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Language-Related Problems of International Students, Essay Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1887

Essay

Introduction

Language is a crucial element in social and educational processes. Various authors have contributed to the issue of language barriers and language challenges faced by international students. This authors and writers focus on the importance and problems faced by international or foreign students studying in multicultural schools. These positive and negative aspects of multicultural effectiveness mostly arise because of language differences. International students come to the U.S in order to improve or better their education. However, because of the language barriers, they face challenges as they seek to succeed in the classroom, workplace and social setting because of challenges in communication skills. Spolsky Bernard, a distinguished writer and scholar in the field of languages notes, “Language is the main mode of communication used by people within a society” (Spolsky 26). This statement implies that language is a medium for the conveyance of written or unwritten messages, which plays crucial roles in developing understanding and communicating. Language conveys because it is a medium that has tools for passing messages and meaning. For instance, language has expressions, vocabularies and strategies for effective communication. Amy Tan has also contributed to this debate by focusing on the difficulties international or foreign students face. Amy Tan focuses on practical situations of foreign language in communication especially in education. From the stories and work by Amy Tan, it is possible to visualize the various contexts where she was required to use English for communication. However, this was impeded by the fact that her mother used broken English. As a result, she had to ensure that her mother and other people of her community could understand her English. In the story, Amy Tan notes, “my mother had gone to the hospital for an appointment…”, which shows that people use language in all aspects of the society including social, life and the other aspects (Tan, 48). Therefore, language plays an essential part in the development and expression of any affairs and activities within a social setting. Before evaluating the issues of language and cultural diversity, we have to admit that local language is different from one society to another, for example, China and U.S. It is also essential to note that people have an ability of learning new languages and practicing the language in foreign society or society in which the language is applicable. These applications and uses of language are crucial in fostering cultural interactions in a rapidly globalizing and modernizing world. The uses of language are dependent on different societies. Most international students face disadvantages because they cannot express themselves in the foreign languages. These students also face challenges as they seek to develop their fundamental skills. Spolsky argues that these difficulties arise in situations such as class presentations and social activities within the school or foreign society in which spoken or written language skills are crucial in communication (Spolsky 34). These challenges in language limit academic progression and cultural integration of foreign students.

Apart from language issues, Amy Tan acknowledges the importance of communication knowledge and skills, during communication. This means that language differs with societies; therefore, it is essential for an individual to know the right application of language and the various elements of language such as vocabularies, expressions and grammar. This is well highlighted in Amy Tan’s experiences with a confusing test based on world analogies during her college years (Tan 49). Amy Tan took a test in which she was supposed to identify appropriate words, which she failed. Amy Tan could not think beyond the required level because of limited experience and knowledge in handling such situations. In the story, she says, “Well, I could not think that way. I knew what the tests were asking, but I could not block out of my mind the images already created by the first pair”. Eventually, Amy Tan become an American author, but without a successful and comprehensive academic training. This achievement may have come from her effort and relentlessness in learning the language and its social context. Educational researchers note that Asian Americans excel in their studies in America, which shows that language is not a factor in academic excellence. However, it is essential to note that Asian Americans excel in sciences and math, and they do not participate in literature.

Scheitzer is another writer who focused his works on the importance of language skills. In his writings, Scheitzer notes the importance of language skills in improving social economy. He notes, “most societies are turning economic centers into complex industrial work places” (Scheitzer 51), which in my opinion could be facilitated by the appropriate application of language. Therefore, workplaces use different technical and social skills in achieving a given level of productivity. This means that the people use these social and technical skills into production lines should have certain basic skills. At this point, post-secondary educations plays a pivotal role in training and cultivating individuals be technical people in the workplaces, which means they should have appropriate communication and social skills. Having these skills guarantee that an employee in any organization participates better than if they do not have these skills. This plays a crucial role towards directing people towards achieving an organization’s or educational goals. In his works, Schweitzer claims lack of post-secondary education presents difficulties to an employee, who in turn, may not perform his or her duties as expected by the employer (Schweitzer 92). Besides, Schweitzer also notes the “relationship between language and the necessary skills in the work environment facilitates communication among employees working together in the same task force” (Schweitzer 32). This makes us see the importance of the human resource composition of the American labor force. Because of their incompetency in the language, foreign students face challenges when communicating in the classroom, workplace or social setting. This limits their capabilities for self-expression, facilitating their discomfort in the foreign society.

Amy Tan implicitly states that most Chinese students are seeking to further their education in the U.S educational institutions (Tan 51). Both students and employees are moving to foreign countries in order to improve their earning and work experience or further their studies. As a result, the American society is diversified because of the foreigners flooding to U.S for better opportunities.

Another critical writer on language issues is Edwards, who points out that in the U.S cultural diversity, in learning environments, have some negative effects to foreign students, especially when it comes to the issue of communication (Edwards 159). He says, “I reasoned that the lower rating received on fluency and communication might well reflect poor performance.” Just like the other two writers, Edwards focuses on the issue of language and diversity in American schools. Further, Edwards states, “American education system use regular teaching and examining methods to all students” (Edwards 63). This disadvantages the foreign students because they do not the capabilities to handle the teaching and examining methods like the local students. Schools conduct lectures and examination in English language. In addition, all types of communications within these schools use either written or spoken English as the key language. Schweitzer supports this by saying “international students have some difficulties adjusting to the requirements of American schools” (Schweitzer 87). This arises from the cultural shock and language incompetency. For the international students studying in U.S schools, they finish post-secondary education in U.S schools, but still do not fulfill the language requirement, which means most of them only have some of the basic language skills. Amy Tan points out the ineffectiveness in English language for non-native students by supporting the statement on post-secondary education (Tan 50). In her story, Tan asks, “Why is there few Asian Americans enrolled in American literature?” Foreign students do not enroll in literature classes in the foreign institutions because of the challenges they face with language. Literature classes require immense expressions with language, and appropriate use of vocabularies. Because of their incompetency in languages and literature, the foreign students usually prefer sciences and mathematics classes. Edward points out that foreign student may have the basic skills, but might struggle when it comes to the grammatical aspect of the English language. There is an example to show the difficulties of using correct grammar by English learners from Amy Tan’s story. When Amy Tan walked the lane with her mother, her mother made grammatical mistake in the sentence, “Not waste money that way” (Tan 47). Schweitzer supports this, and he indicates such grammatical mistake happen to foreign students when they try to communicate academic concepts to their professors (Schweitzer, 55).

Upon, entering American academic institutions, foreign students take specific English classes to improve their basic skills for communication in English language. These classes, according to Amy Tan focus on equipping students with basic language skills in written and spoken language (Tan 51). Edwards seems to agree with this notion because he identifies the aspects of language and communication, which limit the capabilities of the foreign students to express themselves.

In this case, foreign students find it hard to integrate into the American learning culture because of the complexities in grammar and oral English. In the U.S, English language is the principal form of communication used in lectures and examinations by professors or instructors. In this case, most foreign students are stuck because they do have not enough English skill. As a result, they fail to understand the content provided by their professors or instructors during the class. Sometimes, these students join American students in discussion groups though they may fail to communicate with other group members because of their poor oral speaking. Edwards point out “the language feature”, like slang and idiom, which affect the ability of the foreign students in learning appropriate grammar, vocabularies and expression. In addition, another significant problem also comes in when these foreign students require understanding the content from lecturers (Cuyjet 34). In this case, they may not be able to communicate their questions with professors or instructors, because of barriers in the language. Schweitzer agrees by stating, “Without effectively communication skills, foreign students may hold back their questions in lectures”, as a result, they will learn less content than what they expected (Schweitzer 94). The “hold back” problem results in poor academic performance during examinations.

Conclusion

Language is a crucial aspect in education for foreign students. Foreign students have to contend with the usage of English as the first language of communication in foreign educational institutions especially in U.S and England. However, most of these foreign students use English as a second language, and they do not have the right mastery of the language for appropriate expression and usage. As a result, these students face challenges as they proceed with their education in the foreign institution. They are forced to take additional language classes in order to acquire mastery of the language. The resulting language barrier provides challenges to the students as they communicate with lecturers, teachers, classmates and social members.

Works Cited

Cuyjet, Michael. Multiculturalism on Campus: Theory, Models, and Practices for Understanding Diversity and Creating Inclusion. New York: Stylus Publishing, LCC, 2011. Print.

Edwards, John. Language Diversity in the Classroom. California: Multilingual Matters Publishing, 2010. Print.

Schweitzer, Roberts. Cultural Diversity: Promoting Social Cohesion through Education. New

York: World Bank Publications, 2008. Print.

Spolsky, Bernard. Language and Education in Multilingual Settings. Pittsburg: Multilingual Matters Publishing, 2007. Print.

Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue.” Across Culture: A Reader for writers, 6th edition. Ed. Sheena Gillespie and Robert Becker. New York: Pearson, 2005 .46-52

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