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  • Background to the Study

English has now acquired the status of the world’s leading “global language” (Crystal 2003) because it is used for business, science, and politics. When we use the term English, readers may assume that we are referring to a standard of usage that everyone agrees upon. Readers may think that we must mean British Standard English or American Stan­dard English because the English that exists in such places as Africa, Asia, the West Indies, the Philippines and Sin­gapore is not real or standard English. Readers may also think that teachers of English as a second language (ESL) must be teaching British or American Standard English because that is what their learners want to learn. In fact, the issue is not as straightforward as we may think; there is neither an agreed-upon definition of Standard English, nor is there agreement on what students of ESL need or want to learn. This leads to the following ques­tion: Has rapid change in the status of English as a global language left the classroom practices of many Eng­lish language teachers lagging behind learners’ desires or even their needs?

In 2018 English was the native language of more than some 420 million speakers (www.ethnologue.com) and if you add the number of speakers with English as their second language to that list, English reaches close to a billion speakers worldwide. Ten years to come, the number will even be greater. English is undoubtedly a large and influential language and the importance of knowing and being able to master English is very important. The syllabus for the English subject for upper secondary school states that “Knowledge of English increases the individual’s opportunities to participate in different social and cultural contexts, as well as in global studies and working life” (Engelska, 2001. P.14).

Despite the vital roles of the English language, most Nigerian students are unable to acquire proficiency in the skills of the language especially writing. Komolafe and Yara (2010) observe that the poor performance of students’ English could be connected to their inability to write effectively. This translates to abysmally low performance of students in other subjects in both external and internal examinations. This is notable especially in students’ writing which is the popular means of expression.

Fluency and correctness of language expression can be fully detected in a composition, which represents one’s English ability (Hong, 2007). The ability to write effectively in English is becoming increasingly important in the global community as communication across language becomes even more essential. Good English writing competence is widely recognized as an important skill for educational, business and personal reasons. Writing is a complex process which demands cognitive analysis and linguistic synthesis. It is even harder to learn to write in a foreign language, and it takes considerable time and effort to become a skillful writer. English writing instruction is thus assuming an increasing role in foreign language education (Tan, 2001)

Although writing is a difficult process even in the first language, it is even more complicated to write in a foreign language. Many studies have indicated that for beginners, especially English as a Second Language (L2) students, there tends to be interference from their first language in the process of writing in English (Huang, 2003). Writing in a foreign language like English often presents the greatest challenge to the students at all stages, particularly essay writing because in this activity, writing is usually extended and therefore it becomes more demanding than in the case of writing a short paragraph.

Writing is foundational to success in academics, in the work place and in the global economy. In an increasingly demanding world of literacy, the importance of ensuring students’ proficiency in writing can never be overemphasized. The ability to write well, hitherto a luxury is now a dire necessity (Gallagher, 2006). Writing is vital to students’ developing literacy skills. In light of this, teaching learners to write well should be top priority of a worthwhile education system. Gallagher observes that a school that “teaches its children the curriculum without concurrently teaching them how to write well is a school that has failed” (p. 170).

To Yiljep (2018), writing skill is the fourth and last of all the language skills. It is generally termed as the most difficult and complicated skills to master. The first two skills tend to come naturally especially in L1 situation. It is an expressive skill. It is a viable medium of community to readers whatever the writer wants to convey. He (Yiljep) further defines writing as an assemblage of sentences in such a way as to produce a meaningful account of an object or an event. Unlike speaking which is learned informally, naturally and unconsciously from the beginning, writing requires conscious and formal effort to learn.

Sadly, observation typifies the public school system in Nigeria where writing is hardly taught in any meaningful way (Oyetunde & Muodumogu, 2009). It is expected that the English language learner should be able to develop ideas in effective sentences, paragraphs, and write good essays as writing is the medium through which the academic performance of the learners are assessed. However, the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

Hence students’ performance in written English affects their achievement not only in English language as a subject but also in the other subjects. Idogo (2005) and the WAEC Chief Examiners’ Report (2000) list inability to construct good sentences, lack of teachers’ exposure to modern methods of teaching and poor knowledge of the rules of grammaras causes of students’ poor achievement in English language. However, for the purpose of this study, attention will be paid particularly to capitalization.

According to Siddiqui (2015) the convention of using capitalization in English language was developed in 16th and 17th century with the development of punctuation marks. Earlier they were used as a sign of elocution and were not necessary part of syntactic. It was Ben Jonson in 1617 who first recommended syntactical punctuation in England through his English Grammar. The 1625 edition of Francis Bacon’s Essays also shows the use of punctuation as syntactical feature in his writings. Robert Monteith in 1704 and Joseph Robertson in 1795 published their influential treatises on syntactical punctuation. The system of punctuation which is used by the writers today has been completed since the 17th century (Brown, 2013). Three of the most important components were:

  1. The space left blank between words
  2. Indentation of the first line of a new paragraph
  3. The uppercase or capital letter written at the beginning of a sentence and at the beginning of a proper name or a title.

To Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2021), the word ‘capitalize’ (verb) means “to write a letter of the alphabet as a capital or to write first letter of word as a capital”. Capitalization refers to the peculiar feature of English language in which certain words are written in capital letters (upper case) and other words or letters are written in small letters (lower case). There are some particular rules of English language which dictate capitalization to be applied in writing. While teaching writing to EFL learners, the system of capitalization is a significant aspect of English language because it is used to punctuate sentences and to distinguish proper nouns from other words.

Capitalization makes communication clear, effective and impressive by giving the text a standard and distinctive appearance. It specifies proper and common nouns in the text and enables readers to skim and scan the text faster. Each sentence starting with a capital letter carries a new idea and helps readers to distinguish within different ideas in the text. Capitalization is also a medium to describe different kinds of moods and attitudes of the writer. Capitalization errors means errors deviated from the established rules of capitalization in English (Siddiqui, 2015).

Capitalization is a prime feature of English orthography which enhances readability of the text by separating the inner elements of the text to punctuate sentences and to distinguish proper nouns from other words (Ritter, 2002). Capitalization in English language distinguishes and integrates thought units. It is very important to rectify the errors of capitalization in order to develop students’ composition.

There are various types of orthographical errors, such as errors associated with spelling, capitalization, punctuation, word emphasis, etc. The present study is restricted to one type of orthographic error, which is capitalization. It may prove fruitful to identify, discuss, and attempt a solution to the causes of wrong use of capital letters among Junior Secondary School students in Langtang South.

  • Statement of Problem

Over the years, there has been loud outcry over the failure of students in writing especially at the senior secondary school level. This ranges from inadequate use of punctuation marks, misspelling and wrong structure of sentences. These errors in punctuation range from misuse, addition and omission of punctuation marks.

There are many causes of wrong use of capital letters in writing. When punctuating a test, complicating problems as errors, confusions and unawareness of using capital letters, may be found. All these problems might influence readers’ understanding of students’ writing. For instance, there are students who write “What is Your Name.” readers might regard that the sentence is a declarative and a subheading as well. Actually, the student wanted to write an interrogative sentence but failsbecause he lacks the knowledge of the rules of capitalization and punctuation marks. As a result readers could be confused on how to understand that sentence. Richards and John (2005) investigated the problem of using rules. They found that rules are seemingly arbitrary, boring and students do not know how to apply them. These views are expected to be the cause of the difficulties that students encounter in their writing tasks. These have been noticed during teaching; consequently, it interested the researcher to conduct a research into causes of wrong use of capital letters in Junior secondary schools in Langtang South Local Government Area of Plateau State.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate causes of wrong use of capital letters in Junior secondary schools in Langtang south Local Government Area of Plateau State. Specific objectives are to:

  1. Find out how teachers contribute to wrong use of capital letters among students.
  2. Determine how curriculum planners and administrators contribute to wrong use of capital letters among students.
  3. Examine how students contribute totheir wrong use of capital letters.
  4. Examine the errors of capitalization in Junior secondary school students’ writing.
  5. Suggest from the foregoing how wrong use of capital letters could be remedied.

1.4 Research Questions

This study will try to provide answers for the following questions:

  1. How do teachers contribute to wrong use of capital letters among students?
  2. To what extent can curriculum planners and administrators contribute to wrong use of capital letter among students?
  3. To what extent can students contribute totheir wrong use of capital letters?
  4. What are the types of errors in capitalization among students?
  5. How can the wrong use of capital letters be remedied in Junior Secondary Schools in Langtang South Local Government Area?

1.5 Significance of the Study

Referring to the research problems, the results of this study could give a useful contribution to the following:

The research findings are expected to support students to have a good knowledge of using capitalization appropriately in writing. They might be able to recognize the causes of wrong use of capital letters. This study is capable of stimulating students to understand exact rules of capitalisation better. The study provides recommendations as remedies which might solve the causes of wrong use of capital letters.

As for the teachers, this study can raise the awareness of capitalization to highlight some causes of wrong use of capital letters in students’ writing. The research will support teachers in teaching capitalisation appropriately since it will reveal the causes of wrong use of capital letters

This study will provide a feedback to syllabus designers to improve textbooks by including, laying more emphasis on aspects of punctuation, especially the use of capital letters as one of the writing teaching program.

The findings of the study are expected to help writers of English in general to enrich their understanding of using capital letters appropriately.

Finally, this study shall be a reference materials to future researchers who would want to carry out future studies on the topic understudy, it will also add to the already existing body of literature on use of capital letters.

1.6 Scope of the Study

            This research project is limited to causes of wrong use of capital letters in Junior Secondary Schools. The research covers LangtangSouth Local Government Area of Plateau State. Five secondary schools were selected for the purpose of the research and will be presented in the methodology as the study progresses. However, despite the fact that the research is limited to the selected local government area and schools, the findings from the research can provide a more elaborate research in this field of study on a broader scale.

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  • Chapter 1 to 5
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