The terms EFL and ESL came into being because of the problems encountered in learning English outside native English nations, which has in turn resulted in varieties of English around the world. Instead of criticizing the non-native colourations, they have rather been accepted and allowed to exist as separate language varieties, so learners don’t have to struggle through their lifetime learning to speak, especially, with native accent. This gives room for mother-tongue interference and transliterations which are the main features of non-native Englishes. Here are some problems learners of English as second or foreign language face.
Protection of traditions and cultural norms
Second language learners of English are from other traditional and cultural affiliations. By trying to protect their traditions and cultures, they face problem in their learning of English. This happens because language and culture go hand in hand. Learning English is as good as learning the English cultural behaviours. Attitudes tend to change, principles take the English pattern, and mode of dressing or fashion is usually copied from the native speakers of English.
These learners need to be helped on how to separate language from traditions. If they are conscious enough to learn the language only and leaving out the culture so that their native culture is not affected, they will be able to remove this factor from their language learning problems. They will not experience the conflicts of cultures of the two communities. Teachers could adopt this strategy too in solving the problems of teaching English as Second Language in their schools.
Lack of adequate government support
In most English as second language countries, government does not adequately support the learning of English despite its official status. English is taught in schools but materials are not available to teach it well. Even the teachers employed by the government are mostly inadequate. For instance only one or two teachers may be employed to teach English in a school of over five hundred students. Certainly, there will be problem of teaching and learning the language. If the officers heading the teaching institutes are not interested in the language, they are likely to ignore the need to adequately equip the institutions.
Therefore, government should make sure that there is adequate provision of language learning facilities in schools, and ensure that operators should be properly trained. Heads of language departments should be those interested in the languages rather than just any politically influential person. That way, the problem faced by learners of English as Second Language can be solved. Students should have access to the facilities and should be motivated to use them in learning.
Religious Institutions in ESL Countries contribute to problems of learning English
In Nigeria, there are churches where sermons are preached only in local languages; not because the congregation does not understand English, but it is a deliberate effort to encourage the use of local languages to the detriment of learning English. The preachers in the churches must be indigenous so that there would be no reason to use English or any other language foreign to the community.
Most ESL and EFL countries have traditional religions that differentiate them from the native English speakers and other nations that speak other languages. The traditions use native languages during worship. Names of gods and worship materials are in native languages. The priests are chosen only from among the people to ensure that they are grounded in the traditions. They are not permitted to use other languages during rites. People who do not understand the language of the tradition are not allowed at the place of worship. So no matter one’s level of education, identifying with the religion means the learning and use of English language must face some challenges.
Ethnic Bias and Colonial Prejudice
This is a serious problem learners of English language as second or foreign language face. Some people with nationalist principles believe that learning English perfectly reduces their nationalistic positions. Because language and culture are hardly separable, it is supposed that the people’s culture is endangered when quality attention is given to learning English. Therefore, children in such communities are advised to learn their native languages more; and English should only be learned to communicate with foreigners. Those who are better at speaking English than their native languages are usually stigmatized. They sooner or later will withdraw from using English as they would normally want to.
There is the consciousness that learning the language of the colonial masters perpetuates colonial control. The people should therefore down play the role of English in such communities. Even when they learn English, they may deliberately retain some deviations that mark them as different independent people; but there is a problem of the quantity of what should be the features of variation. That is mostly what turns out to pose problems to second language learners in such countries.
Poor remuneration of English language teachers
When teachers of English in ESL countries are not well paid, they tend to have diverted attention. They have to do other things in other to raise money for the up keep of their families. The morale is low so that they do not take time to improve themselves in the course. They may not have enough money to attend further trainings to be better equipped to use or teach English to learners under them. Their economic conditions are not encouraging, and could make learners disrespect them or devalue the course as a whole. Therefore learners develop negative attitudes to learning English in ESL countries. The worth of the learning English in countries where English is not the first language should be seen in how the knowledge has improved the lives of especially those teaching it.
Other problems faced by second language English learners
- Domination of weak students in class,
- Over dependence on teachers,
- Mother tongue interference, and
- Inadequate language teaching facilities in schools.
Read further on English as Second language.