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International students with non- English speaking backgrounds face multiple pressures that may affect their academic performances. The uppermost among these pressures is their level of English language proficiency. They find the instructions of their classes fast-paced not only because of language and communication styles but also because of other cultural and social differences.
Bilingual students normally perceive that their English vocabulary is less extensive than students with English-speaking backgrounds, and because of such perception they become hesitant to take part in classroom discussions. Often other students fail to understand their point of view on the subject matter. Bilinguals feel that their remarks may be ignored or interrupted. There is a difficulty for them to understand idiomatic language or the fast-paced lectures of the tutor that characterize the American classroom proceedings. This perpetuates the participation of such students in classroom proceedings and discussions, which is very important if students have to develop their debating skills. Sometimes they find it difficult to become part of the classroom community.
International students also face challenges in their written work as they are not good English speakers. The problem is that they express strong anxiety over the correctness and that dominates any concerns over the content of the material. The writing of non- English speakers normally consists of repeated and consistent use of non-standard phrases, and this seriously hinders the development of the expression of their ideas. It is observed that bilinguals err on verb forms, use of proposition, and articles among writing mistakes. The uses of the non-standard verb- forms indicate a more serious linguistic interference than the use of non-standard propositions or articles. ‘As the student tries to control the language, he may lose the control of focus, logic, or the structure of the paper’(Writing needs of International Students).
Cultural differences of international students affect their academic performance and learning responses more than language interferences. Students with Asian, European, and Latin American backgrounds feel it is disrespectful to look directly at teachers when they speak to them asking questions or expressing any opinion. They are likely to have been taught not to speak in class unless asked to speak on an issue. With such a background culture, bilingual students may be more hesitant to participate in class discussions than other students. It is observed that students with such backgrounds rely heavily on abstract and passive constructions; and that obscure the direct presentation of their ideas.
International students studying English in the same classes as native English-speaking students have difficulties in understanding the academic contents. As compared to their native English-speaking classmates, bilinguals usually have to put in extra effort and time to cope with the fast pace of the American way of teaching. Despite this, they find themselves at the receiving end as they do not fare as well as their English-speaking fellows. Generally speaking, international students with non- English backgrounds have a small vocabulary. ‘Problems understanding the words are the most obvious difficulties encountered by students. (Leigh Wood). They are not used to reading specialized English at a high speed and struggle a lot on this ground as well. Some of the students find listening to English a problem as well. Also, it is a serious problem to read an academic text as they don’t know many words. Every time either they have to look up to the dictionary or guess the meaning of such words. The process of such reading is time-consuming. In the process, students lose the main idea or perspective of the contents.
Further, taking notes during the course of a lecture is another issue that creates hindrances in keeping pace with the class. The problem is that students can’t take notes fast at the same time listening to the teacher. If they concentrate too much on notes they’re bound to miss the understanding of the lecture. Under such a scenario, bilinguals have to make an extraordinary effort devoting additional time to develop an edge of understanding in order to get the same results or something close to their native English-speaking fellows.
- Leigh Wood, Teaching Statistics to Students from a Non- English Speaking Background. Web.
- Writing Needs of International Students.