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Exploring the Effect of Social Media on Language Proficiency for IIUM BENL Undergraduates

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This paper explored the effect of social media on language proficiency specifically IIUM BENL undergraduates. A total of 32 English undergraduates participated in this study where all of them responded by answering a set of questionnaire made and distributed through the Google Drive. The questionnaire was divided into two parts to entirely meet the objectives of this paper which are; to find out student’s awareness of the relationship between social media and language ability, and to determine the impact of social media on language ability. The result of this study is important to measure the consciousness of students and consequence of social networking sites on their language ability. This research found that, instead of affecting student’s language skill, the positive effects of these social networking sites outweigh the negative ones. Overall, social networking sites advancement offered a new platform that presented substantial opportunity for students to learn language at anywhere and anytime for everyone. It is crystal clear in this research that social networking sites affected student language performance both negatively and positively.

Keywords: Language proficiency, student’s awareness, social networking sites,
language performance. Exploring the effect of social media on language proficiency for IIUM BENL undergraduates University students are the cream of the country. Every single aspect should be taken in order to create a great legacy in history for future pride. This is because we use past memories to build the future legacy. In this current era, university student is the backbone of the country. Without them, a country will not have bright future. In advance, without proper education taken by them will lead to failure in prospering country in the future as well. Since the year 2000, the Internet has evolved drastically offering millions of many things to surf for. Everything is at the tips of our finger. The World Wide Web has made it so easy for knowledge gain in terms of time, money, and effort. The Web, which is one of the services that runs on the Internet, varies in term of the function catered to the world.

The Internet has the potential to provide language learners with vast resources of knowledge that are made available which offers a range of option for users to choose from. Some users opted for entertainment, sports news, economics related articles and etc. Social media, being one of the components available on the Web, received an outstanding response especially by teenagers and young adults. Advances in technology, particularly in the emergence of social networking websites, has formed new prospects for language learners to acquire knowledge in genuine ways that were impossible before. According to Thorne (2010) “One of the main reasons for the immense popularity of social networking is the process of potentially maintaining and developing online relationships” (n.d). For them, it is not only a way to view pictures of friends such as Facebook, view short messages on Twitter, or post video on YouTube, whereas it is a form of expression, interaction, and community building. Clearly, this innovative method provides massive advantage for language learners indirectly as they simply can improve their language capability only by surfing the net. However, there is a widespread belief that social networking sites are to blame for poor language ability among students.

With the advent of more varied communications channels via social media, English language has adapted incredibly well where creation and adoption new forms of language happen significantly. The main issue here is how different will the English language be in the future as interesting evolutions over the next several decades seem possible. Apparently, social networking sites will probably contribute to less language proficiency between students for it affects indirectly in all aspects of language feature including reading, writing, listening, as well as speaking. This is the main focus of this research paper by comprehending student’s perception specifically English majors on the effects of social networking sites towards their language proficiency. The paper will try to discover the consequence of discursive social media towards language learners’ ability and how it impact academic performance of students typically English majors. The first objective of this study is to find out student’s awareness of the relationship between social media and language ability as well as skills.

The second objective seeks to determine the impact of social media on language ability including all aspects and features of language. In this paper, we review current theory related to computer-assisted language learning and social networking sites where from there, we describe data collection processes and methods of analysis before we set out our results and some implications of our study.  According to the UNESCO Organization (2002) “ICT adds value to the processes of learning, and in the organization and management of learning institutions. The Internet is a driving force for much development and innovation in both developed and developing countries.” (p.9). The acronym ICT stands for Information and Communication Technologies which considers teaching as part of their study; for the reason that the rapid development of science and technology has facilitated the making of good use of teaching services and provided rich resources to help improve their teaching devices and to adopt new and advanced teaching facilities.

For van Lier (2004), language articulates the relations between people and the world and as such, context is central and ‘ecological’; accordingly, there is no reason to teach or learn de-contextualized or prescriptive grammars. Nonetheless, linguistic accuracy is important (Ellis, 2008), and thus Felix (2005) has called for a mix of social and cognitive constructivist approaches to language acquisition. By combining the two approaches, learners can be exposed to a range of activities that promote increasingly complex automated responses, engage in autonomous learning and simultaneously develop both cognitive and metacognitive processes. In everyday interaction, from professional workplaces and educational contexts to social and interpersonal communication, internet information and communication technologies have transformed conventional communicative practices in the areas of audience, impact, and speed and have enabled the emergence of new forms of communicative, cultural, expressive, and social activity. Emerging information and communication media now mediate globally dis­seminated processes of language development and literate engagement (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006; Thorne, 2008a).

The potential value of social networking sites as an educational tool are summed up by Hoffman (2009) in a presentation to the Technology Colleges and Community when she states “Social networking is a tool, with both its advantages and problems for usage in teaching and learning” (p. 98). This sentiment is echoed by Hamid, Waycott, Kurnia, and Chang (2010) who studied the use of online social networking for higher education and conclude that, despite the potential benefits they have identified, harnessing social technologies offers both opportunities and challenges. This paper explores many of these opportunities and challenges. In all, the benefits provided by the usage of social media are numerous and amongst them is the benefit gained by the language learners – the improvement of their language proficiency. This benefit is seen as very crucial for learners to adapt and use as it is the lifestyle of today’s world, hence it would work wonders to IIUM English undergraduates at large.

Data for this research paper was gathered via a random sampling of 32 respondents consist of 15 males and 17 females. All respondents specifically were Malaysian BENL undergraduate students of IIUM. This was done due to accessibility. The respondent’s confidentiality is guaranteed since the survey does not request for respondents’ names and other personal details.

The use of a survey host via Google docs was the primary means of collecting data for this particular research paper. The survey was straightforward and split into two sections adhering to the objectives of this study: Student’s Awareness towards Relationship between Social Media and Language Ability, and Impact of Social Media on Language. Both sections consisted of 5 questions each where responses were rated according to a Likert-Scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. The first section consisted of questions aimed at the perception of students on social media and language ability connection positively. While the second section intended to find out the effects of social media on language skill negatively.

The questionnaire set was uploaded online and hosted via Google docs where responses were automatically tallied and charted for ease of assessment. A link to the questionnaire was emailed to potential respondents where only a total of exactly 32 agreed to answer the survey. No time limit was given to the respondents, but the necessity to complete all questions found in the survey was emphasized. The questions were designed without replication from others where it is created in adherence of objectives study. Results

First and foremost, data collected are from 32 different respondents specifically IIUM BENL undergraduates where it consisted of 17 female and 15 male. All 32 responses from them acknowledged that they were familiar with social networking sites where only 3 social networking sites were mentioned as their favourite which are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Among all responses recorded, 18 people preferred English as language to communicate online, whereas 14 of them were more comfortable with Malay, the mother tongue language.

Figure : Student’s awareness of the relationship between social media and language ability. The first section of the questionnaire gathered results to find out student’s awareness of the relationship between social media and language ability as in Figure 1. Apparently, majority of 72% students ‘strongly agreed’ that social media played a vital role in improving their English language ability where there were no disagreements for this question. They also consented that the emergence of social media in this modern age offered a new platform for learning language where 69% of them rated this question as ‘strongly agreed’ without any refutation.

Next, 59% of respondents rate ‘agreed’ for staying online to keep you connected and exposed to many discourse thus help increase language skills where again, no variation of disagreement here that shows all of them mostly had the same opinion on the question. 60% of respondents ‘agreed’ to the fact that their vocabulary database was increased by reading through social networking sites primarily as most of reading material online is in English language, obviously there were no people who disagree with this reality. Lastly, watching videos online helped develop efficiency in listening skill rated Agree as Majority of 63%. However, there were two people of 6% who disagree with this question. This may be due of perhaps limited internet connectivity which the streaming of videos online is impossible for certain. Figure : The impact of social media on language ability.

The second section of questionnaire was to meet objective of to determine the impact of social media on language ability. As shown in the Figure 2, it was recorded that majority of 53% of respondents ‘disagreed’ to the notion that social media affected their written ability with the usage of abbreviation, short form, acronym and initialisms. Meanwhile, 25% rate ‘agreed’ for this question probably for the reason that they have experienced the inclusion of social media language in academic writing without realization. Next, on the issue of time wasted on social media leads to less language learning where it was apparent here that there were lots of distinct views. A bulk of 44% rated ‘agreed’ whereas 31% of them ‘disagree’ with this matter where it portrayed balance in which different people have different opinion perceptibly. 59% of the respondents ‘disagreed’ with the fact that social media drove them to be anti-social thus affect their speaking skill.

Perhaps, as the question labeled them as anti-social where most of them diverge from acknowledging the fact but 9% or only 3 people agreed with this question. Majority of 59% respondents rated ‘agreed’ for the fact that students have started relying more on the information accessible easily on these social networking sites and the web where it reduced their learning and research capabilities. To make sense of this, many students were more accessible to the internet where they can access information just by googling through the web which affects their learning and research abilities. Last but not least, on the question of student’s motivational level reduced due to the use of these social networking sites where they rely on the virtual environment instead of gaining practical knowledge from the real world, 55% of respondents rated ‘neutral’ as the highest with 23% ‘agreed’ and 16% ‘disagreed’ with this fact.

Based on the findings, it can be deduced that the majority of IIUM English undergraduates are very well experienced with the usage of social media and agree to the fact that social media affect language ability. The first section of questionnaire allows us to make hypothesis that most of students are aware of the benefits social media provide positively. English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Gaining English proficiency can be an important aspect of education in many fields from business to aviation to science. It is recorded that technology has done a great deal to change what we came to rely upon. The tools available are incredible but it has also changes communication. Social media has had a tremendous effect on the English language and how we communicate. Other than learning language for hours in classroom, students are able to improve their language capability by just staying online. It is a new platform of learning language that is accessible everywhere.

Furthermore, in this postmodern world of globalization era, most students are connected to the internet at the tip of their fingers through smartphones with the advancement of technology. Obviously it offers a wide variety of learning for students to improve their language ability. Students might not be interested in improving their proficiency of English especially in a classroom situation where they might get bored. However, research by scholars proven that most students are addicted to social networking sites. This indirectly present benefits to students where they can discover massive rules of linguistics and language ability thus imply all sorts of discourse knowledge in memory whether they realized or not. Watching, listening, or reading through media in English is a way to improve English comprehension without feeling like you are studying. Students are able to enjoy privileges by taking advantage from watching English movies, listening to English music, reading English article online, and browsing video through YouTube which clearly enjoyable.

The second section of the questionnaire allows us to assess the effect social media on language proficiency specifically among 32 respondents of English majors. Based on the graph result, majority of students ‘disagree’ to the notion that social media affect their written ability with the usage of abbreviation and short form. Apparently, though social networking sites user usually use acronym and initialism when communicating online mainly to avoid repetition, to save space, and also to save time, they are still able to differentiate between informal situation and formal situation. Most of them portrays that they do not use such abbreviation when it comes to academic writing which is why they disagree with this question. The same case happen for speaking skills where they disagree to the fact that exposing themselves to social networking sites for a long period of time affect the way they speak. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as technology. People were interacting more face-to-face. But since technology was invented, people start to lose their ability to interact with others. Most teenagers are starting to get use to texting and as soon as they’re comfortable with the keyboard, they start to lose the habit of interacting with others. This is to confirm that spending a lot of time online does not drive students to be anti-social, thus affect their speaking proficiency.

However, it can be inferred from the graph that majority of students spends too much time on social networking sites which leads to less language learning. This is probably due to the motivation of students themselves; say for instance a student has lack self-esteem to learn English language specifically, so this student might deviate the attention from concentrating in class to smartphone which has social networking sites application. They are attracted to using social media sites and sometimes they forget why they are using internet which wastes their time and sometimes students are not able to deliver their work in the specified time frame. Perhaps majority of students agree that instead of wasting time on social media, they can use the time wasted to learn language which is obviously more beneficial and advantageous. Students have started relying more on the information accessible easily on these social networking sites and the web where this reduces their learning and research capabilities supported by the responds collected. Students acknowledge that through internet, information about everything is accessible and available.

Clearly this situation portrays the effects of social media on learning where many students rely on the accessibility of information on social media specifically and the web in general to provide answers. That means a reduced focus on learning and retaining information thus affecting their English language proficiency. The popularity of the social networking sites increased rapidly in the last decade. Though there are many negative effects of social networking sites on language ability where these sites have caused some potential harm to society and after all, it is the student who becomes the victim. However, the positive effects of these social networking sites outweigh the negative ones. This is in line with previous research by Hoffman (2009) in a presentation to the Technology Colleges and Community when she states “Social networking is a tool, with both its advantages and problems for usage in teaching and learning” (p. 98). Social networking has increased the rate and quality of collaboration for students. They are more available to communicate, meeting times, or share information quickly, which can increase productivity and help them learn how to work well in groups.

In addition, language is not only an evolving entity, but it is evolving at a very rapid pace. Social media will be around for a very long time. It is important to realize that you have to adapt to the evolution and keep up with all of the new technologies and language that are being offered to ensure the engagement when learning language. This research had several limitations. This study was essentially limited by its small sample size. The sample size could have been expanded by including IIUM students from all Kulliyahs as respondent and not just IIUM BENL students specifically. The participants also represented a narrow range of ethnicity which is the Malay as IIUM is an Islamic university with majority of Malay students. A larger sample with more diversity would have benefited our result. Another possible improvement to the study could have been interviewing the participants.

Individual interviews could prompt greater information concerning participants’ knowledge and attitude. This technique could have added important qualitative data and greater insight into the participants’ thoughts and opinion. However, this would have increased the time needed to survey more participants. This is the problem here as the most obvious obstacle faced when conducting this research for limitation is time constraint. Researcher is given only a few months to conduct this research hence; the chance to develop the research topic was minimized. Therefore, future research is recommended to be carried out to further understanding the mechanism of how the social media affect language proficiency with more emphasis in the linguistic aspects perhaps, so that our Malaysian students would be competent in English Language as other races in order for them to be acknowledged by the world.

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