SPANISH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS´ LOW LEVEL OF ENGLISH: POSSIBLE CAUSES
Universidad de La Rioja (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:The existing educational systems are based on obtaining curricular skills which are among the results obtained in a competencies assessment system.
This educational model requires a hierarchical organization of learning objectives, according to each objective´s degree of difficulty, and a minimal degree of homogeneity amongst students´ aptitudes. Nevertheless, the generic competencies characterising the mainstreaming proposed by the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) were not considered by traditional curricula.
The curricular heterogeneity of students´ experience in this regard complicates the teaching of a second language. This fact becomes especially relevant regarding foreign languages, and more specifically in the case of English, since the objectives of EHEA and second language learning represent fundamental pillars upon which the social cohesion, essential for a fully united Europe to progress into the future, is constructed.
This factor motivated an internal study, of a non-experimental and descriptive nature, which aimed to determine our students´ level of English. Furthermore, this study compared its results with those of other studies conducted nationally and throughout Europe. There were no surprises and the Spanish students´ low level of English was verified.
This article presents an in-depth analysis of this situation through a retrospective look at the teaching of foreign languages in Spain, by comparing teaching methodologies specific to foreign language teaching, and examining the possible causes of the low success rate of foreign language learning in our country.
The main conclusions obtained in this study are as follows:
1. Oral skills must be fostered, as there is an enormous gap between students´ abilities in written and oral competencies, logically favouring the former.
2. Language teaching must become primarily pragmatic, since various factors – geographic, cultural, social and also linguistic – drastically reduce the opportunities to practice English in real contexts in Spain.
3. And lastly, while some studies do deem the level of grammar taught to be acceptable, we believe that this topic merits further debate within the context of higher education, as there is evidence confirming the contrary in this context.
Keywords: Research, English, curricula, questionnaires, excellence, continual improvement.