in English. For a long time, EFL Jordanian students seemed as "confused" by what is perceived as a failure (Abu Sirhan, 2003; Alkhawaldeh, 2005; AL-Momani, 1998; Al-Sobh Al-Abed Al-Haq, 2012; Jafar, 2012).

To learn, EFL learners need to "construct" their own knowledge by understanding through many channels: reading, listening, writing and speaking. Such mode of learning is called 'constructivism' where learning is based on learner's active contribution in successful communication which needs the mastery of several competencies such as: i) linguistic competence that entails knowing grammatical rules (Chomsky, 1965); ii) sociolinguistic competence that means knowing the interpretation of meaning in different language contexts (Hymes, 1972); iii) functional or rhetorical competence that entails mastery of producing messages that relevant to achieve personal goals (Lambert & Gillespie, 1994). It is vital for students in the 21st century to learn English communication skills in order to stimulate additional Jordan's growth. The concern of the present research, however, is simply to tackle the speaking 'construct' of students' overall competencies.

Research concluded that student's attitude is an integral part of learning and an essential component of second language learning pedagogy. Psychological theories on attitudes such as Krashen's Affective Filter Hypothesis specified that people acquire second languages only if they attain comprehensible input and if their affective filters are low enough to let the input "in". In his theory, 'affect' includes motivation, attitude, anxiety, and self-confidence. Stern (1983) stated that the 'affective' constituent contributes at least as much, and often more, to language learning than the cognitive skills. Brown (1994: 134) stressed that "Cognitive theories of learning will be rejected unless a role is assigned to affectivity". Therefore, the current study embarked on the importance of EFL attitude and motive as essential in learning a foreign language all through themes relevant to difficulties in speaking skills' delivery.

Such emphasis was placed on the grounds that positive attitude among learners toward speaking a foreign language, and genuine beliefs about learning a foreign language may increase the learners' motivation (Sunnarborg, 2002; AL-Wreikat & Bin Abdullah, 2010).To speak another language, the learner, driven by one or more reasons, has to take the decision why and how. These reasons vary according to optional personal needs for acquiring a second or foreign language. …

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