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A Correlation Between Students' English Proficiency and Computer Programming Mastery

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The English language teaching should meet the learners’ needs in terms of their purpose in learning a language. For the students of Informatics Engineering, English is considered important to be mastered not only to comprehend the theory of
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  The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 1219 Proceedings of The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 “Materials Development in Asia and Beyond: Directions, Issues, and Challenges” September 17—18, 2014, Yogyakarta, Indonesia Organized by English Education Department, Universitas Ahmad Dahlan ISBN: 978-602-18907-1-4 A CORRELATION BETWEEN STUDENTS’ ENGLISH PROFICIENCY AND THEIR COMPUTER PROGRAMMING MASTERY Zusana E. Pudyastuti, S.S. 1 , Jozua F. Palandi, M.Kom 2   Graduate Program, State University of Malang, Malang, East Java 1  , Sekolah Tinggi Informatika & Komputer Indonesia, Malang, East Java 1, 2   zusana76@gmail.com ,  jozuafp@stiki.ac.id   Abstract. The English language teaching should meet the learners’ needs in terms of their purpose in learning a language. For the students of Informatics Engineering, English is considered important to be mastered not only to comprehend the theory of Informatics Engineering but also to help them in creating a computer program using specific computer  programming language. Based on the observation, the Informatics Engineering students find difficulties in handling or solving problems during the process of creating computer program because they do not have good English competence especially in reading skill. This research is conducted to find out whether the learners’ English proficiency correlates or affects the learners’ ability or mastery in writing a computer  program. It is expected that the learner who has a high level of English  proficiency will be successful in creating computer program. This study uses two instruments: the learners’ TOEFL score to measure their English  proficiency and the learners’ score in the programming class to know the result of the learners’ computer programming course. The result of this study can be used as a consideration in improving the teaching of English for Informatics Engineering learners. Keyword: computer programming, language proficiency, mastery 1.   INTRODUCTION Shelly and Vermaat (2011) defined a programming language as a set of words, abbreviations, and symbols that enables a programmer to communicate instructions to a computer. There are lots of programming languages which can be used by a programmer for specific purposes. These programming languages continue to grow based on the needs in the computer programming industry. A  programmer can use different programming language for writing, or usually  The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 1220 Proceedings of The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 “Materials Development in Asia and Beyond: Directions, Issues, and Challenges” September 17—18, 2014, Yogyakarta, Indonesia Organized by English Education Department, Universitas Ahmad Dahlan ISBN: 978-602-18907-1-4 called coding, different types of computer program. Because the set of instructions of each programming language differs from one to another, a  programmer can integrate the languages for solving certain problem. For the students of Informatics Engineering, computer programming language is the only tool to communicate with the computers. By using the computer  programming language, they can give instructions to the machines. Although there is much computer application software that uses Bahasa Indonesia for the computer users’ convenience, there is no computer programming language which is designed based on Bahasa Indonesia. Instead, most of them are designed based on the English language for every aspect in the programming language itself. Based on this condition, the students’ English language proficiency is needed by the students of Informatics Engineering to be able to use the computer  programming language. The lack of the English language proficiency is the  biggest problem which will hinder the students to use the programming language. 2.   LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1.   Computer Programming Language Veerasamy and Shillabeer (2014:17) mentioned that the popularity of a  programming language is defined by the number of job advertisements related to the language, books published that teach or describe the language, count of references, languages that are used to design custom applications for business, and languages that are used to design web applications. The programming languages that must be learned in 2014 based on the number it appears in job advertisements are Java, PHP, Objective-C, Java for Android, SQL, Javascript, Ruby, C#, Python, C++, C, Action Script, ASP.net, Perl, Scala, and Visual Basic (Buckler, 2014). Some of these languages are taught in the universities nowadays or learned by  professional programmers by themselves. Those languages are used for different  purposes, such as for mobile programming, desktop programming, and web  programming. 2.2.   English Language Proficiency  Nallaya (2012:149) stated that English language proficiency is used in most contexts as a benchmark to assess the learners’ inclusion or exclusion with regard to politics, commerce, the economy, society, and education. In line with the statements, English course is presented in the non-English department curriculum to help the learners in mastering their subject of the study. Although there is no standardized level of English language proficiency among universities in Indonesia, English language proficiency has become one of the requirements  before the learners finishing their study or enrolling to the next level of education. Based on this situation, English language proficiency is considered crucial in the  The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 1221 Proceedings of The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 “Materials Development in Asia and Beyond: Directions, Issues, and Challenges” September 17—18, 2014, Yogyakarta, Indonesia Organized by English Education Department, Universitas Ahmad Dahlan ISBN: 978-602-18907-1-4 Indonesian academic context. The learning of English language for the English for Specific Purposes (ESP) or English for Academic Purposes (EAP) should be authentic by considering the learners’ field of study. Nallaya (2012:14) suggests that by creating an authentic, flexible, interactive, and systematic and grounded on learners’ prior knowledge language learning environment, the difficult learning  process of the English language will be facilitated. Even though the English language proficiency is always assisted based on the learners’ ability in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, most of the ESP or EAP program focuses more on the reading skill. The learners’ language proficiency supposed to be used as a measurement to assess the learners’ readiness in learning or studying in the  particular academic environment. The students’ low English proficiency or their difficulties with the English skills have great impacts to the students’ academic performance. Those who are stronger in the English skills are indicated having less challenges in their studies; and the lecturers should adjust the standards and grading criteria to help the learners to be successful academically (Andrade, 2009: 19). There is a possibility that the learners are unable to obtain the certain level of computer programming competency because they have difficulties with English skills as well as English knowledge. This is in line with Suarez-Orozco et al (2008) in Carhil et al (2008:1160) who stated that English language proficiency has critical role in  predicting academic achievement for the non-native English learners.   For the students of Informatics Engineering, English language serves not only for acquiring the knowledge and improving their cognitive ability, but also for having an ability to use the keywords and grammatical rules (syntax) used in giving commands to a computer. Lesser and Winsor (2009), as cited in Veerasammy and Shillabeer (2014), reported that students with limited English knowledge will try hard in understanding the concepts and may not be able to complete their assignments. Moreover, simplifying both the language and the content of English language in order to help the students to understand their field of study will result in decreasing the students’ ability to function in the particular domain (Tan & Lan, 2011 as cited in Veerasammy and Shillabeer, 2014:19). According to the authors’ observation, most students with limited English proficiency will find difficulties to identify the errors occur in their programming which make their  programming does not work appropriately. Bringula et al. (2012) mention some errors that the students make during laboratory programming exercises such as invalid symbols or keywords, mismatched symbols, missing symbols, inappropriate naming, and excessive symbols. And, these errors are found to be consistent predictor for novice programming. Language proficiency correlates with the learners’ motivation to learn a second language which is related to particular aspects of language proficiency than to  The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 1222 Proceedings of The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 “Materials Development in Asia and Beyond: Directions, Issues, and Challenges” September 17—18, 2014, Yogyakarta, Indonesia Organized by English Education Department, Universitas Ahmad Dahlan ISBN: 978-602-18907-1-4 others. Some research found that a learner will have higher motivation in learning a second language when the proficiency tests measure the speaking performance. Meanwhile, a learner may have less motivation when the proficiency tests measures the other aspects of language (Lightbown and Spada, 1999: 52). As the ESP students need to learn English for mastering the knowledge in their field of study, reading is the main aspect in which the students should be more comprehend. Increasing the students’ motivation to read has become the hidden objective for the ESP teachers. Another way to increase the students’ motivation is by using English language as the instructional language in the programming classes instead of their first languages as, for a programmer, English language must be their first language and programming language must be their second language (Solomon, 2003: 35). The students who are introduced to human foreign languages at the early age will find it easier to be proficient in the language. Similar to this concept, Solomon (2003) also stated that computer programming languages will be easier to be mastered or comprehended when they are introduced to the computer programming language students in the early age. The  programming language is also a medium to communicate the programmers’ ideas to the computer. The students must be able to construct longer sentences by stringing more meaningful words together. As human languages, computer  programming languages also have subjects, verbs, pronouns, modifiers, and adjectives. By considering the importance of English language as the instruction language in computer programming language courses, Veerasamy and Shillabeer (2014) suggested a conceptual model of testing system for the students of computer  programming courses. The model of testing system is shown in the figure below.  The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 1223 Proceedings of The 3 rd  UAD TEFL International Conference 2014 “Materials Development in Asia and Beyond: Directions, Issues, and Challenges” September 17—18, 2014, Yogyakarta, Indonesia Organized by English Education Department, Universitas Ahmad Dahlan ISBN: 978-602-18907-1-4 The construct definitions of the model of testing system are shown in the table  below. Table 1. Construct Definitions
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