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The learning of English by bilingual speakers of ciluba and French in zaire: problems and solutions

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  • Education
  • Linguistics


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the teaching of English as a foreign language in Zaire in general and Eastern Kasai in particular. For it is evident from personal experience and evidence from examination results that this learning is in general not satisfactory, and particularly poor as far as learners' mastery of oral fluency is concerned. The aim of the thesis is therefore to analyze the learning situation in order to clarify the factors which might be causing this unsatisfactory situation. We take two approaches to this analysis: a theoretical review of the situation and an empirical study of teaching and learning. The thesis thus falls into four parts. In Part One, we describe the learners’ historical and sociolinguistic background and the Zairean educational situation in general and the problems of teaching English in particular. In Part Two, we review the situation in Zaire -and in Eastern Kasai in particular- by an analysis of the literature on language learning and the insights it can give us into the Zairean problem. This review deals first with issues in foreign language teaching. It also focusses however on literature on bilingualism since Zairean learners are always bilingual in, at least, one local language and the French they learn on entry to the education system. Intuitively, we might assume that bilingual learners will be at an advantage in learning a foreign language, and Zairean learners should therefore be in a good position to learn English. Our review of the relevant literature examines the objective evidence for this intuitive assumption and suggests that, other things being equal, bilingual individuals should be good learners of foreign languages. We conclude therefore that other factors in the situation may be responsible for the unsatisfactory standards. Part Three is an analysis of some of those factors, based on an empirical investigation. It is at this point that the thesis focusses more precisely on Eastern Kasai where fieldwork was carried out. Pupils and students, teachers, and inspectors and administrators were given questionnaires and interviews, and lessons were observed in four secondary schools. Many factors were found to be causing problems in EFL learning. Part Four deals with the most important of these factors and their implications, our recommendations for future practice and further research, and the conclusion., The following factors were identified as having a detrimental effect on this learning: learners' lack of motivation to go on/ perseverance, which is caused by the overemphasis teaching methods put on accuracy. This in turn means that every thing done or said in lessons is teacher-centred and teacher-dominated, and this contributes to a reduction in the already scarce opportunities and frequencies of use of English by the learners. We therefore recommend that, to increase learners' motivation to learn (to speak) English, teaching methods and teachers should allow them much more freedom of speech, thus stressing (oral) fluency. This will result in these learners opening up, and in methods becoming more learner-oriented, with the ultimate aim of having them learner-centred. In our conclusion, we give a summary of the thesis, namely its purpose, the way we followed to reach it, the results we got, and our recommendations for future practice and research.

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