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The Decline of the Proficiency in English Among Students

Chukwuemeka Chinedu is an ongoing Student Pastor at Nigeria Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho, with BSc in Economics, HR, and CIPM


What is proficiency in the English Language? According to Law Insider on English language proficiency definition, English language proficiency means the full command of language skills, including proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing the English language.[1] Therefore, proficiency in the English language can be defined as the proper way of communicating and appropriating both oral and written English language with the use of their necessary skills in their respective contexts. Proficiency in English can be measured based on specific skills to produce oral or written English language. These skills must conform with the production and purpose of the English language, spoken or written.

The English language proficiency degree varies in settings, fields, institutions, and English-speaking countries. For example, there can be low proficiency in English among students of primary schools in a particular community; and moderate proficiency in English among students of tertiary institutions in the same community in Nigeria. A country like Britain can experience a high proficiency in English, while there is a low proficiency in the English language in Nigeria. Some African countries colonized by the British government tend to experience a decline in the proficiency of English. Certain factors are responsible for a decrease in English proficiency in some West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. In some situations, these factors tend to decline mastery of the English language in West African countries.

Nigeria is a multi-lingual country with an estimation of over 100 languages. Multi-lingual language constitutes a significant factor that has brought a decline in proficiency in English among certain institutions and settings in Nigeria. The educational sector has an essential role in this area because a reduction in proficiency in English affects Nigeria’s communication with other international countries. Certain schools and Institutions like seminaries are affected by a decrease in proficiency in English in Nigeria.


Causes of Decline in the English Language Proficiency among Students

Some specific issues have led some students to be experiencing a decline in proficiency in the English language. According to Luoma, mastering proficiency in spoken English is not easy, and students and ordinary people spend a long time acquiring the desired proficiency.[1] There is a decline in proficiency in English since mastering proficiency in English is complicated. Specific causes have brought about a reduction in proficiency in the English language. According to Jalan A. Yani, Tromol Pos I, Pabela, Surakarta, from their article on Oral English Proficiency: Obstacles And Solution For University Students On the Muhammadiyah University Of Surakarta, discussed four definite causes, which are: cognitive, affective, psychomotor and external factors.[2]

The Cognitive factors have to do with the students’ intellectual capability. Some students have issues with reading and studying their vocabulary in English due to distractions and lack of focus. It can lead to a decline in the mastery of the English Language. His grammar might also be a cognitive problem since the English language was not his mother tongue. It, therefore, becomes difficult to pronounce certain words fluently. Some students pronounce words in English with obstructions from their original dialects. These obstructions pose a problem and become a challenge for the students to learn their English vocabulary and practice the English language.

The Affective factors have to do with the students’ feelings, their emotional interactions with themselves, people and their environment. Fear is one of the causes that has led to the decline in proficiency in English among students. Students should be trained to be speakers of God’s word before any large gathering. However, some students experience stage fright and cannot speak fluently before their audience because of stage fright. Sometimes introverts especially tend to face such challenges because they are shy, anxious or ashamed even to have a conversation with another unfamiliar or intimidating individual. Laziness can also be a significant cause and hindrance for students in speaking and writing English correctly. Some students are lazy to do their assignments; some are lazy to read and study, making them stunted and malnourished in their learning, leading to a lack of confidence.

Psychomotor factors or causes have to do with challenges that inhibit their physical, intentional engagements in practices and activities that will aid in students learning how to read, speak, listen and write in English. Some students find some planned activities that will help in their mastery of the English Language boring, and therefore they are unable to learn well. Some see intentional assignments set to aid them in pronouncing and reading English texts and exercises as tiring and therefore miss the benefits of such assignments and texts. Mismanagement of time can be a problem for them to miss their practising exercises; their priorities are not in order, as some other appointments and meetings tend to keep them weary.

External Factors that can bring about a decline among students can be cultural and language barriers, especially if that local area of study tends to engage in vernacular more than the English language. Pandemics like Covid-19 can hinder classroom learning and thereby decline mastery of the English language.




Proposed Solutions for the Decline in the English Language Proficiency among Students

There are preferred solutions to tackle these problems that have led to the decline in proficiency in English among students. According to Laura Bridgestock, in her article titled: Seven Ways to Improve individual’s English; seven solutions are listed to improve the proficiency in English speaking are “find the activity for you”, “Improve your English writing skills”, “Improve your English reading skills”; “Improve your English listening skills”; “Improve your pronunciation”; “Improve your grammar and vocabulary”; “Try a practice test.” [1]

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  1. Find The Activity for Oneself: Students should find a suitable learning personal activity to test their proficiency in the English language. They should tend to equate their level with any such learning activities. Students are supposed to be observing their Bible-study devotion (quiet time) daily. With their habit of personal devotion, they can construct a private time for their proficiency test in English.
  2. Improve Oneself English Writing Skills: Students should improve their writing skills by engaging in writing articles of their interest. They should always attend to their writing assignments with enthusiasm and the right mindset. Students should know and learn theology registers of their essay writing and registers from any other field of interest and practise their spellings.
  3. Improve Oneself English Reading Skills: This is a vital responsibility in learning for students to improve their English proficiency. The seminary should be diligent in reading academic articles and inspiring books. He should be intentional about his reading performance. He should appoint the duration of reading books and the termination period with specific objectives and goals.
  4. Improve Oneself English Listening Skills: This requires students to attend programs and activities that will aid them in listening properly and understanding certain words, opinions, discussions and debates. They should always mingle with their colleagues, teachers, and individuals who are more proficient in English. It is also okay to watch and listen to healthy programs on radio, television and social media.
  5. Improve Oneself Pronunciation: Students should develop their pronunciation of words personal during their private periods and classes or lesson periods, thereby increasing their confidence as they speak when during interactive programs, like Seminars, workshops, Bible-study sessions, and other engaging programs.
  6. Improve Oneself Grammar and Vocabulary: Students should always check their grammar for any blunders when speaking, correct them, and be mindful of grammatical errors in their writing and correct them. They should also augment their vocabulary, thereby increasing their knowledge.
  7. Try a Practice Test: Students should pick up the challenge of testing their proficiency in English by setting a personal manufactured exam to test their capabilities in English. They can also apply for specific online exams like the Cambridge English exam to test their proficiency in English.


This article has produced the meaning of proficiency in English. The writer has also discussed issues and instances extensively concerning proficiency in English. It disclosed the causes of the decline in English proficiency; It has provided solutions for problems. These proffered solutions to erase the decline in students' proficiency can therefore improve the student’s level of proficiency in the English language orally and in writing.



© 2022 Chukwuemeka Chinedu

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