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Effects of Multilingualism on Saudi Arabian Children Proposal

Research Proposal


The study under consideration aims at discussing the effects of multilingualism on Saudi Arabian children development and understanding of the world around.

To be more specific, the paper discloses the multilingualism effects on children’s behaviour and language development as these two issues are considered to be the main factors that can define the quality of human relations, personal achievements, and further development of a society. The main tasks of the investigation are as follows:

  • To identify the reasons of why the Saudi Arabia community is an appropriate research choice;
  • To define multilingualism as an important factor in the discussion of children’s behaviour concept;
  • To underline the effects multilingualism may have on children and their educational process;
  • To consider social, ethical, and educational concepts in the children’s development process;
  • To use the Hymes’ ethnography of speaking as the main theory to analyse the topic and prove its appropriateness.

Background on the Community

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest Arab states that can be found in the western part of Asia. It has a good geographical location and an ability to develop successful trade relations with its neighbours as well as with any other country around the whole.

The Red Sea is on the West, Yemen is on the South, Kuwait is on the North, and the United Arab Emirates is on the East. Saudi Arabia, as the leading global oil producer and deliver, is a rich country. Still, not all Saudi Arabian people live rich and demonstrate the luxurious style of life.

In fact, the World Bank reports that this country has the 10th lowest poverty rate worldwide and continues ranking the highest among other Arabian regions regarding the necessity to minimise poverty (“Saudi Arabia has tenth lowest poverty rate”, 2013).

A considerable part of the children’s rights is violated. Parents try to find out the ways to provide their children with the best educational practices, and care givers are bothered with the questions concerning children’s development and abilities to live in a bilingual society (Habtoor, 2012).

Many Saudis are afraid of being westernised because of a fast spread of the English language through their communities and their inabilities to control the impact of the English use on their national identity (Al Haq & Oqlah, 1996).

Still, the investigations prove that even the use of English and the necessity to live in a multilingual world do not have a considerable impact on people, but have to be taken into account at the early stages of children’s development because children usually undergo numerous impacts from various sides (Mouzan, Salloum, Herbish, Qurachi, & Omar, 2008).

In spite of all challenges and difficulties, the Saudi Arabian community has to be defined as a powerful nation with an ability to demonstrate the best qualities and get accustomed to all new concepts.

Hijazi, Abalkhail, and Seaton (2000) explain how the population in Saudi Arabia with the prosperity from the oil industry has to live, benefit from a rapid social change, and support their traditional lives.

This study aims at investigating two types of the Saudi Arabian communities: one community is the children, who live in Saudi Arabia in such cities like Riyadh (the capital of the country, where bilingual communities are of great numbers), Jeddah (the commercial capital of the country, where multilingualism is an ordinary and even obligatory thing), and Dammam (the city with a huge airport, where a variety of languages amazes its population); another community is the children, who live in the USA as they are the children of parents, who have transferred because of their educational goals and decided to stay, have families, and raise children in a new society.

Though these two communities are rooted from Saudi Arabia, the evaluation of their styles of life, adaptation to multilingualism, and children’s development may gain various forms and lead to different results.

Children have to develop their skills considering the expectations of both, a society around and a family with its own rules and standards.

A life in a multilingual society is not a new thing for them, still, it creates a number of effects and outcomes that influence children’s understanding of the world around and development of their cognitive skills and manners.

Literature Review on Prior Work on the Chosen Area

This study will draw on the effects of multilingualism on children, their language development, and behaviour in a society to comprehend whether it is justified to support the idea of a bilingual nation by the representatives of the Saudi Arabian community or not.

A number of investigations have been already made in the chosen field of study, and their results have considerably influenced the development of the sphere of education as well as the development of many other spheres of life.

Dewaele and Oudenhoven (2009) makes an attempt to investigate the connection between multilingualism and the personality profile taking into consideration such factor like acculturation. They cooperate with 79 teenagers from London, some of them were born in this city and some of them came from different countries.

The researchers prove that language dominance plays an important role in the personality’s profile, this is why the effects of multilingualism on children’s development cannot be ignored (Diamond, 2010).

Dewaele and Oudenhoven (2009) conclude that in spite of the fact that people are usually shaped by some social and biographical factors, their contact with different languages and cultures strengthen their perception of the world.

Language is considered to be one of the key links between social and cognitive worlds of a child (Bialystok, 2007).

As a rule, language has certain consequences on a person, especially in children between 4 and 16 years, as this age is the period when children are able to comprehend what is expected from them, what they can do, and what they can, have, and want to learn.

The decision to choose the Saudi Arabian community as the main group of people for investigation is based on the work of Al-Ghamdi (2015), who introduces the importance of heritage language and explains that the life and development in a multilingual society are not easy things that due to a number of negative stereotypes that can lead to a cultural identity clash and the necessity to consider a dual cultural identity during the language development process.

Unfortunately, multilingualism may be characterised by certain negative and positive effects on children of different age and their development. For example, Döpke (2006) identifies a number of difficulties with language development may take place, but it is wrong to believe that bilingualism is the main reason of language disorders.

She truly believes that child’s age, personal inabilities, or even some other outside factors like parental neglect and maltreatment may cause negative effects.

At the same time, Döpke (2006) tells that her studies help to understand the cognitive advantages of bilingualism and the inabilities of a multilingual society influence the results of IQ tests of an individual.

Multilingualism should not be defined as a pure negative or a pure positive factor in children’s development (Grosjean, 2010), but try to understand possible problems and identify the necessary solutions on how children should be developed in a multilingual society.

Luke (2003) offers to pay attention to a number of social, demographic, linguistic, and even economic factors to comprehend how children may be developed in multilingual societies.

Though it is not always possible to consider all the above-mentioned points, one conclusion can be made on the basis of Al-Amri’s paper (2013) – the effects of multilingualism on personality may be of a negative or positive nature, and people can do nothing with this truth but to accept it as it is.

Theoretical Positioning

One of the possible methods to comprehend the nature of multilingualism and its effects is to use a powerful theory and apply it to a situation.

Current study focuses on the Hymes’ ethnography of speaking as a chance to focus on communicative behaviour as a part of a cultural system due to its ability to cooperate with other components of the same system regarding their particular concepts (Saville-Troike, 2008).

As a rule, Hymes’s speaking model is currently used in various investigations as it helps to comprehend the ways of how the process of communication may differ in various cultural situations (Milburn, n.d., Applying S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.).

The peculiar feature of the chosen theory is the possibility to use its components to learn what to do in a particular situation, how to behave in a new community, and look at the situations in regards to the expectations from a speaking process (Milburn, n.d., Theoretical overview).

Though not all researchers believe that Hymes’ approach is the only successful decision to comprehend language development and speaking peculiarities (Blommaert, 2009) defining the weakness of his research because of his decision to rely on his personal experience and background knowledge only, the effectiveness of his theory and model remains to be unchangeable.

Being a strong framework for the analysis of the effects of multilingualism on children’s behaviour and language development, the Hymes’ theory should be properly analysed with all its components and their important functions. The Hymes’ speaking model consists of the eight main divisions, which introduce the chosen acronym SPEAKING.

  • S setting describes the situation in regards to its time and space;
  • P participants as well as their roles are identified;
  • E ends define the main goals of the process;
  • A act sequence shows the required order of the process;
  • K keys are focused on the manner of the process;
  • I instrumentalities talk about the way the process is organised and the language that is used;
  • N norms of interaction create the rules according to which the process of communication should be organised;
  • G genres conclude the type of speech used in the process.

(Atkinson, Delamont, Coffey, Lofland, & Lofland, 2007,p. 290)

The identification of each of the components will be used in the analysis of the multilingualism’s effects on children between 4-16 years from the Saudi Arabian communities. One part of the participants lives in the Saudi Arabia and experiences their own culture, its effects, and historical importance.

Another part of the participants lives in the USA and has to consider their own cultural norms in regards to the social expectations. A certain attention to such aspects like the setting, ends, and even the norms of interaction turns out to be a good chance to learn better the peculiarities of multilingualism and its direct and indirect effects on children, their language development, and even behaviour within the chosen community.

In fact, the relations between ethnography and multilingualism have a long history, and nowadays, they have been considerably improved and transformed because of the epistemological shift and the intense changes in linguistic, social, and cultural aspects (Gardner & Martin-Jones, 2012).

Blommaert, Collins, and Slembrouck (2005) underline the importance of spaces in multilingualism, and space is one of the main components in the chosen theoretical model.

This observation proves again that the chosen theoretical position is appropriate for the project and can be applied in a variety of ways to realise how 4-16-year-old children may be challenged by multilingualism and overcome the problems with their language development and behavioural difficulties in a society.

Research Questions

The study under consideration has to give the answers to several research questions as it focuses on several aspects such as children’s language development, behaviour, the impact of a community, and the necessity to live in a multilingual society. This is why the list of the following research questions seems to be rational indeed.

It is not enough to give some concrete answers to the research questions. It is more important to understand why these questions take place, how past studies may be implied to the current investigation, and explain that each question has its own backgrounds.

These research questions help to find appropriate solutions to the problems children may face because of multilingualism in their communities.

  1. What are the effects of multilingualism on children’s language development and behaviour in a Saudi Arabian community?
  2. How should the Hymes’ theory of ethnography of speaking be used in the analysis of the effects of multilingualism?

To answer these two simple questions, the following issues have to be taken into consideration as well as additional supportive steps in research:

  • The chosen community’s development in a modern world;
  • The factors influence children language development;
  • Children’s behaviour in a multilingual society;
  • The Hymes’ theory of ethnography of speaking (Kiesling, 2012) helps to comprehend the essence of multilingualism and its connection to the children’s development;
  • The elements of the Hymes’ theory (“Dell Hymes’s speaking model”, n.d.) have to be considered during the analysis of the effects of multilingualism on children;
  • The effects of multilingualism on children’s language development and behaviour in a society;
  • The problems caused by the effects of multilingualism on children;
  • The solutions to the problems identified with the help of the Hymes’ theory in speaking and children development.


The main hypothesis of the study under analysis is the identification and analysis of the effects of multilingualism on children’s language development and behaviour in a society and the solutions of the problems that may take place as soon as the effects are clarified on the basis of the Hymes’ theory of ethnography of speaking.

The research questions mentioned in the previous section create the necessity to choose several methods for research because it is not enough to review literature or to interview people.

It is crucial to integrate different methods and study a population from a variety of perspectives, but try to avoid large-scale quantitative methods as they are not actually appropriate for the chosen theoretical positioning.

At the same time, the chosen methods provide the information within the frames of which the validity of a study will be judged (Kallet, 2004).

There should be two main study areas: the Saudi Arabian community in the USA and the community, the members of which live in Saudi Arabia and face the challenges of a bilingual society.

It is not enough to use many children; still, it is necessary to use the children with different social backgrounds. 20-30 children between 4-16 years will be interviewed, and their answers will be analysed on the basis of the Hymes’ theory of ethnography of speaking (Hymes, 2013).

The analysis of data will be properly organised, noted, and integrated with the statistical data and other literary material found online and in the libraries. There is no necessity to use large-scaled investigations, but focus on several communities defined by the required age group (children between 4 and 16 years).

The analysis of the Hymes’ theory and its role in the process of speaking (Johnstone & Marcellino, 2010) should be incorporated with the children’s development and the conditions the Saudi Arabian communities have to live under.

The methods chosen for the project about the effects of multilingualism are as follows:

  • Interviews with children between 4-16 years from two different communities (those, who live in the Saudi Arabia and those, who come from the Saudi Arabia and live in the USA). Some of the interviews may be organised online to save time and money that are necessary for travelling.
  • Interviews with parents of the children mentioned above to check the validity of the information given.
  • The observations of children’s behaviour in different situations which are caused by the necessity to consider multilingualism as the main factor in children’s development.
  • Analysis of the information got from the interviews.
  • Review of literature about the chosen community and search for some statistical data to support the concepts used in research.
  • Personal conclusions and suggestions concerning the effects of multilingualism on the Saudi Arabian children.


The evaluation of social, ethical, and educational factors has to be made as well on the basis of the information about the communities and children’s roles within a society.

Multilingualism is that kind of phenomenon that has its effects on different spheres of life, and the properly chosen methods of research as well as the analysis of the information gathered should help to comprehend the peculiarities of the topic and its emergency in different spheres.

When using humans as the main subjects of research, it is necessary to consider a number of ethical concerns and compliance.

People, who agree to participate in any kind of investigation have to be ensured with a number of things like a possibility to change information or hide it because of some personal reasons, a choice not to make the results of research available to a wide range of public, a chance to stay anonymous, and an ability to use the most appropriate method of communication.

A researcher should always remember about the following ethical principles that can never be neglected in the chosen work (Resnik, 2011):

  • Honesty (the research results cannot be falsified);
  • Objectivity (any kind of biases should be avoided in the methods, research, and analysis);
  • Confidentiality (parents and children should be provided with the guarantees that their answers will not influence their ordinary lives);
  • Respect (the researcher should demonstrate a respectful treatment to each participant of the investigation).

The ethics of research presupposes the idea of using credible information about the participants and communities used in the project. This is why it is necessary to find a theoretical proof for each idea used as evidence.

Children of Saudi Arabia have a number of rights, still, not all of them know about these rights, and they face numerous challenges when they try to understand what goes wrong in their lives (Ramel, 2011).

This fact proves again that ethics is a crucial point in a human life and cannot be neglected to demonstrate how humane and supportive people have to be and how they actually are.

The study under consideration is a good chance to recognise how crucial children development is and how important such factors like multilingualism and social support can be.

It is also necessary to admit that multilingualism may influence children’s emotions (Pavlenko, 2007), learning possibilities (Kirsch, 2006), and social relations (Lanza & Svendsen, 2007).

That is another important explanation of why such point like research ethics cannot be neglected. People should know how to cope with the challenges of children’s language development in a multilingual society, and this project should not become a failure.


Time is an important issue for any kind of research. To prove the correctness of the chosen research and the abilities to meet all its aims and follow all the methods identified, it is crucial to create a successful timeline and be able to use it accordingly.

The following description of steps is a plan to be considered in research that discloses the effects of multilingualism on the Saudi Arabian children, their language development, and behaviour in a society.

In general, a three-month timeframe must be used in research: one month is necessary to gather information and conduct interviews with the participants, one month is for the analysis of the information and its integration with the Hymes’ theory of ethnography of communication, and the last month is for the writing and editing processes that have to be properly organised in accordance with the instructions set.

1st week – the identification of the goals and steps to be taken while the investigation and agreements about the further interviews;

2nd week – interviews and observations of the children from the Saudi Arabian community in the USA;

3rd week – interviews with the representatives of the Saudi Arabian community, who live in their native country;

4th week – additional adjustments of the interviews and the information gathered;

5th week – the analysis of the first portion of the interviews and its application to the theory chosen;

6th week – the analysis of the second portion of the interviews and its application to the theory chosen;

7th week – the analysis of the observations;

8th week – the literature analysis;

9th week – outlining and discussions of the writing process;

10th week – writing;

11th week – writing;

12th week – editing and proofreading.

This approximate timeline may be improved in accordance with the demands and tutor’s suggestions.

Potential Educational Implications

In fact, the project dedicated to the effects of multilingualism on the Saudi Arabian children, their behaviour, and language development on the basis of the Hymes’ theory of ethnography of speaking may have a number of educational implications and important lessons for the participants as well as for the readers.

The study helps to find a practical application of the Hymes’ theory and its importance in the educational process. The participants learn the challenges of multilingualism for the children, who live or used to live in Saudi Arabia and find out the solutions that can be offered to improve children’s language development and behaviour.

The study is a good chance to evaluate the already offered investigations and ideas, compare them, and realise why some of them are not appropriate for the modern society and some of them remain to be a considerable contribution to the science.

People want to learn more about the methods that can help children achieve better results in their development; this is why the chosen research should be interesting and helpful for many communities because the Saudi Arabian community may be regarded as a variable that can be replaced and lead to some new ideas and suggestions.

In general, the research proposal shows the aims and methods of research that have to be developed in a three-month period and discusses how and why the Saudi Arabian community is chosen for consideration and analysis of the effects of multilingualism on children.

Reference List

Al Haq, F., & Oqlah, S. (1996). Spread of English and westernisation in Saudi Arabia. World Englishes, 15(3), 307-317.

Al-Amri, M. N. (2013). : A historical perspective. Web.

Al-Ghamdi, N. S. (2015). Saudi scholars’ heritage language and their ethno-cultural identity in multilingual communities: An exploratory case study. Cross-Cultural Communication, 11(1), 1-8.

Atkinson, P., Delamont, S., Coffey, A., Lofland, J., & Lofland, L. (2007). Handbook of ethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Bialystok, E. (2007). Language acquisition and bilingualism: Consequences for a multilingual society. Applied Psycholinguistics, 28(3), 393-397.

Blommaert, J. (2009). Ethnography and democracy: Hymes’s political theory of language. Text & Talk, 29(3), 257-276.

Blommaert, J., Collins, J., & Slembrouck, S. (2005). Spaces of multilingualism. Language & Communication, 25, 197-216.

Dell Hymes’s speaking model. Web.

Dewaele, J. M., & Oudenhoven, J. P. (2009). The effect of multilingualism/multiculturalism on personality: No gain without pain for third culture kinds? International Journal of Multilingualism, 6(4), 443-459.

Diamond, J. (2010). The benefits of multilingualism. Social Science Perspectives. Web.

Döpke, S. (2006). . Web.

Gardner, S., & Martin-Jones, M. (2012). Multilingualism, discourse, and ethnography. New York, NY: Routledge.

Grosjean, F. (2010). Bilingual: Life and reality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Habtoor, H. A. (2012). Language maintenance and language shift among second generation Tigrinya-speaking Eritrean immigrants in Saudi Arabia. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(5), 945-955.

Hijazi, N., Abalkhail, B., & Seaton, A. (2000). Diet and childhood asthma in a society in transition: A study in urban and rural Saudi Arabia. Thorax, 55, 775-779.

Hymes, D. (2013). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. New York, NY: Routledge.

Johnstone, B., & Marcellino, W. (2010). Dell Hymes and the ethnography of communication. In B. Johnstone, R. Wodak, & P. Kerswill (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of sociolinguistics (pp. 57-66). London: Sage Publications.

Kallet, R. H. (2004). How to write the methods section of a research paper. Respiratory Care, 49(10), 1229-1232.

Kiesling, S. F. (2012). Ethnography of speaking. In C.B. Paulston, S. F. KIesling, & E. S. Rangel (Eds.), The handbook of intercultural discourse and communication (pp. 77-89). Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Kirsch, C. (2006). Young children learning languages in a multilingual context. International Journal of Multilingualism, 3(4), 258-279.

Lanza, E., & Svendsen, B. A. (2007). Tell me who your friends are and I might be able to tell you what language(s) you speak: Social network analysis, multilingualism, and identity. International Journal of Bilingualism, 11(3), 275-300.

Luke, A. (2003). Literacy and the other: A sociological approach to literacy research and policy in multilingual societies. Reading Research Quarterly, 38(1), 132-141.

Milburn, T. . Ethnography of Speaking. Web.

Milburn, T. . Ethnography of Speaking. Web.

Mouzan, M. I., Salloum, A. A., Herbish, A. S., Qurachi, M. M., & Omar, A. A. (2008). Consanguinity and major genetic disorders in Saudi children: A community-based cross-sectional study. Annual of Saudi Medicine, 228, 69-73.

Pavlenko, A. (2007). Emotions and multilingualism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Ramel, A. (2011). . Humanium: Help the Children. Web.

Resnik, D. B. (2011). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Web.

, says World Bank. (2013). Al Arabiya News. Web.

Saville-Troike, M. (2008). The ethnography of communication: An introduction. Malden, MA: John Willey & Sons.

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