Mother tongue and the motivation and retention of students in French : a case study of secondary schools in Bungoma district Kenya
Omusonga, Tony O
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Despite the important role French should play in national development, there is an observed low enrolment of students in the subject at secondary school level. The problem is that most of most of the students having completed secondary school without studying French, now want to study French at various institutions like the Alliance Francaise. Some of these students had the opportunity to learn French at secondary school level but never took advantage of the school context. Some even dropped French at form two level only to want to learn the language after form four, making it a financial burden not only to parents, because of the extra fees they have to pay at such institutions, but also to the state, since teachers of French are trained and paid yet there are not enough students to be taught. Besides, according to Girard (1972), psychologists have shown that language learning best takes place when the child's powers of imitation are at their peak, and age 11 or 12 forms the end of this period. Hence secondary school students majority of whom range between age 14 to 18, are closer to this age bracket and are better placed to learn French than the older Alliance Francaise's students who according to Girard do not have the capacity to acquire the language. Research done in other parts of the world, for example in Britain by Tulasiewicz (1990), has shown that making reference to the learner's mother tongue in the French classroom increases the learners motivation and hence the retention rate. This researcher sought to study and determine whether the same findings applied to the Kenyan situation. The main purpose of the study was to compare the motivation of the two categories of French students; the new approach (Taught by making reference to mother tongue in the classroom), and the traditional approach (Taught without making reference to mother tongue in the classroom), in Bungoma district. The researcher had the hypothesis that reference to mother tongue in the French classroom was related to the motivational variables of the learners. These variables are the motivational orientation, motivational intensity, attitude towards the French teacher, and desire for further work in French. The research design used in the study was the Two Groups, Randomised Subjects, Post-Test Only Experimental Design (Koul, 1984). According to Tuckman (1994), the appropriate analysis for dealing with data from this research design would be a comparison between the means for the two groups. The research findings showed that making reference to the learners' mother tongue in the French classroom increased learners' motivation. Moreover the research also showed that Kenyan French students are instrumentally motivated and lack integrative motivation. In addition to the above findings it is useful to point out other findings revealed by our research, though not part of the main objectives; that girls are more motivated to study French than boys, and that the presence of a FrenchcIub motivates the learners.