This study was motivated by the pervasive difficulties which Namibian learners and students experience in reading and understanding English texts, and which impact negatively on the academic progress of these learners and students. The research was aimed at identifying specific language-related properties of English texts which might impede the English reading comprehension of students in Namibia entering university, as well as possible elements in the language background of these students which might contribute to the challenges they face in processing English texts.
Although a great deal of research has been done on second language reading, relatively little of this research focuses on non-English speaking readers in Southern Africa, particularly in Namibia. The main thrust of the research, therefore, was to identify and explore the views and theories of as many researchers as possible in the field of second language reading in general, and of reading in English as a second language in particular, and to investigate the extent to which these views and theories pertain to native speakers of languages used in Namibia.
The first component of this study, namely secondary research in the form of an extensive review of available literature related to reading and reading comprehension, yielded a vast array of language-related factors thought to influence second language reading comprehension and the processing of English texts by second language readers. In the empirical component of the study, for the purpose of determining the relevance in the Namibian context of the language factors identified in the secondary research, a study was conducted involving 86 students enrolled for Foundations of English Language Studies, a first year English course in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. The empirical research was conducted in three phases. In Phase 1 of the study, qualitative data was generated through a questionnaire exploring the language background and experience of participants. In Phase 2 of the study, since vocabulary was prominently highlighted in the literature as a significant factor in reading comprehension, participants completed a vocabulary test. In addition, on the basis of linguistic properties most prominently identified in the literature as influencing English reading comprehension, ten linguistic properties were selected as being potential sources of English reading comprehension difficulty for students in Namibia. A set of twelve English texts was then selected and analysed, using Coh-Metrix 2.1, a text analysis software programme which is sensitive to properties such as cohesion relations, world-knowledge and language and discourse characteristics, and statistics were generated with regard to the ten properties identified for this study. The twelve selected texts were also manually analysed to check for other possible linguistic impediments to reading comprehension not identified in the computer analysis. Study participants were encouraged to engage with the twelve selected texts by completing a short comprehension exercise, the results of which yielded a general impression of the accessibility of the texts, and of potential problem areas to be investigated further in focus group interviews.
In Phase 3 of the study, structured focus group interviews incorporating think-aloud protocols were conducted to explore the views of the students themselves with regard to underlying causes of difficulty in reading English texts. A comparison was then made of potential sources of difficulty reflected in the Coh-Metrix 2.1 measurements and the manual analysis with difficulties perceived by participants themselves. Data from both the questionnaires and the interviews were also analysed for evidence of the possible influence on English reading comprehension of the language background and reading practices of the readers.
While the results of this study confirmed the significant role played in English reading comprehension by a number of linguistic properties discussed in the literature, there was also evidence that these did not adequately account for comprehension difficulties among tertiary students in Namibia, and that there was a need to explore less obvious sources of difficulty which may be of specific relevance to speakers of other languages used in Namibia, and may thus offer an important and novel avenue for further research.
SSA, R (2021). A Study Of Language Related Factors Impeding The English Reading Comprehension Of Namibian First Year University Students. Afribary.com: Retrieved May 13, 2021, from https://afribary.com/works/a-study-of-language-related-factors-impeding-the-english-reading-comprehension-of-namibian-first-year-university-students
Research, SSA. "A Study Of Language Related Factors Impeding The English Reading Comprehension Of Namibian First Year University Students" Afribary.com. Afribary.com, 28 Apr. 2021, https://afribary.com/works/a-study-of-language-related-factors-impeding-the-english-reading-comprehension-of-namibian-first-year-university-students . Accessed 13 May. 2021.
Research, SSA. "A Study Of Language Related Factors Impeding The English Reading Comprehension Of Namibian First Year University Students". Afribary.com, Afribary.com, 28 Apr. 2021. Web. 13 May. 2021. < https://afribary.com/works/a-study-of-language-related-factors-impeding-the-english-reading-comprehension-of-namibian-first-year-university-students >.
Research, SSA. "A Study Of Language Related Factors Impeding The English Reading Comprehension Of Namibian First Year University Students" Afribary.com (2021). Accessed May 13, 2021. https://afribary.com/works/a-study-of-language-related-factors-impeding-the-english-reading-comprehension-of-namibian-first-year-university-students