An investigation into the effect of mobile-assisted language learning on Rwandan university students' proficiency in English as a foreign language

Uwizeyimana, Valentin (2018-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: It is almost common knowledge that English is the most spoken language in the world, which is considered a global lingua franca, and which often offers a means of socio-economic mobility for its speakers (Crystal 2003; Samuelson and Freedman 2010). Because of this status, English has been adopted by many countries as their national and/or official language, and to serve as a medium of instruction at different levels of education, even though it is a foreign language in some of those countries, i.e. not spoken or even understood by a large part of the population (Nyika 2015). This implies that attaining a high level of proficiency in English remains an advantage, whereas not knowing the language at all or attaining a low level of proficiency in it, constitutes a disadvantage. However, in many countries such as Rwanda, attaining a high level of English proficiency is problematic, precisely because it is a foreign language despite being an official language (Kagwesage 2013). This means that learners are not exposed to a sufficient amount of English input, and there are very few to no opportunities for English output (i.e. actually using the language). The limited input which learners receive, comes from the formal language classroom, where learners are, in by far the majority of cases, taught by non-native speakers of English (Abbott, Sapsford and Rwirahira 2015). Furthermore, learners have access to limited conventional teaching-and-learning materials (such as printed books, journals and computers), and they do not get enough opportunities to practise English outside the classroom setting (Andersson and Rusanganwa 2011). In order to address this problem, and in conformity with the constructivist approach to language teaching and learning, this study investigated the contribution that mobile input can make to the attainment of a higher level of English proficiency, given the growing amount of research showing the value of mobile technologies in language learning (MTLL). 60 Kinyarwanda-speaking students studying at the University of Rwanda participated in the study, and were divided into four groups. Group 1 received training in the use of MTLL and then continued using these MTLL; Group 2 used MTLL without having received any training; Group 3 did not use MTLL but were provided with additional conventional material; and Group 4 neither used MTLL nor received any additional material. Data were collected by means of observation, a survey, an English language proficiency test, a discussion group with the participants and a semi-structured interview with a lecturer at the University of Rwanda. A careful analysis of the data showed that MTLL have a significant effect on the learners’ proficiency in English as a foreign language (EFL), and that the learners have positive attitudes towards MTLL and their integration into the language pedagogy. Finally, this study offers some practical suggestions regarding the incorporation of MTLL in formal language classrooms generally, but also more specifically in the case of EFL classrooms in African countries, where English is a foreign language as well as the country’s official language and the language of instruction.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Dit is algemeen bekend dat Engels die mees-gesproke taal ter wêreld is, ’n globale lingua franca, wat dikwels aan sy sprekers sosio-ekonomiese mobiliteit bied (Crystal 2003; Samuelson en Freedman 2010). As gevolg van hierdie status, is Engels deur baie lande tot hulle nasionale en/of amptelike taal verkies, sowel as die taal van onderrig, ten spyte daarvan dat die taal in sommige van hierdie lande ’n vreemdetaal is, wat ’n groot deel van die bevolking dus glad nie praat, of selfs verstaan, nie (Nyika 2015). Dit impliseer dat dit voordelig is om ‘n hoë vlak van vaardigheid in Engels te verwerf, terwyl dit ’n besliste nadeel is om die taal glad nie te ken nie of om slegs ’n lae vlak van vaardigheid daarin te verwerf. Dit is egter in baie lande, soos Rwanda, problematies om ’n hoë vaardigheidsvlak in Engels te verwerf, juis omdat die taal ’n vreemdetaal is ten spyte daarvan dat dit ook een van die land se amptelike tale is (Kagwesage 2013). Dit beteken dat leerders nie blootgestel word aan ’n toereikende hoeveelheid insette in die taal nie, en dat daar baie min, tot geen, geleenthede is om Engels te gebruik. Die beperkte insette wat leerders wel ontvang, kom van die formele taalklaskamer, waar leerders, in die meerderheid van gevalle, onderrig ontvang van ’n nie-moedertaalspreker van Engels (Abbott, Sapsford en Rwirahira 2015). Verder het leerders toegang tot beperkte konvensionele onderrig-en-leer materiaal (soos gedrukte boeke, joernale en rekenaars), en kry hulle nie voldoende geleenthede om Engels buite die klaskamer te oefen nie (Andersson en Rusanganwa 2011). Om hierdie probleem aan te spreek, en in ooreenstemming met die konstruktivistiese benadering tot taalonderrig en -leer, het hierdie studie ondersoek ingestel na die bydrae wat mobiele insette kan lewer tot die verwerwing van ’n hoër vaardigheidsvlak in Engels, gegee die toenemende hoeveelheid navorsing wat dui op die waarde van mobiele tegnologieë in taalleer (MTTL). 60 Kinyarwandasprekende studente aan die Universiteit van Rwanda het aan die studie deelgeneem, en is opgedeel in vier groepe. Groep 1 het onderrig ontvang in die gebruik van MTTL en het MTTL aanhou gebruik; Groep 2 het MTTL gebruik sonder om onderrig daarin te ontvang; Groep 3 het nie MTTL gebruik nie, maar is voorsien van addisionele konvensionele leermateriaal; en Groep 4 het nie MTTL gebruik of addisionele materiaal ontvang nie. Data is ingesamel deur middel van waarneming, ’n opname, ’n Engelse taalvaardigheidstoets, ’n groepbespreking met die deelnemers en ’n semi-gestruktureerde onderhoud met ’n dosent aan die Universiteit van Rwanda. ’n Sorgvuldige analise van die data het aangedui dat MTTL ’n beduidende effek het op leerders se vaardigheid in Engels as vreemdetaal (EVT), en dat leerders ’n positiewe houding het teenoor MTTL en die integrasie daarvan by die taalpedagogie. Laastens bied hierdie studie ook praktiese voorstelle vir die integrasie van MTTL by formele taalklaskamers oor die algemeen, maar ook meer spesifiek in die geval van EVT-klaskamers in Afrikalande, waar Engels ’n vreemdetaal is, sowel as die land se amptelike taal en die taal van onderrig.

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