The Second Language Acquisition: Assessment of English Proficiency Amongst ESL Candidates In Higher Education

The artefact of leaving one’s primary language (mother-tongue) behind and adapting to the foreign language has remained a matter of debate for several years. This process of second language acquisition becomes painful contained with countless struggles for the acquirer if the second language is English. The English Language Learner (ELL) has to face numerous challenges to become versed with the second language, especially, when he dwells on higher education overseas. Because English has become one standardized language across the nations, and speech communities, the educational institutes all over  have implemented the English language as the bridging language. But to become versed with this standardized English language is a necessity yet a life-long struggle for the non-native English speakers. 

In the higher academia, ESL candidates or students are the ones who may or may not speak English as in native-like proficiency.  Such students enter the world of research and academia by the merit of their academic rigor but not fully make it their own due to lack of proficiency in spoken or written English language. For example, many doctoral students begin learning the English language during their Masters course to win English at the advanced level so that they can write their PhD theses quite well. Because they tend to lack the adequate resources and the other language learning skills essential for effective second language acquisition, they often struggle with writing or editing their thesis, dissertations, and research papers. 

This incompetence has led to the relatively poor performance of the ESL candidates in higher education than the ones who are proficient in English. The study of linguistics explains this language incompetency of the ESL students through the various skill sets essentially required to gain success in language learning. Three of such skill sets are discussed below:

Attitude: Because learning the English language which is clearly associated with power and hegemony for almost a century, it remains a big roadstone for the learners. Therefore, the kind of attitude with which they work towards learning  English pre-define the success or failure to face it. Learner’s belief of inability to learn the new spoken, or written language successfully leads to the failure of language acquisition. This belief is often the result of the inferiority complex that an international or ESL student feels amongst the competent native English speakers. 

Motivation: It is a significant factor involved in the language learning process as it shows the direct effect on language acquisition. A learner can only learn the language successfully if he keeps himself motivated throughout the tenure. This motivation or passion derives from either personal interest in the other culture or availing the monetary benefits from the language learned. One can also be passionate about the language learning if he sees the promising future by empowering himself with the hegemonic English language. 

Cognitive Ability: How a learner’s brain internalizes the language learning skills, and the environment is called cognitive ability of the learner. While it is directly linked with the age and maturity, much of it is all about the basic functioning of the brain. If he can grip the language complexities by himself through the resources, tools, instructions that are made available, he would be able to learn the second language better. 

These were a few of the factors that mainly contribute to the process of language learning of ESL student or ELL (English language learner). A great focus to each of these is required if the student has to learn the language not only to write their PhD theses and dissertations but also for other career as well as social prospects overseas.