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Challenges for Learners from Rwanda in English

Challenges for Learners from Rwanda in English | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Learning is a process of acquiring knowledge and skills. A learner or student is an individual who is being taught a given set of skills to achieve a goal in mind. Learning a second language like English is both a challenging and exciting experience. In this writing, we are going to focus on the learners between the ages of 12 – 18 years and the problems they encounter in the learning of the English language in Rwanda. Rwanda is a former Francophone nation, which of recent (8 – 10 years back) has made a shift to Anglo-phone, requiring all teaching from primary four to the university to be done in the English language. It is therefore against this background that we are going to look at the numerous challenges ranging from; background, motivation, the structure of English language, methodology among others that a student has to contend with.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Bombeka B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Lack of English Environment

To begin with, the learner is faced with a problem of poor exposure of the language as they lack enough skilled teachers to act as proper role models. Most of the existing teachers, who were trained under the Francophone system, adopted English language teaching during tertiary training. Thus, this limited exposure, in turn, hinders the learners whom they teach to acquire proper basics of the language and understanding.

Relatedly, the learner also lacks the environment within which to practice the language. Rwandan society is monolingual. Most of the population uses the national language ‘Kinyarwanda’. This type of setting inhibits the learner’s ability to acquire language naturally, since English is used only at official and formal functions. As a result, the learner is limited to only using the language during the lesson of the English language.

Also Read: Multilingual and Monolingual Groups: What are the Differences?

The next hurdle learner’s face is the teacher-centered methodology

Here, the teacher spends most of the time talking to the learners who are obliged to keep quiet and listen. This minimizes student talk time. Consequently making them less productive and giving them little time to experiment with the new language structures being taught.

Teachers also tend to translate and explain language concepts in their mother tongue while teaching the English language. These translations are detrimental to the learners because as mentioned earlier, it limits their exposure and experimenting with the English language.

The other challenge lies in the design of a highly academic syllabus

The students are subjected to a curriculum that does not suit their level and experiences. The course materials do not cater to the learner’s interests and needs but are geared towards the preparation to pass examinations. In doing so, the language is taught academically for high scores.

The design promotes competition among learners other than cooperation. This puts undue pressure on the learners who end up detesting the learning process other than embracing it.

Also Read: Reasons to Get TEFL Certified

The nature and structure of the English language

The lack of uniformity and regularity in the grammar and phonology of English confuses learners. The English language has a lot of irregularities in its sound systems, tenses, verb conjugations that do not exist in the mother tongue. These disparities give learners a hard time studying and reconcile them. This in turn affects their mastery and fluency in the language.

Learners also lack access to basic instructional materials

For instance, tapes and CDs for listening practice are non-existent. Dictionaries, internet, and course books are expensive, leaving learners to only rely on the little the teacher provides.

Likewise, the learners are also subjected to only two language skills which are examined in the syllabus, that is; Reading and Writing. Listening and Speaking are largely ignored denying the learner a wholesome learning experience of the four skills.

Also Read: Why Reading and Listening Skills are Important?

The other challenge is the lack of motivation and interest to learn

As mentioned earlier, the English language is very scantily used out of the school setting. This added to the fact that the society is monolingual decreases the love for the student to learn, due to lack of use of the language in his natural environment.

In the same way, schools tend to approach the learning of language with zero tolerance to mistakes. This can at times lead to a punishment of the learners. So to protect their image and self-esteem, learners adopt a ‘silence approach’ to avoid punishment and losing face. This added together with other social biases erodes their morale to learn the language.

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Largely, the learner of English as a second language in Rwanda is faced with numerous challenges. Though, measures are being put in place to address some of the above issues. Like the current adoption of a Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC) and more training and seminars of teachers of the English language. This is geared towards the learner getting the best from the learning process and being able to use the English language fluently and accurately.

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