Teaching Arabic Speakers: Linguistic and Cultural Considerations, Shira Packer

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Teaching English to Arabic Speakers: Cultural and Linguistic Considerations
In the past few years, more Arabic speakers have come to Canada to learn English than ever before. The workshop aims to present cultural and linguistic information that is useful to English teachers of native Arabic-speaking learners. Participants will learn how to anticipate challenges with regards to teaching grammar, pronunciation, literacy, and critical thinking skills to native Arabic speakers.

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  • The info presented in this workshop is based on: informal student interviews, interview with the YUELI Director, Calum Mackechnie, and personal experience working with Arabic speaking students, and secondary research. Disclaimer: 1)I don ’ t intend to give the impression that I speak Arabic or fully understand the linguistic complexity of the language. I have had, however, some exposure to it from travel to Arabic speaking countries. I also have a working knowledge of Hebrew, also from the Semitic family of language. 2) The information that I will provide today is not meant to encapsulate all Arabic language speakers, but rather many arabic language speakers and therefore makes use of some generalizations that may not apply to every individual learner. c) I don ’ t have all the answers. Look forward to hearing shared ideas about how to translate cultural and linguistic considerations into practical teaching applications.
  • Coming in increasing populations
  • Started in May-July 2007. This number could be higher if it weren ’ t for our language mix policy which limits any one language group to no more than 33% of the total student population. Right now, we are a bit over max capacity and the Saudi cultural bureau would like to send even more saudi students. Lets learn a little bit more about who are these students
  • Future possibilities: Libya, United Arab Emirates Of our Saudi students about 67% are sponsored by the King Abdullah Scholarship Program and 33% are not.
  • Now we have an increased understanding of the socio-political context from which we are experiencing increased numbers of arabic speakers, let ’ s talk about some linguistic contrasts. Although contrastive analysis is no longer considered a foundation for instructional programs, Contrastive features may help to understand error production by some arabic speakers, develop appropriate activities and exercises in response. Negative transfer from first language can be considered interference. Recognition of some mechanical features of the arabic language can assist teachers in addressing problems with learning grammar, literacy, etc.
  • Long vowels are the only ones always represented in writing, the short vowels are only present in children ’ s books, the Koran, and special texts (for learners). Poor penmanship can be distracting for the reader Reading comp: higher AND lower level processing problems. Assuhaii and Al barr ’ s 1992 study; at king faisal university P 80% saved one third of the time when read medical material in Arabic compared to English. Slower recognition: interesting study involving consonantal orthography (Korait, 1985 as cited in Hayes-Harb, 2006) . Uses hebrew, like arabic, a 3-consonant base root system. Suggests that vocalized text impedes overall reading speed. Therefore berew speakers develop written word processing strategies that operate more effectively in the absence of diacritical vowel information or nikodot, in hebrew. Roman and Pavard found similar results with their 1987 study involving arabic speakers. What teaching techniques can we use to help learners with these problems? Teacher strategies: emphasis how vowel information distinguishes words (e.g. star, start, stare, store, sore, etc.) Give extra homework, extra time on tests? Read aloud. Free writing activity (practice speed)
  • Root system e.g. d-r-s study. Add prefixes, infixes, and suffixes to conjugate verbs, make related word forms, etc.
  • Parallelism: in temporal clauses the meaning and time reference of the verb in a subordinate clause are derived from the verb in the main clauses. Relative pronouns in arabic are 2 complete sentences (coordinate) rather than subordinate in english. Relator: a second word or affix that serves as the subject or object of a clause giving reference to the antecedent. Object deletion rule required later in language development
  • Problems related to L1 transfer 6 arabic (3 short, 3 long) Allphonic variants = not meaningfully distinct Back English vowels u, o, c. Evident in transliterated arabic words e.g. koran and qur ’ an. Spellings of mohamed. English post-velar= h Arabic post-velhar: nasal and gutteral sounds P vs. b: not functionally distinct in Arabic Initial voiceless stops are not aspirated in Arabic (similar to French, Italian, and Spanish) Habit/ have it Th: interdentals Consequences for teacher: systematic presentation of vowel variations and common spelling representations Relationships between word families, roots, and derivatives /b/ vs. /p/ minimal pairs
  • Problems related to L1 transfer 6 arabic (3 short, 3 long) Allphonic variants = not meaningfully distinct Back English vowels u, o, c. Evident in transliterated arabic words e.g. koran and qur ’ an. Spellings of mohamed. English post-velar= h Arabic post-velhar: nasal and gutteral sounds P vs. b: not functionally distinct in Arabic Initial voiceless stops are not aspirated in Arabic (similar to French, Italian, and Spanish) Habit/ have it Th: interdentals Consequences for teacher: systematic presentation of vowel variations and common spelling representations Relationships between word families, roots, and derivatives /b/ vs. /p/ minimal pairs
  • Also, overuse of pronouns without clear reference point, lacks repetition of key words. Multiple supporting points: lacking organization, out of focus Overuse of coordination and underuse of subordination (Thompson-Panos & Thomas-Ruzic, 1983) Overuse of synthesis, underuse of analysis Emphasis on oral skill Positive social effect on students from other nationalities
  • Well aware of issues b4 coming here. Government meetings to prepare students. Positive perception of Canadians Canadians are friendly, multicultural, free to practice religion. USA, visa problems, immigration “ interrogation ’ can be difficult. Non judgmental to other students Medical university is together
  • Teaching Arabic Speakers: Linguistic and Cultural Considerations, Shira Packer

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

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