Problems of cohesion and coherence in the writing of non-native advanced learners of English : the case of 4th year English specialists, College of Education, Sana'a University, The Republic of Yemen
For a long time writing as a language skill has been neglected in the curriculum of the English Department, College of Education, Sana'a University. One can see the effect of this negligence in the students' poor writing performance, most worryingly when they are on the verge of their B. A. graduation. On several occasions I have noticed that 4th Year B. A. English Specialists are confronted by obstacles whenever they are asked to write a piece of composition. Upon reading the students' written performance one will find it a hard task to retrieve the precise intended meaning. This practical problem leads to the purpose of this study, which is to investigate, cohesion and coherence properties and the problems associated with them in the writings of non-native advanced speakers of English. The study is a detailed examination of both controlled and free open-ended writing tasks of 37 students in their final 4th Year B. A., English course, the English Department, College of Educati on, Sana'a University. The current study depends on the works of M. A. K. Halliday and R. Hasan (1976) when it comes to investigate the internal cohesive problems in the subjects' performance. The study also relies on Michael Hoey's work On the Surface of Discourse (1983) to examine. the cohering aspects in the subjects' written performance. I have made particular use of Hoey's Problem/Solution structural scheme. I feel that this schematic structure can be easily applied by non-native writers of this background in their writing process. In addition, a number of text types that the subjects chose to write fit into such a scheme. The study is divided into two main parts. Part one extending from chapter one to five provides a theoretical background for the study. In the second part extending from chapters six to nine I provide a detailed analysis and investigation of a number of controlled and authentic writing tasks. In the last chapter I present a general conclusion for the researh and some recommendations for improving the writing standards of our students. The findings reveal that in the area of cohesion, non-native writers of this background do not face severe problems in the internal cohesive world of the text either in controlled or free open-ended writing tasks. Nevertheless, in dealing with writing as an authentic process, the subjects can be confronted by some minor hindrances that might emerge at certain intervals; these do not form major obstacles that might lead towards a total barrier between the writer and the reader, and meaning is retrievable on all occasions. However, the findings also reveal that the subjects confronted problems in the area of coherence as a global organisation of a given text. This has been observed in both controlled and free open-ended writing tasks. Sentences and their sequence organisation seem to have caused considerable problems for a substantial number of the subjects. In addition, features associated with the process of coherence, such as Field, general knowledge, experience and logic, have in one way or another contributed to a certain extent in adding to the above weakness. The study has also embarked on finding ways and means of minimising such problems towards their gradual elimination. This was tested by conducting a number of workshops involving open-ended free writing tasks. The results obtained reveal that workshops and the collective work in the classroom do contribute a great deal in improving and enhancing the writing process.