Fluency and accuracy levels in writing of Grade 12 ESL learners

  • Johann L Van der Walt
  • Karien Hattingh


This study investigated two aspects of the level of second language development achieved by Grade 12 English Second Language (ESL) learners in South Africa. It was inspired by the general concern about standards in the matriculation examination and calls for the improvement of ESL teaching and learning. The study involved an investigation and description of the fluency and accuracy levels of Grade 12 learners. We focussed on writing, since it is generally accepted that characteristic patterns of advanced learners are best studied in written production. 216 compositions were analysed in terms of T-units, and fluency and accuracy frequencies and ratios were calculated. Results show that fluency ratios (W/T and W/EFT) and an accuracy ratio (EFT/T) paint a poor picture of learners’ performance in writing, and suggest that Grade 12 ESL learners are ill-prepared for tertiary study. Better control of morphology and syntax is required, as this will lead to a general improvement of fluency and accuracy levels in ESL.


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Author Biographies

Johann L Van der Walt
Johann L van der Walt is head of the Centre for Academic and Professional Language Practice and Professor of English at the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University. He specialises in course design, second language teaching, testing and acquisition.Email: Johann.VanderWalt@nwu.ac.za
Karien Hattingh
Karien Hattingh is a lecturer in English at the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University. She specialises in second language acquisition and language assessment.