Teaching English to Arabic Speakers: Cultural and Linguistic Considerations Presented by: Shira Packer, M. A. spacke@yorku. ca York University English Language Institute (YUELI), Toronto, ON NOT FOR REPRODUCTION OR CIRCULATION WITHOUT THE EXPLICIT PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR
Workshop Objectives • To increase understanding of – current trends for Arabic speakers learning English – linguistic contrasts between English and Arabic & potential learning barriers – cultural differences that may affect student learning & create administrative constraints • To use this information to – increase repertoire of effective teaching techniques which accommodate Arabic speakers – teach more effective learning strategies which engage Arabic speaking students & target their specific learning needs – consider administering school activities to better accommodate cultural differences
Your Experience with Arabicspeaking ESL Learners 1. Please introduce yourself and describe your personal experience teaching and/or administering Arabic speaking students. 2. To what extent do you think it is important to better understand their needs? Why?
Current Trends Longitudinal Analysis of Population of Arabic Speakers
YUELI (EAP) Demographic Analysis: Arabic Student Citizenship 2007 -2009 (n=293) Citizenship Number of Students Saudi Arabia 259 Canada 9 Jordan 8 Yemen 7 Israel 3 Iraq 2 Libya 1 Palestine 1 Syria 1 United States 1
Linguistic Considerations 1. What differences are you aware of between the Arabic and English language (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, rhetoric, literacy, script, etc. )? 2. How might these differences affect English language learning of Arabic speakers? 3. What other language learning strengths and challenges do Arabic speakers generally have?
Linguistic Considerations: Literacy Arabic alphabet and script: • • • right to left cursive number characters are non-European no distinct upper and lower case forms consonant-based system where vowels are noted with diacritics (harakat) and often omitted • Often foster “poor” writing skills in first language (Khuwaileh & Al Shoumali, 2000) How does this affect learning English? • Poor penmanship • Write characters from right to left (e. g. ‘e’, ‘r’, ‘n’) • Slower recognition and processing of letters (especially vowels) and words • Difficulty with reading comprehension • literacy skills involving speed may become obstacles (skimming, scanning, dictation, note-taking)
Literacy Exercise Week 1: First Draft Week 1: Second Draft
Literacy Exercise Week 3: First Draft (cont. )
Linguistic Considerations: Vocabulary & Grammar • Few borrowed words from Arabic – low frequency of transfer related errors – more intrinsic difficulty • 3 -consonant root word system – – – k-t-b = writing root Kitɑɑb= book kɑtɑbɑ = he wrote mɑktɑb = office mɑktɑbɑ= library • Verbs – No ‘be’ verb (e. g. My teacher very smart) – verb forms incorporate pronouns, subject, and object in morphology (e. g. John he works there) – No phrasal verbs
Linguistic Considerations: Vocabulary & Grammar cont… • Articles – No indefinite articles in Arabic • Nouns – Singular, plural, and ‘dual’ • Prepositions – Indicated via prefix • Complex Sentences (Thompson-Panos & Thomas-Ruzic, 1983) – Subordinate clause parallelism (e. g. The student arrived while she carries her book) – No relative pronouns (e. g. It is the woman (who) she has a red coat) – Arabic relator (e. g. This is the sweater which I lost it; The sons when they grow up, they think about their parents. )
Linguistic Considerations: Pronunciation & Spelling (Lehn & Slager, 1959; Thompson-Panos & Thomas-Ruzic, 1983) • Relationship between spelling & pronunciation • Stress-timed sentence stress • Vowels: – Distinct vowel phonemes: ~11 English vs. 6 Arabic – allophonic variants • /u/, /o/, and /Ɔ/ (e. g. boot, boat, and bought) • /ɛ/, /æ/, /ɑ/, and /ʌ/ (e. g. bet, bat, bought, and but)
Linguistic Considerations: Pronunciation & Spelling (Lehn & Slager, 1959; Thompson-Panos & Thomas-Ruzic, 1983) • Consonants: – In labial to velar regions: ~23 English vs. 16 Arabic – In post–velar regions: 1 English vs. 7 Arabic – /p/ vs. /b/ and /f/ vs. /v/ – No /ð/ or /θ/ in colloquial Arabic – /tdsz/ are alveolar in English vs. dental in Arabic – Consonant clusters: • e. g. spring: /spr. Iŋ/ /səpr. Iŋ/ • e. g. film: /f. Ilm/ /f. Iləm/
Linguistic Considerations: Pronunciation Exercise Circle the word you hear: 1. Did you get the chicken ( box / pox )? 2. I love the ( burbs / burps ). 3. Do you need a little ( push / bush )? 4. Try not to ( bruise it / prove it ). 5. This ( prick / brick ) will only hurt a bit. 6. Vegetarians like ( braised / praised ) vegetables. What does it sound like if you mix up the /b/ and the /p/ in the following phrases? • polar bear • probably • pretty bad • rumble
Rhetorical & Stylistic Considerations • Arabic speakers may exhibit (Thompson-Panos & Thomas. Ruzic, 1983): Overuse of: Teaching Implications: • Repetition of main ideas • Providing new supporting arguments • Multiple supporting points within a paragraph • Paragraphing to isolate supporting points • Religious concepts and references as supporting points • Academic publications as references • Directness • Indirectness • Exaggeration (superlative) • Avoid generalizations (“one of the” + superlative) • Synthesis of ideas (coordination) • Analysis of ideas (subordination) • Pronouns without clear reference • Antecedent identification
Cultural Considerations 1. Please describe some cultural differences that you have observed between Arabs and Canadians. 2. To what extent might these cultural differences affect the learning capacity of Arabic speakers? 3. Has your school made any special religious accommodations for Muslim students? 4. To what extent should schools make accommodations for Muslim students?
Cultural Considerations: Assimilation • Classroom conventions – Absences & lates – Privacy issues – Turn-at-talk • Family Life – Marriage responsibilities – Pregnancies – Daycare • Religious issues – – Prayer times and space Ramadan Diet and drink Hijab (veil) • Personal independence – Lifestyle (decision making, cooking, etc) – Family ties & social connections – weather • Gender in the classroom – Separate primary, intermediate, and secondary schools (public universities) for boys and girls – Gender request for teacher – Husband-wife or brothersister requests for same class – Occasional problem with female completing outside classroom assignments
Post-English Language Program Considerations • University applications • Accessibility of Canadian universities for Middle Eastern students – difficulty entry standards (undergraduate vs. graduate) – quotas for international students Thinking Forward • Dependency on Saudi Cultural Bureau – to continue scholarship program – to continue sending students to YUELI • Future Arab student populations – Arab English language instruction improving in quality and quantity
Q&A To what extent should English language institutions… a) modify teaching curriculum and/or techniques to accommodate Arabic speaking learners? b) accommodate Arab cultural differences? c) help graduates enter university programs? Koran Sura 105: “Have you not seen what God did to the owners of the elephants? ”
Works Cited • Al Jarf, R. (2008). The impact of English as an international language (EIL) upon Arabic in Saudi Arabia. Asian EFL Journal, 10(4). • Hayes-Harb, R. (2006). Native speakers of Arabic and ESL texts: Evidence for the transfer of written word identification processes. TESOL Quarterly, 40(2), 321 -339. • Khuwaileh, A. A. and Shoumali, A. A. (2000). Writing errors: A study of the writing ability of Arab learners of academic English and Arabic at university. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13(2), 174 -183. • Lehn, W. and Slager, W. R. (1959). A contrastive study of Egyptian Arabic and American English: The segmental phonemes. Language Learning, 9(1 -2), 25 -33. • Thompson-Panos, K. and Thomas-Ruzic, M. (1983). The least you should know about Arabic: Implications for the ESL writing instructor. TESOL Quarterly, 17(4), 609 -623.