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English as second or foreign language (Esl/Efl): difficulty and solutions

Updated on June 29, 2022

What is English as Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL)?

The terms EFL and ESL came into being because of the difficulties encountered in learning English outside native English nations, which has in turn resulted in varieties of English around the world. Instead of criticizing the non-native colourations, they have rather been accepted and allowed to exist as separate language varieties, so learners don’t have to struggle through their lifetime to speak, especially, with native accent. This gives room for mother-tongue interference and transliterations which are the main features of non-native Englishes. Here are some problems learners of English as second or foreign language face.

Traditional Institutions of the ESL/EFL Countries

Traditional institutions such as religion, chieftaincy, historical documentation, marriage etc. contribute greatly to ESL/EFL learning difficulty. Their religions are propagated through their local languages. For a person to be made a chief, such person should be fluent in his local language; and within the palace, especially during meetings or functions, should not be found using any foreign language. The kings and chiefs are the elites in such nations and are likely to serve as example to the populace, so whoever aspires to hold such positions should be more grounded in the local language than in any other, not mater the level of such person’s education.

Traditional institutions

The Government’s Policies and Laxity in Providing Adequate Support

Most governments in non-native English countries indirectly contribute to the difficulties experienced by learners of English as second or foreign language. In Nigeria, for instance, the policy on education states that the first three yes of a child’s education should be done the local language of the community. This means that the child begins to learn English at a later time when his or her brain has been configure with the syntax and sound system of the native language. It becomes difficult for such child to fuse the new English ideas into the firmly establish local language structure in his or her repertoire. Usually, the government does not provide adequate language learning facilities to their schools – like computers and other audiovisual machines to enhance teaching and learning of pronunciations.

However, students could have access to the facilities but are not motivated to use them in learning, especially when it looks like no one really cares; even the teacher, perhaps, does not show evidence of expertise. Even where the learning materials are available, maintenance are usually poor; basically because those to use and maintain them are not available.

Religious institutions as problems in second language learning

Several ESL and EFL nations have their peculiar religions – in fact, some countries have multiple traditional religions that do not only differentiate them from the native English speakers but from other nations around or among them. This is how religious institutions create prblem for ESL. The people use the native languages in times of worship. Names of deity and worship items must be in their native language. The priests are trained to use only the people’s language, the use of any other language may be prohibited. Even countries where Christianity has been accepted produce bibles in their local languages; not necessarily to use it in teaching the message of the bible but to preserve the local language among those who have accepted the Christian (foreign) religion. Bibles have been produced in some Nigerian languages like Hausa, Yoruba, Birom etc. This is the situation is most ESL nations, and it is a problem for learners of English language in those nations.

Ethnic Bias and Colonial Prejudice

This is another challenge faced by learners of English language as second or foreign language. Some people with nationalist principles believe that learning English, especially to perfection, reduces ones national patriotism. Since language and culture go hand in hand, it is believed that the culture of the people is threatened when the people give quality attention to learning the English language. For that reason, children are encouraged to learn more of their native languages; and may learn English only enough to communicate with outsiders no matter how poorly. Those who speak English better than they speak their native languages are usually mocked and criticized. They eventually shy away from using English as much as they ordinarily would wish to.


ESL and EFL have come a long way and to stay, no doubt. But the globalization effect is making it necessary to cut across language varieties limitation and enabling trans-variety communication. Efforts could be made to address the problems discussed above; that will be discussed in subsequent articles.

Which do you consider the most serious problem faced by learners of English as Second Language

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