English Speaking Difficulties: A study on tertiary students in Bangladesh

English Speaking Difficulties: A study on tertiary students in Bangladesh



As English is a lingua franca, it should be learned by every student, especially by the tertiary students. This paper deals with difficulties faced by tertiary students in speaking English. The aim of this paper is to investigate factors that hinder students speak fluently and confidently. In learning English, students have fallen victim of speaking wrong that causes them reluctant to hold conversation data. The results show that students are poor in grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pragmatic, lack of fluency in speaking, lack of understanding grammatical pattern, and lack of pronunciation. This article tries to give valuable suggestions in order to solve their speaking problems.



The English language is a universal language. The English language is the dominant business language, and it has become almost necessary for people to spoken English, because there are many motivations to learn this language, such as the modern world language of media, international economic, tourism, technology and scientific articles, and the Internet that demands a good knowledge of English especially of spoken English. While reading and listening are considered to be the two receptive skills in language learning, and writing and speaking are the order two productive skills necessary to be integrated into the development of effective communication. Of all the four macro English skills, speaking seems to be the most important skill required for communication, Zaremba, (2006).

English language in Bangladesh has been since the time of the British rule. We learn English from our primary school level. Through textbooks, grammar, essays, and stories we learn English. But the problem is that we have less scope to continue the conversation.  As a result, in speaking we are shy, afraid, and reluctant. Twelve years of school study and three years of college study do not make students mastery of English. While they are in schools as well as colleges English is not taught properly.  As the majority of the students are addressed from rural areas, the bilingual method is adopted in language classes. This method helps only to  slow learners  to some  extent.  Moreover, this  act  reduces  the  real  learning process as a whole. To learn English requires constant practice and patience. The kind of feeling that succeeds among students is  that it  is  not possible  to  achieve fluency  or mastery  over English  language.  This  kind  of tendency  prevents  students from learning English. Most of the students study English from the examination point of view, so they are not able to produce even a single sentence without grammatical error. Furthermore, sufficient practice is not given to students to learn a language. Exposure to is far less to them. The investigator has tried to analyze several problems in learning English.

The aim of this paper is to find out what are the factors that the tertiary level students face while English Speaking.


Literature review

The growing demand for good English-speaking places a greater emphasis on the learning of English speaking skills in Bangladesh. The private universities give more emphasis on developing speaking outside and inside the classroom than other universities in Bangladesh. Despite their contribution, private universities face challenges that tertiary level students struggle with English speaking. In Bangladesh learning the English language means learning grammar, reading, and translation (Farooqui, 2007).

Students give importance to their teachers to play the role of communication. Students expect teachers to be authority figures and the teaching method to conform to the traditional teacher-centered approach” (Farooqui, 2007). Since people are monolingual in Bangladesh, students do not need to use English outside the class (Paul, 2012). There are several factors that affect students’ performance in speaking English fluently. They are scared about committing mistakes while they speak. They cannot also express themselves well or adequately because they lack adequate and appropriate vocabulary. Another factor that makes students hesitate to speak in English is that they are shy and nervous. They feel fearful to speak English in front of other people because they lack confidence in their own competence in English. So, it is important to help the learners overcome their anxiety, nervousness, and fear with encouraging words. A good atmosphere and a suitable environment can also help students to speak actively, correctly, and fluently (Mueen, 1992).



This study was conducted at the English Department of different universities in Dhaka. The focus of the study was on  10  students,  selected from  25 students.  The selection  was done  by using the  students  who were weak in speaking English. the lecturer also gave information about the  weak students in English Speaking. The lecturer  said that  the  students were  considered  as  low  performers  with  some  indicators:  (a)  being  afraid  of speaking,  (b)  lack  of  vocabulary,  and  (c)  not being good at grammar. There were ten weak students  in  this  class.

To collect the  data  this  study used interview and observation as the main instrument,  conducted  by  the  researcher himself.  An  interview  was  carried  out  to get  the  main  data.  The  researcher  inter-viewed  ten  out  of  the  25  students.  Each student was asked with 3 questions, namely (1) What difficulties did you face or feel in speaking?  (2)  What  were  the  causes  of difficulties? (3) What efforts did you make to  overcome  the  difficulties?  In  addition, the  researcher  also  observed  the  speaking class.  The  observation  was  intended  to crosscheck  the  problems  faced  by  the students  in  speaking  in  class.  The observation  was  conducted  using  an observation guide.

The  procedure  of  data  analysis  is  as follows.  After  interviewing,  the  data  were collected  and  translated  into  English.  The data  were  grouped  into  problems,  causes, and solutions. Then, the data were analyzed based  on  the  student’s  difficulties  in speaking,  the  causes  of  difficulty,  the student’s  efforts  in  improving  speaking  in order  to  find  the  relationship  of  the problems,  causes,  and  efforts  to  solve  the problems.


Discussion & Analysis

Students at the selected universities are found out with different problems. What kind of difficulties, what are the causes students are going through and what are the efforts students are making, all these are discussed here according to the findings.


    1. Kinds of  Student’s  Difficulties in Speaking:-

From  ten  respondents  that  were interviewed,  it  was  found  that  there  were twelve kinds of difficulties that were faced by  the  students  in  speaking.  The  difficulties  faced  or  felt  by  the students  in  speaking  can  be  divided  into two  kinds  of  problems  namely  linguistic problems  and  non-linguistic  problems. There were  three  difficulties  related  to linguistic  problems.  They  were  ‘lack  of vocabulary’, ‘lack of grammar knowledge’, and  ‘poor  pronunciation.’  While,  the  9 difficulties  dealt  with  non-linguistic  problems were, ‘not  being brave to speak’, ‘not  being  confident  to  speak’,  ‘being afraid  of  speaking’,  ‘being  afraid of  making errors’, ‘being afraid  of  being mocked  by  friends’,  ‘being  nervous  to  speak’,  ‘not  used  to talking in class’, ‘difficult to express words or  sentences’,  and  ‘confused  how  to  use appropriate words.’


    1. Kinds of Causes of  Difficulty in Speaking:-

It was found that there were 9 causes of difficulty  faced  by  the  students  with linguistic  problems.  They  were  ‘lack  of vocabulary’,  ‘seldom  memorizing  vocabulary,  ‘words  having  more  than  one meaning’,  ‘being  confused  about     how  to use  appropriate  words’,  ‘lack  of  grammar knowledge’,  ‘seldom  reading  grammar books’, ‘poor pronunciation.’ 13  causes  of  difficulty  related  to  non-linguistic  problems.  They  were  ‘being afraid of making errors’,  ‘being  nervous  to speak’,  ‘not  being  confident  to  speak’, ‘often  forgetting’,  ‘dislike  learning grammar’,  ‘afraid  of  being  mocked  by friends’,  and ‘not  being  used  to  talking  in class’.


    1. Kinds of Student’s Efforts in Speaking Pertaining to the students’  efforts to cope with their difficulties in learning speaking:-

Looking  up  the  dictionary  for  words,  doing  exercises  on  grammar  book,  memorizing  vocabulary,  reading English  grammar  books,  reading English  in  order  to  get  new  ideas,  reading  conversation  books, practice English by themselves, listening to the radio, listening  English  conversation cassettes,  listening  to  music, watching  TV,  and asking  friends  if  any difficult  words.

One of the most challenging difficulties in learning a second language is finding ways to improve one’s oral fluency. Whenever the students are given some verbal task in the group, they just start talking in their mother tongue. Although they may want to express their ideas orally in English but they find themselves unable to do it. The major reason behind all this is that they do not have proper knowledge of a target language.



This study investigates factors that become student’s obstacles to speaking English. To turn to the possible solutions to overcome their problem in speaking English, this paper suggests that more exercises or activities that can develop their vocabulary and speaking skills are worth considering. This shows that teachers should be more aware of their student’s obstacles and reluctance to speak English. To help students gain more knowledge of other linguistics aspects such as grammar and correct pronunciation. It is also important that teachers teach those aspects explicitly in order that students have a good comprehension of the aspects. This way is expectedly contributed to the development of the student’s speaking in English. As a result, students can become successful in speaking English in any circumstances.



  2. English Speaking Problems of EFL Learners ofMulawarman University Sayuri.
  3. Developing Speaking Skill at Secondary and Higher Secondary Levels: Problems and Few Recommendations by NIPA BHATTACHARJEE.


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