The Successes and Challenges in English Language Learning Experiences of Postgraduate International Students in Malaysia

Noor Saazai Mat Saad, Melor Md Yunus, Mohamed Amin Embi


The number of international students flooding into Malaysian’s educational landscape has increased rather tremendously. These international students come from various countries with majority from the Middle East region. Coming from different countries and having diverse backgrounds, these international students have to inevitably experience changes. One of the changes is the use of English as a medium of instruction in the institutions where they pursue their postgraduate studies in. The situation in Malaysia is unique because the country provides a hybrid-language environment where the first language is Bahasa Melayu, the national language of Malaysia, and the second language is English. The hybridity of the language environment is the impetus of the study. The study was embarked on to explore the English language learning experiences of nine international students studying in an institution in Malaysia. These participants were from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Palestine, Bahrain and Indonesia. The study was under the qualitative paradigm and thus, the data collection methods included document analysis and interviews. The participants shared their experiences learning English out-of class through their weekly online postings on Google+ throughout the semester and two rounds of interviews – in the beginning and after the end of the semester. The management of data was done by utilising ATLAS.ti software and the data analysis was guided by the six-step thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The findings reveal that they encountered both successes and challenges in learning and practising the English language. More specifically, the successes and challenges are categorised under three themes – opportunities, feelings and progress. Therefore, the subthemes are seized opportunities, positive feelings and progress for successes; while missed opportunities, negative feelings and slow progress are the subthemes for challenges. The overall finding is, although Malaysia is a hybrid-language environment which uses English only as the second language, the participants experienced more successes than challenges in their English language learning. In terms of theme one (opportunities); the findings are participants seized opportunities to practise English by accomplishing tasks, and they missed the opportunities to practise English due to lack of time and the different nature of the English language from their mother tongue. As for theme two (feelings); the findings are participants’ feelings were positive when they felt confident, had a good time learning English and obtained encouraging results, however, their feelings were otherwise when they felt frustrated with the class, people around them and also themselves. The findings for theme three (progress) are the participants experienced progress when they felt that they have improved and they achieved good results in their English course, on the other hand, they felt slow progress when there was little improvement and there were still unsolved English problems.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n19p206

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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