Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 15. Number 1, March 2024                                    Pp. 269-282

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Difficulties Faced by Undergraduate Students in English Public Speaking
at a Malaysian University

Ahmad Taufik Hidayah Abdullahp
Faculty of Languages and Communication
Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Malaysia

I Made Netra
Faculty of Humanities,
Udayana University, Indonesia

Isyaku Hassan
Faculty of Languages and Communication
Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Malaysia
Corresponding Author:


Received:11/31/2023         Accepted:03/05/2024                 Published:03/20/2024


The ability to speak English in public with confidence is essential for university students; both for their studies and employment purposes after graduation. Nowadays, employers seek staff who can speak English confidently. This study, therefore, aims to explore difficulties and factors that hinder effective public speaking among undergraduate students at a Malaysian university. The study employed a qualitative method through face-to-face semi-structured interviews and gathered data from a purposive sample of 44 undergraduate students. The interview data were analyzed using an inductive-thematic analysis: identifying natural units of meaning, labeling, categorizing, and organizing them, constructing narratives, and interpreting the findings. The findings showed that undergraduate students face various difficulties concerning English public speaking due to poor language skills in terms of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and fluency. Additionally, the findings revealed several factors that hinder public effective speaking among students, including dislike for English, nervousness, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, shyness, eye contact, gender differences as well as lack of idea, practice, and audience attention. These difficulties may result in students having a high level of anxiety during public speaking. This study offers valuable insights to educators in overcoming English speaking difficulties among undergraduates to enhance learning outcomes.
Keywords: Malaysia, public speaking, uncertainty reduction theory, undergraduate students

Cite as: Abdullah, A.T.H.,  Netra, I.M., &  Hassan, I.H.(2024). Difficulties Faced by Undergraduate Students in English Public Speaking at a Malaysian University. Arab World English Journal, 15(1): 269-282. DOI:


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Received: 11/31/2023
Accepted: 03/05/2024  
Published: 03/20/2024 

Dr. Ahmad Taufik Hidayah Abdullah is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Languages and Communication, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Malaysia. His areas of research interest include public speaking, English linguistics, error analysis, and language learning. Email:


Dr. I Made Netra is a Professor of English Language Studies in the Faculty of Humanities at Udayana University (Unud), Indonesia.  His areas of research interest include ethnopragmatics and discourse analysis. He is also interested in research about public speaking and performing arts practices. Email:

Dr. Isyaku Hassan is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Languages and Communication at Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Malaysia. His areas of research interest include media linguistics, media and technology, health communication, marketing communication, and language studies.