Case Study: Supporting a Student Learning in a Second Language

Below is a case study based on an interview conducted with Ghislain Mumbari, a student from Cameroon who took part in a small focus group exploring whether Audio Notetaker’s approach to note taking could be of use to international students. Ghislain was Studying for a Masters in Public Health (MPH) at Leeds Metropolitan University.

What difficulties did you have when you first arrived in the UK?
My biggest problem was getting a place to live. Second to that was the language barrier. The Yorkshire accent in particular was very difficult to adapt to. Since elementary school my education has been conducted in English, so I have been using it all my life. Even so, I found the language barrier really difficult – especially the accents.

Were you surprised how difficult it was to acclimatise to British accents?
I was extremely surprised. Coming from a bilingual country I could see the difficulties that francophones have, but I thought it would be easy for me as I have spoken English all my life. But then I arrived and it was really, really difficult. From day one classes are serious and no one has the time to pause or to try to speak in a way that you will understand. The pace is so fast. At the beginning it’s really tough – I think I got my worst marks then.

What strategies did you develop to overcome this problem?
What can you do? There’s nothing you can do. You’re in a mixed class of British and International students and everybody is at a different level, so you can’t stop the class to say you don’t understand.

How did you feel when you first arrived and you discovered how difficult it was?
It was really difficult. You come and the first thing you discover is that you can’t understand people. Secondly, technical words and jargon is used in your lessons from the start, so you need to know what these are and how they are pronounced. It’s tough. And it’s only when you enter the country that you begin to understand that things aren’t as easy as you imagined. The most frustrating part is that you can’t do anything about it; you can’t stop the classes and you can’t grab someone and ask them after class as it is a busy country and everybody seems to have something to do.

You’ve used Audio Notetaker for a little while now. Do you think it has helped you?
Annoyingly, I only discovered Audio Notetaker towards the end of my course. Even so, it did help; especially the ability to record and then listen over and over. It’s like the lecturer is present in your room. I wish I’d got it earlier.

How much would Audio Notetaker have helped you if you had had it from the start?
It would really have made a big difference. If it helped me to perform better when I had already adapted to the accent, then imagine just how much better it would have been if I had got it before!

What’s the best thing about Audio Notetaker for you?
Being able to delete what you don’t want. It’s really good because you are left with a just few minutes of what you need, what’s essential. The second best thing is the way you can see the powerpoint slides and voice together; you see the notes and hear the voice. It’s like you’re in class for a second time, but this time just getting the main points.

Who do you think would benefit from Audio Notetaker the most?
I don’t know if I can make that decision, but I know that as an international student, it helped me. As a person, it helped me. I know that it is of benefit to international students, whether you have had an education in English or not. I studied in English and it helped me.

How much does Audio Notetaker benefit international students?
I don’t know how many other international students have used it before – although I recommend it to them – but I do think that if it can help someone who has always studied in English like me, then I really think it does help all international students. Audio Notetaker helps you summerise the whole lecture, and store it as a sound file that you can play over and over again. It’s like you’re in class over and over again which makes it easy to absorb information, especially for those who don’t like reading. I love the fact you can export parts of your lecture and listen on the bus, or while lying on your bed in your room. It’s like having the lecture theatre in your room.

So you think it helps your studies?
It does, it does, it definitely does. I think my marks would have been better if I’d had it from the start.

Would you recommend Audio Notetaker to others?
Definitely. I think it is in their interest and will help everybody, so I recommend it to them. If I’m willing to walk for 30 minutes just to come here for this interview and tell people about the benefits of Audio Notetaker, then it shows that it has impacted me on a personal level and has really helped me. You can’t buy marks. Especially in the developed world where everything is transparent, you can’t pay for marks. But Audio Notetaker can help you get those marks, get that knowledge you want. It’s a recording that is summarised that you can keep for life. I hope people try it out – they’ll like it. It’s fun and it’s easy to use.

Any final words?
It’s such a shame that for some time Audio Notetaker has just been circulated around students with disability when really it could go to a wider group. It’s a really good piece of software; if only you could get it to those students who study English as a second language!

Dec 07

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