Comprehending English text


1.0 Introduction

Reading ability is a very important element in a higher education level. Since English has become the lingua franca or the language of all regions, students of a higher education as in the tertiary level must be able to read and comprehend English text.

Reading is a vital for an individual especially students of a higher education for many reasons. Reading is done by most people in order to obtain information, to make decision or for pleasure. Professionals too read to expand their knowledge and skills. Hence, the ability to read well is a valuable asset because any act either education professional or less need at least some reading ability. Furthermore, tremendous quantity of reading material makes the reading possible.

However, if an individual can read but could not understand the meaning of what he has read, then the reading served no purpose to him. In fact, he will face a lot of problem in order to acquire information.

Since reading skill plays a major role in education, great emphasis is given towards this skill started from the early school. Knowledge in most cases is imparted through printed material. Therefore, in order to have an effective teaching learning atmosphere, the students should be able to read and comprehend English text. Same goes when the students are in the higher education level, reading is still one most important skill to be mastered as there are thousands of education source are written in English.

Reading is an active mental process which deals with interaction between readers and the text. A good reader is hypothesized as who are not only able to comprehend the text as a whole but are also who are able to employ various skills such as scanning, skimming, locating information, predicting, understanding, sequencing and interfering while comprehending the text. Weak readers on the other hand may only read the text where they can only understand the text at the surface level.

1.1 Background Of The Problem

Difficulties in comprehending English text within Malaysian students have occurred so many years ago. In order for them to excel in the higher education level as in the tertiary level depends very much on their ability to read and comprehend text because reading is a fundamental asset for every individual. Brunan W.K (1980) for instant defines reading as a two way interaction in which information is exchange between the reader and the author.

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From many researches done, it shows that there are a lot of difficulties faced by Malaysian students and also by the native speakers in comprehending English text. This happen caused by several factors or problems that contribute to the difficulty of comprehending text such as low vocabularies, different social background knowledge, sentence length and also the term used.

Based on my own experience, I am facing with students who are having this kind of problem, difficulties in comprehending English text. This happen when they are given a text written in English such as journals by their lecturer as the material was the source of the subject matter, they rather ask me or some students who are good in English to translate the text into Malay language. This shows that they are having problem in comprehending English text. I do believe that they can read but what makes them refuse to read is because they can’t understand or comprehend the text.

1.2 Problem Statement

This problem arises when the students read English text or materials but could not be able to comprehend them. They simply could not get the essence or the main idea of the writing which would be very problematic when it comes to the higher education level.

From my own observation which is concern with some UPSI students of different courses such as Sport science, Science, Business Study and Counseling, it was initiated that they are having problem in comprehending English text even though most of the references regarding the courses are most found in English language. As a result of having problem in comprehending English text, they face other difficulties when carrying out assignments or presentations. In order for them to understand and comprehend the text, they need the text to be translated into Malay Language as Malay language is their first language. People with a good language of English will be chosen as their translator. Hence their English skill will never develop.

This is a very serious matter because they could not comprehend English text. It means that they are having problem with their reading skills. This study is necessary to find the difficulties faced by the students of various courses studying in a tertiary level at Sultan Idris Education University and it is hoped that this study will help the teachers as well as the students of how to handle these difficulties.

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1.3 Purpose of The Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the difficulties faced by the students of various courses studying in a tertiary level at Sultan Idris Education University in comprehending English text. This is because being able to understand English text is necessary since English language is concerned to be the language used in most of the reference books.

This study will also help teachers to know what are the difficulties that actually faced by the students and it is hoped that this difficulties can be eased to enhance students’ reading ability. I will analyze and look what are the problems faced by the students and what strategies that they do in order to overcome that problem. From the data gained, some suggestions will be added in contributing to the diminution of the problem.

1.4 Research Questions

There are three questions that need to be answered as a guide throughout the study as well as a means for the data collection. The research questions are as follows:

  1. What are the main problems faced by the students in comprehending English text?
  2. What strategies they use to understand the English text?
  3. How do these difficulties effect on their study?

1.5 Theoretical Framework

In this study, I am using two (2) theories that match the topic of difficulties in reading comprehension.

The first theory is the schema theory which is based on the assumption that the reader’s prior knowledge directly impacts new learning situations. In schema theory the concept of Schema has 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 schema theory is relevant to this study as the study investigate the difficulties faced by students in comprehending English reading text. In this context the reader’s knowledge about the topic is to be considered as the existed prior knowledge of the reader. According to the theory the existed prior knowledge on their first language (L1) will be used in comprehending reading text in their second language (L2) which is English.

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 how students deal with the reading difficulties that they encounter.

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1.6 Significance of the Study

This study is beneficial to certain group of people because it might help them in some aspect of learning and teaching. This study is relevant as a guide for teachers in school to be prepared for some possibilities they might face in teaching their students.

Besides that, this study will also give brief suggestions to the students on how they can deal with such a problem in reading. It is hope that from this study, the students will be much aware about their weaknesses and try to overcome and improve the weaknesses.

University students are the most targeted group to view this study as it provides them with suggestions regarding problems in reading English text. The suggestion might help them to become a better reader and excel in their field.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

In this study, there are several limitations that might occur. In order to get the data, I will use two methods. Those methods involve quantitative and qualitative design. For the quantitative design, I am going to distribute questionnaires for them to answer. The qualitative design on the other hand involves interviewing some respondent and it will be carried out verbally.

I might have problem regarding data collection. Firstly, the data gathered from the questionnaires might not be as perfect as I wanted them to be. This is simply because the subjects are students of other courses that I am not familiar with. There is a tendency that they might simply answer the questionnaire without really focusing on the issue. This is something that usual to happen when questionnaires are being distributed. Besides that, I might have to face the risk that the questionnaires returned to me will not be as the same number as I have distributed them at the first place.

Another limitation that I might face is from the interview. The respondent might not be able to communicate in English very well. As for that, a mixture of Malay language and English will be use in the interview. The idea is to get the information regarding the problem.

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