My experience in the ‘introduction to acting’ (see the complete story under the example of practice) during my Frenchman year at X University made me realize that I wasn’t fully ready for college or university courses. The lack of English proficiency could affect nonnative English speakers’ academic performance. This is a real issue that a lot of international students like me face/faced. It affected my confidence and my ability to understand the course materials, so in consequence, I dropped the class. Have I not dropped the class, I would have for sure failed and struggle with it.
English deficiency does not only affect international students whose first language is not English, but it also affects international students coming from some English language speaking countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and so on. If speaks whose primary language is English could struggle it, what of a non-English speaker. A study was conducted on the effect of English Language proficiency on students’ performance in cataloguing and classification courses in polytechnic -based library schools in Nigeria. Data were collected from 4 schools and were analyzed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation at 0.05 level of significance. The results revealed that there is a significant correlation between English Language proficiency and performance in cataloguing and classification courses. English Language proficiency has significant positive relationship with academic achievement. Shahragard et al. (2011) have established a significant positive relationship between language proficiency and academic performance or achievement of college students at Shiraz University in Iran. Similarly, Suleiman (1983) found out that inadequate mastery of language skills hinders the progress of Arab students at the university level. Additionally, a study of Sivaramana et al. (2014) on college students in Oman revealed that English deficiency affects the performance of the students in engineering studies. (Rafiu, J.; & Ngozi Nwalo. K. I. (2016))
The only way I could have interpreted what happened to me in my acting class is that the English proficiency at X university was low and that is why I could get in and start taking classes even though I wasn’t fully prepared language-wise. Like most students, I was very excited to start college and thought I was ready since I met the admission requirements. I wasn’t expecting to understand the courses as a native English language speaker, but I wasn’t expecting to struggle that much in that particular class. It would have been more helpful if I had spent an additional term at the English language Center or had started with some college-level English before diving into my general or required courses.
In order to set non-native English speakers for success, there should be a standard English proficiency score set at all colleges and universities for students whose first language is not English. This will allow a better understanding of the course materials, allow the concerned students to participate in classroom discussions and freely express themselves, and it will generate a better relationship between non-native English speakers and local students & teachers.
One of the main consequences of the lack of English proficiency in class is 'not understandings' the course materials. Most of the students who took my English deficiency survey had a hard time understanding the course materials at some point. Having a standard proficiency requirement at all schools for all non-native speakers will help in making sure that students have the minimum needed proficiency before they get admitted and start their programs. In my survey, I had some students stating that they wish they had a higher English level before starting their different programs.
As stated earlier, there is a relationship between English proficiency and students’ academic performance. It is fair to say that setting a higher proficiency requirement will promote students’ success. Many researchers investigated the relationship between language proficiency and academic performance. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between the two. The higher the language proficiency the higher the GPA. in a study conducted among 376 international graduate students (at the State University of New York at Albany), a statistically significant positive correlation was determined between the average GPA and TOEFL scores. (Martirosyan, N.M.; Hwang, E.; & Wanjohi, R. (2015)) Similarly, Johnson (1988), who conducted a confirmatory study at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay reported a similar result. The study was conducted among 196 international undergraduate students. There was a moderately low correlation between overall TOEFL scores and mean GPAs (Johnson, 1988). Students with TOEFL scores lower than 500 had a significantly lower grade compared to those with TOEFL scores of 500 or above.
A standard language proficient at all colleges and universities can create a better relationship between students and their professors. With a solid English foundation, students will be able to communicate better and be more active in class. I vividly remember a conversation I had with a professor from Waltham University. I visited the school because I was considering it for my masters. My Aunt who attended Waltham University put me in contact with her; therefore, I went to see her for guidance. As we were walking around the campus and talking about the foreign students' population, she made a general comment about international students taking classes with local or American students. For her their deficiency especially the language barrier affects their peers’ learning process. The fact that sometimes professors must spend more time explaining a concept so that they understand is a kind of a waste of time and put the other students behind. Education institutions are full of educators who think the same way and that kind of ideology doesn’t help Foreign student’s learning process. So, with strong language proficiency, it will be easier for instructors to go over their courses without explaining things over and over.