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Noor Zehan bt Mohd Ali
Hemma a/p Rasasooria
Juhari Sham bin Jusoh

English plays a crucial role in politics, social, and education. It has become
a very important subject. The Malaysian government has implemented
many programs in order to increase awareness on the importance of English
such as teaching science and mathematics in English; making English a
compulsory subject; the requirement of credit in English for their Sijil
Pelajaran Malaysia in order to enter university.

Malaysian students have difficulty in learning English especially students who
come from rural areas. Studies carried out by Nooreiney et al. cited in
Marlyna, Tan Kim Hua and Khazriyati (2007) found that despite going through
the same curriculum, the level of English proficiency in rural schools is much
lower than the level in the urban schools.
There are so many elements in English as writing, reading, listening, speaking
and grammar. The most difficult part for the students is writing.

The most popular fact is that they have difficulties in subject verb agreement,
spellings and tenses. They find it too hard to remember the rules as they do
not use the language frequently.

Malay students who are used to their mother tongue (Malay language) tend
to think and write using Malay language concept.

The subject verb agreement would be different for English compared to the
Malay language. The vocabulary used also gives different meanings from the
Malay words if they could translate directly from the Malay language.
Therefore, it needs to be seen if modification of the input to suit to learners
capability is crucial to the process of acquisition of the target language
during the interaction (Lightbrown & Spada, 2001).
There is an everlasting argument between the effectiveness of teaching
English in an English-only classroom or teaching the target language with the
use of the native language first before gradually teaching the classroom into
an English-only classroom (Slavin & Cheung, 2005).

Schumann (1976) argues that learners will have a harder time learning the
target language if they are only surrounded by people who speak the same
native language and are from similar cultural background as they will use
these similarities as a constant point of reference.

Pierce (1995) supports this theory and further develops it by stating that
learners not only have to be motivated to speak the target language but they
should also be encouraged to explore it outside the classroom to ensure that
they are constantly aware of their use of the language.
Lecturers found out that students in tertiary level do not meet the basic
requirement in their English proficiency especially in writing skills. Students
tend to direct translate from their mother tongue (Malay language) to English
when they write because they write based on what they think in Malay
language. Some of the students would translate each word by looking at the
dictionary. Finally it will end up with a totally different meaning with major
grammatical errors. Thus the researchers are interested to find out what are
the influences that derive students to use their mother tongue or direct
translation into their writing.
a) To discover the influence that a tertiary students
mother tongue has on their ability to write in English.

b) To determine the influence that a tertiary
students background has on their English writing

A total of 30 students from Kolej Profesional Mara was randomly selected
using a set of questionnaire in Likert Scale.

Data collected from this research instrument were then computed for
interpretation using Anova.

Besides to obtain first hand data from the students using questionnaire, the
researchers were also concerned with whole rather than solely using
statistical analysis, that was Anova thus the researchers also did some
observations on their students writing.
There was no significant differences between genders with the preference
towards English because the influence of mother tongue happened
regardless their gender. English is the only second language and learned
only in classroom. Thus, English communication and writing only used for
academic purposes not in their daily usage.

With regards to the socio-demographic factor, there was significant
difference between residency with students motivation and English spoken
among neighbors and friends. Students who came from urban area such as
Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur were likely to use English more compared to
students who came from rural areas.
The family income contributed into buying of English materials such as books,
novels, newspaper, magazines and so forth. There was only significant 0.08 of
family income contributed into English preference. Therefore, all parents
regardless their income were motivated to encourage their children to read
and get exposure into English.

Preference towards English subjects influenced their interest in writing and
reading in English as there were significant difference in terms of enjoy writing
in English and reading English materials.

Students enjoyed browsing English websites even they did not choose English
as their favourite subject.

There were significant difference between speaking English at home with
enjoy writing English and reading English materials. This is due to having
sound knowledge of English would influence and motivate students to write
and read in English.

While using tenses correctly did not show significant difference as even
students have sound knowledge of English, they still have tenses problem in
writing. Thus, we can conclude that even students who come from English
spoken family, they still did not perform well in their writing.

When students are found to have never spoken English at home, they
discovered that English is similar to Malay Language. Using the Malay-English
dictionary, and the belief of grammar is confusing, therefore all these would
influence their thought that English is similar to Malay Language.
The data also showed significant difference of 0.042 when students could
understand English but they could not write correctly because they used
Malay English dictionary which led them to direct translation.

The residency influenced parents motivation on speaking English. Urban
parents were more motivated to ask their children to speak English
compared to those who lived in rural areas.

Parents occupation also showed significant value because all parents
regardless their jobs, were motivated to push their children to learn and write
in English. We can conclude that all parents were aware of using and writing
English even they do not have chance to speak and write English with their
The performance of students at Kolej Profesional Mara was poor in terms of their
writing when some interference of mother tongue and direct translation with
grammatical problems arose in their writing.

Students realized the awareness towards English but most of the students who came
from rural areas did not have chance to speak and write English correctly as they
only learnt this subject at the college.

Parents also motivated their children to learn and write English, but the limitations
they have had restricted these students to become proficient in English. This can be
seen when students wrote wrong form of tenses and omission of grammar and
vocabularies in answering the writing part in the questionnaire. Even not all the errors
were due to mother tongue interference, but lack of vocabularies and direct
translations have affected students writing skills.
Remedial measures should be taken into consideration, especially students
themselves have to realize that learning English involves continuous effort
that not only in classroom, but it should be learnt at home too.

Parents should inculcate their children to learn English by providing English
materials in whatever form, so reading habit can be instilled.

For teachers or lecturers, they should teach on how to read and write
critically using proper teaching methods and suitable instructional materials.
All these are not the big problems, because with the advent of borderless
Information Technology, teachers or lecturers can make it meaningfully and
effectively by assigning students to write and speak English via blog for