Language Proficiency Affects Students’ Learning

Univesrity Students


As the world is getting more and more into globalization, the number of people learning in foreign languages is always increasing. For students,  especially those that study overseas, a certain level in the new language of learning becomes a challenge as they are taught in a language they do not necessarily master. So, what are the effects of language proficiency on students in the success of learning process?

A new research has put this problem under scrutiny and tried to find the right answers for the question. This study is carried by researchers from Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia, and published in a Journal of e-Learning and Higher Education. The aim of the research that was carried for six years was “to estimate the magnitude of the effect of language proficiency on the results of a course…” as mentioned in the paper.

Researchers took as sample Russian and Estonian students that are being taught in English language in a course at the Department of Building Production in the Faculty of Civil Engineering. The purpose was to “to quantify the extent to which levels of language proficiency affect course outcomes.” In the study, Researchers explained that “none of the students in the sample were taught in their native language.”

With globalization that sweeps away cultural borders, communicative skills are required to face any sort of cultural boundaries including in higher education such as in Universities and engineering schools. In these institutions, students are taught in a foreign language. Thus, the proficiency of students in this language defines how their learning process is effective, and how they understand what they are being taught.

The study finds that students that have language proficiency at the “B2 level”, which is equal to rank 4 in an international scale of 6 ranks to measure language proficiency, can easily get benefits of the course. The study stated that “the B2 level would provide an appropriate minimum proficiency level for students enrolling in a course taught in a foreign language.” This is not something which is easily reached by students with fewer skills. The study then stressed out that it does not mean that “a lower level of language proficiency cannot be overcome through student effort.”

With this global environment in education, the mastering of the language is a real obstacle. The latter can be overcome by the student’s efforts. But, as the study mentioned “with greater efforts at mitigation it probably could be reduced and, if none were in place, then it seems reasonable to assume that the magnitude of the disadvantage would be greater.”

The ultimate result we can come out of the study is that students’ understanding of language is the first important key to learn. Hence, their level of the language in which they are being taught affects their understanding, something that defines in turn the effectiveness of their education.


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