Weakness In Students Reading Education Essay

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Currently in Universiti Pendididkan Sultan Idris there are about 2800 semester 7 undergraduates in different courses. All of the students come from various parts of Malaysia; they speak different languages besides the national Language. The most dominant language among the students is Bahasa Melayu. Bahasa Melayu can be considered as the first language for majority of the UPSI students. Most of the students are proficient enough in Bahasa Melayu as it is the medium of instruction in Malaysian education system. Although most of the students are proficient in Bahasa Melayu but they suffer to read in English.

The concern of this study is to investigate the weakness in students reading. To be more specific this study was designed to analyze the interference of students L1 in their L2 reading. The use of first language (L1) by second language (L2) readers to assist them comprehend texts has been noted (e.g., Block, 1986; Kern, 1994; Jimenez, Garcia, and Pearson, 1996; Upton, 1997). Hence in this study problems caused by the interruption of the first language in second language reading will be uncovered.

In this study we will investigate several kinds of interruptions that occur in students reading. Moreover, the impact of those interruptions will be discussed in the next section of this study.

1.1 Background of the problem

The main concern of this study to investigate the interference of L1 in English reading comprehension among semester 7 non-tesl undergraduates in Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris. Reading comprehension is one of the major problems among upsi non tesl students. In this study the target students and focus of the study will be narrowed down just for semester seven non- tesl undergraduates.

Semester 7 non- Tesl undergraduates are facing the difficulty to comprehend the English text as they are not proficient enough in the language itself. According to own observation, It is found that most of the non-Tesl students are afraid of English language. They feel the language itself as a big obstacle for them to graduate from the university. The problem getting severe when it come to examination where the students are required to answer comprehension test. Most of the students fail the test as they cannot comprehend the text given.

1.2 Problem statement.

This study involves 30 Upsi undergraduates' students as the respondents. The aim of this study is to investigates the interference of L1 in L2 reading comprehension among the upsi sem 7 non- Tesl undergraduates. The respondents are weak in English even some of them really fear of English especially when it comes to reading comprehension tests.

Students suffer if they cannot comprehend the text. Their performance will be affected; most probably the students cannot answer the exam question because their reading is not effective. The major problem why students hardly comprehend the text is the interference of their L1 in L2 reading.

Students became too dependent on their L1, in this context Bahasa Malaysia in their reading. Students will analyze the texts based on their prior knowledge on Bahasa Melayu. . Students don't really sure what are the rules underlying in these two languages when they applied it, it makes the students mistakenly integrate this two languages because they are not proficient enough in L2. Learner construct their own interim rules with the use of L1 knowledge , only when they believe it will help them in the learning task or when they have become sufficiently proficient in the L 2 for transfer to be possible( Selingker 1971, Seliger 1988 and Ellis 1997).

Students tried to apply their prior knowledge on their L1 and try to use it wholly in their L2 reading comprehension. Typically, a person learns a second language partly in terms of kinds and meanings already learned in the first language (Carroll, 1964; Albert & Obler, 1978 and Larson-Freeman & Long, 1991). In this case semester 7 students who are proficient in their L1 commonly adapting their L1 knowledge into their reading hence the differences in these two languages rules make their reading less effective. To successfully learn L2 requires the L2 learner to often preclude the L1 structures from the L2 learning process, if the structures of the two languages are distinctly different.

1.3 Purpose of the study.

The purpose of this study is to see the interference and effect of L1 interference in students reading comprehension and to analyze the weaknesses occurred in the reading comprehension. ESL students found reading for information easy in their first language but when it changed to their second language particularly to English language, the students fail to be the effective reader. Reading in second language for information is not easy but taking test made it even more difficult.

Reading comprehension test in varsity level is a compulsory section in CE 1 and CE 2 paper (communicative English). Students find it is difficult to score in this section because the question posted in the exam is always being tricky. Hence most of the students suffer in this compulsory paper as they cannot interpret the information required to answer the questions. Students become depressed and score poorly in the test as they cannot cope with the texts.

English is also a basic precondition to help varsity students to graduate from the university. Students are aware of this condition and express their concern on this particular thing. Hence the core problem that contributes to this problem must be analyzed.

To sum up this study is purposely aims to trigger the core problems arise from the interference of L1 in l2 reading. The finding of this study hopefully will clarify us on how the problem arises and what are the effect of the problems to our students.

1.4 Research question

In this study research question was developed in order to get the

  • What are the L1 interferences found in students' L2 reading comprehension?
  • What are the effects of L1 interference in students L2 reading comprehension?

1.5 Theoretical/ conceptual framework

In this study, there are two theories will be used to investigate the topic of interference of L1 in L2 reading comprehension.

The first theory is schema theory. Schema theory is based on the assumption that the reader's prior knowledge directly impacts new learning situations. In schema theory the concept of Schema ha been used to understand the major factor that affecting comprehension process. The concept of schema comprising of knowledge about concept, concepts: objects and the relationships they have with other objects, situations, events, sequences of events, actions, and sequences of actions. The theory is relevant to this study as the study is investigating the L1 interference in L2 reading. In this context L1 can be considered as the existed prior knowledge of the respondents. According to the theory the existed prior knowledge on L1 will be used in reading comprehension of L2

The second theory that will be used in this study is interactive approach by Grabe (1991). According to Grabe in his interactive approach model, interaction occurred between the reader and the text whereby the reader constructs meaning based partly on the knowledge drawn from the text and partly from the existing background knowledge that the reader has. This theory is suitable for the study as the study was aimed to investigate the students' existed L1 knowledge interferences in comprehending L2 texts.

1.6 Significance of the study

This study is useful for the students who have the problems in comprehending English language text. This study will displays the mistakes made during the reading of L2 text caused by L1 interference.

1.7 Limitation of the study

This study is limit by the number of the students and the time constrains. There are about 2800 semester 7 undergraduates in Upsi and this is not included Tesl students, the number of the students was numerous for the time concerns. As a solution, the number of respondents was reduced to 30 persons only.

The respondents are all from semester seven and from the non tesl courses, like Bahasa Melayu, Music and Geography. All the respondents are weak in English, and have problems to comprehend English reading texts.

What was fear about this situation is the students afraid of English text, they might decline to answer the questionnaire because the questionnaire for this study requires the students to answer a simple comprehension test, and it is also a bit time consuming. The results of the test might not show the real state of understanding of those respondents as they might not take it seriously.

Time given also a big concern of this study, the duration to do this study is roughly 4 month started from July to October 2009. The time given is not adequate to collect the sufficient data.


2.0 Introduction

The review of related literature will be discussed under 3 major subheadings. Namely the usage of L1 in L2 reading comprehension, Malaysian education context and the learners' context

2.1 Usage of L1 in reading comprehension.

The usage of L1 in ESL class is no longer an alien thing. Auerbach (1993: 1) argued that the "use of students' linguistic property can be beneficial at all levels of ESL." Similarly, Cook (1992) reminded teachers that whether they want it to be there or not, the L1 is ever existed in the minds of their L2 learners. Furthermore, translation is considered as a cognitive approach in L2 reading (Anderson, 1991; Block 1986; O'Malley and Chamot, 1990). L2 readers have been found to rely on translation in the process of comprehending L2 texts and that the level of such reliance is associated to the level of students' proficiency (Kern, 1994; Upton, 1997).

2.2 Cross linguistic transfer Between L1 and L2 reading texts.

Alderson (1984) comes up with an interesting question when he asked whether reading complexity was a reading problem or a language problem. He wondered why proficient L1 students find it complicated to read in the L2. The assumption is that reading skills and abilities should shift from the L1 to the L2 and he proposed that a language entry needs to be crossed before L1 learners can read in the L2. This suggests that "in second language reading, knowledge of the second language is a more important factor than first language reading abilities" (Alderson 2000:23). In this study we will see how proficient L1 reader particularly BM reader have the trouble to comprehend English reading text.

Students cannot be too dependent to their L1 knowledge in order to be a proficient L2 reader. They must acquire the knowledge of L2 also reflected in later studies like Alderson (2000) and Bernhardt & Kamil(1995). Bernhardt & Kamil (1995) in their survey of studies on L1 and L2 reading found that while L1 literacy is a strong predictor of L2 reading, it is L2 linguistic knowledge that accounts for success in L2reading. They claim the question is not whether reading in the L2 is a language problem or a reading problem. Instead, the question is how much L2 knowledge an L2 reader should have to make use of L1knowledge to read an L2 text.

Furthermore reading strategy in L1 and L2 are not similar, learners who can read competently in two languages found that the strategy used in two texts and this means transferring L1 strategies to read an L2 text is not significant here (Taylor & Taylor 1983, Bernhardt1987). For learners to use different interpretation strategies there must be a divergence between the two languages and this could be in the orthographic systems (Pang 2004).

2.3 Malaysian education context.

In Malaysian context there are two major languages used in the Education System. The Major language is Bahasa Melayu and English can be considered as the second important language in our educational system. These two languages serving as the medium of instruction in all education levels starting from the primary level till the tertiary levels. In order to survive the education stages, learners found that they have to read well in these two languages. Commonly in Malaysian context most of the students are proficient in just one language and not many students can be excellent in two languages particularly in Bahasa Melayu and English. Hence, the students will suffer in reading academic texts in one of the language mentioned. In this case semester seven undergraduates non- Tesl students was found suffering to read in L2 ( Enlish) reading text. They have the difficulty to comprehend the texts effectively as they comprehend their L1 reading text.

2.4 Learners aspect.

This study is a follow up to the previous study on this particular problem. This study was expected to find out the interference aspects in students' l2 reading. Moreover this study also expected to show the impact of interference of L1 in L2 reading. The test carried out will shows us how the students facing the difficulty in comprehending L2 text.


3.0. Research Design

This study involves 30 Upsi undergraduates' students as the respondents. The aim of this study is to investigates the interference of L1 in L2 reading comprehension among the upsi sem 7 non- Tesl undergraduates. The Instruments to collect data are tests and thinking aloud.

3.1. Test

This study involves two sets of test. In the first test the respondents are require to translate several English sentences into their first language. This test contains seven English sentences, for every sentence students are required to translate it to their L1 (Bahasa Melayu). The aim of this test is to figure out, whether the students are bound with the L1 rules while they cognitively dealt with the L2 sentences. From the translation test we will see how the students applied their first language syntax rules to the second language text. If the students managed to construct the sentences properly according to correct syntax rules they might successfully differentiate Bahasa Melayu syntax from English syntax.

The students reading might not affected with the syntax confusion if they manage to arrange the sentence properly, if they cannot arrange the sentence correctly the students might be heavily bound with confusion of syntactic problem. From the test we will discover how the syntactical differences between these two languages affecting the students reading.

By having this test we also will see how the students deal with the difficult word. From the results of this test we will check whether the students can successfully translate the words by guessing the meaning of the words according to the context of the words. If the students are depending on the vocabulary to do the test, they might be too depending to their L1 to translate the l2 text.

Furthermore, the second test will be a follow up test to prove that the students are having the difficulty to tackle English text as they have the problem of the syntax structure and lack of vocabulary on the L2. The second test is a comprehension test whereby the respondents will be given a text and a set of questions based on the text to test the students understanding of the text. The second test is not a difficult test, it is adapted from the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia English Test (SPM). Level of the questions is suitable for the respondents as most of the respondents are not proficient in English.

3.2 Thinking aloud

Another technique used to collect data in this study is thinking aloud. Matsumoto (1993: 34) explained that think-aloud is a data set method whereby informants are require to say "what they are thinking and doing (i.e., everything that comes to mind) while performing a task." it is applied mainly to the area of reading, think-aloud can be seen as the reader's expression of his or her mental processes while engaged in reading".

Think-aloud procedure has gained its' reputation among researchers as a data collection instrument in areas of research that promote a cognitive perspective such as problem solving and second language learning (Ericsson and Simon, 1987; Ericsson and Simon, 1993; Faerch and Kasper, 1987).

Test given to the students will be videotaped and the students' actions recorded. Notes were taken to see what the students think when they collaboratively completing the task. The rationale of doing the videotaping and notes taking is to see whether there are first language, interruption while the students collaboratively doing the comprehension task.

Think aloud method will enables observers to see directly the process of task completion (rather than only its final product).

3.3. Respondents

The respondents of this study are all semester seven non-tesl students. Overall there are 30 respondents and they are from different courses. There are twenty respondents majoring in Bahasa Melayu will be taken as the respondents of this study. The remaining respondents are from Music department and art department. The respondents selected are weak in English and most probably have the difficulty to comprehend English Text. The average Muet grade for the respondents is below band 4. The respondents can be categorized in the low proficiency group of students.

3.4 Definitions of terms

1. L1

According to axistranslation.com, First language, native language or mother tongue is the language a person learns first. In the same way, the person is called a native speaker of the language, even though one may also be a native speaker of more than one language, if all of the languages are learned in nature without formal lessons, such as through cultural engagement before puberty. Often a child learns the basics of his or her first languages from his or her family.

2. L2

Second language or L2 is a language learned by a person after his or her native language, esp. as a resident of an area where it is in general use. Besides that, it is also a language widely used, esp. in educational and governmental functions in a region where all or most of its speakers are nonnative.

3. Interference.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning of interference is the action of interfering or process of being interfered with.

4. Reading

Reading is the process of constructing meaning from written texts. It is a complex skill requiring the coordination of a number of distinct sources of information (Anderson et al., 1985).

Reading is the process of constructing meaning through the dynamic interaction among: (1) the reader's existing knowledge; (2) the information suggested by the text being read; and (3) the context of the reading situation (Wixson, Peters, Weber, & Roeber, 1987, citing the new definition of reading for Michigan).

5. Comprehension

According to (http://www.brainyquote.com/words/co/comprehension146355.html) Comprehension is the capacity of the mind to perceive and understand; the power, act, or process of grasping with the intellect; perception; understanding; as, a comprehension of abstract principles.

3.5 Sample of Questions

3.5.1 Test


1. Translate the sentences below into Bahasa Melayu.

  1. There is a black cat hiding behind the refrigerator waiting to catch the mice.

  2. I have a pair of blue shoes, given by my mom as a birthday present.

  3. Have you read your letter? Asked Ahmad to his younger brother when they sit together in front of their house.

  4. Which part of the passage is supposed to be summarized?

  5. The federal head of state of Malaysia is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,

2. Comprehension test

Read the report below and answer the questions as follows.

The occupants of a house in Medan Taman Tun Dr Ismail got a shock when a monitor lizard went inside their house on Thursday afternoon. One of the occupants chased the 1.2 meters-long creature into a room and trapped it inside. The police responded to the occupants' call and caught the reptile

  1. Which of the following would be an appropriate headline for the newspaper report.
  2. a. Alien visitor

    b. Trapped and caught

    c. Quick alien saves lines

    d. Unexpected visitors

  3. Picnic outing turns tragic

Bachok, Sun:- A mechanic drowned in his attempt to save his children who encountered difficulties amid the strong waves at the Irama Beach here, today. Hasan Zain, 43, managed to rescue one of the children - eight-year-old Nurul Hassan. However, his son, Mohd Nor, 10, drowned. When he tried to rescue his other daughter, the strong waves dragged him underwater. Alocal resident said that there were frequent drowning cases at the beach as swimmers did not know the depth of the watersthere.

Irama Beach has seen many cases of drowning because

A. people like swimming here

B. the waves are too strong

C. many picnickers like to have outing here

D. the swimmers did not know how to swim

Read the text below and answer the question that follows.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or sold in any form without the permission of the author. The author reserves the right to take legal action against any parties caught infringing these rights.

From the text above, we know that

A. the publication can be photocopied.

B. only part of the publication can be reproduced.

C. the author's permission is required to make copies.

Read the newspaper report below and answer the question that follows.

JOHOR BHARU, Thurs - Looters are using sophisticated equipment to scour Mersing waters for sunken treasure. The modern-day pirates enter the area on the pretext of engaging inscuba-diving but end up removing priceless artefacts from several shipwrecks in the area.

Why are the looters called modern-day pirates?

A. They pretend to scuba-dive in the area.

B. They scour shipwrecks in the Mersing waters.

C. They steal artefacts using sophisticated equipment.

Read the text below and answer the questions that follow.


Did you know that colours affect our body and mind? They can change the visual size of a room, create a mood and even heal a person. Green has the most powerful impact in calming a person. Red urges a person to go ahead and win. It has been suggested that we should wear colours according to the days that are governed by each planet because doing so can activate human gland in various bodily functions. For instance, red is appropriate for a person with low blood pressure while blue stops overeating.

  1. According to the article, colours may affect the following except
  2. A. Body

    B. Mood

    C. Success

    D. Healing

  3. Which colour was not mentioned in the article ?
  4. A. Blue

    B. Green

    C. Red