Problems for English Learners in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates though being a discrete country is a league of 7 states comprising people whose first language is Arabic. UAE being a prominent Arab country in Middle East homes to a myriad of Arabs from neighboring countries. Hence, the challenges that a learner's faces are also varying depending on the nativity of the person. I firmly believe there are four basic challenges that learners face in the UAE.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate MANJU A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The primary challenge a learner faces is the cultural background that the student carries.
Culture plays an important factor in learning a language effectively. Language defines the environment and vice versa. Hence, the traditions based on the culture impact learning skills. Most often, the student is in a dilemma to understand the various terminologies and collocations that one might use in an English speaking country which are not used in his or her country of origin. To illustrate, Arabic speakers are not well abreast of celebrations like Halloween or Easter. As a result, when spoken classes are conducted, the learner lacks ideas or lexical resources to express the language related to the topic. Oftentimes they find disinterested to speak as they cannot relate to such festivities. Moreover, when dealing with attires, culture impacts the choice of clothes, and the student finds it difficult to relate the vocabs related to fashion attires that the west is acquainted with. Finally, in an Arab cultural setting, women are protected hence not all women are allowed to study English in a co-ed environment thereby limiting their potential to learn better in a classroom environment.
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Also, there is a problem with comprehension.
Most Arab students learn English in their countries in a very traditional way because the texts and curriculum are locally geared and the students are not familiar with the English/ American culture; therefore, they lack the most important factor which is comprehension. Some Arab countries do not allocate enough hours for learners of English during their primary and secondary schools, and some teachers put more emphasis on one skill on the expense of the others - whereas all four skills- understanding, speaking, reading and writing - are important and necessary for learning the language.
However few English words have their roots in Arabic, the two languages follow very different conventions.
The striking difference noted is that the written languages are written very differently as Arabic is written and read from right to left. Moreover, the alphabet formation becomes challenging too. Pronunciation of certain alphabets B and P is not easily mastered by the student. Many times they stay at the same level concerning pronunciation. Handwriting formation is a tedious task as many learners write the English alphabets from right to left and hence they take a longer time to learn the written skills.
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Finally, the mindset of Arab learners is that they thrive for quicker results.
Learning is a process and there are no quick fixes to the language. The learners often are impatient and want to master the language quickly. Hence many give up too soon to pursue their learning. Oftentimes, the tutor would be going through challenging times motivating the student to continue. Boredom has to be constantly dealt with by including activities that would constantly vary from class to class. Drills and Roleplay to encourage the students and this brings about a lively atmosphere in the class. In many scenarios, the classes might be repetitive to ensure the students have really comprehended on the particular lesson taken. It is important for a tutor in U.A.E to constantly introduce varied ways of tutoring in the same lesson.
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To conclude, I firmly believe every country would have its own challenges when it comes to teaching English to learners. Despite the challenges, ESOL teachers must be patient to ensure every student is motivated to learn good English in the right way and in the right environment. Constant improvement of teaching skills must be aspired by the trainers so that the students grasp the language and are continually motivated to comprehend the English language.
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