Multilingual university students’ perceived English proficiency, intelligibility and participation
Keywords:multilingual, participation, international students, English proficiency, higher education, intelligibility enhancement
This paper reports on 137 multilingual students enrolled at 14 English-speaking Australian universities who completed a 27-item online survey investigating the relationship between perceived English proficiency, intelligibility, and their academic, social and vocational participation. Open-ended responses described strategies used to enhance spoken English. Participants came from 44 countries and spoke 49 home languages. Self-ratings of English communication skills were significantly affected by age, English experience, number of languages spoken and home language. Participants reported spoken English proficiency impacted participation; however, results highlighted lack of awareness of intelligibility as an essential component of spoken language proficiency. Although environmental factors (e.g. more time using English in conversations) were associated with higher self-ratings of proficiency, participants preferred using individual strategies (e.g. listening/repeating) to support English intelligibility rather than social interactions with native speakers. The results demonstrate the importance of conversation practice in language learning to increase proficiency and confidence, as well as participation.
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