English language is widely used for communication purposes worldwide. For instance, English language is used as a medium of exchange in global activities as well as in many international learning institutions. English language is commonly used for communication in the international trade, computing, diplomacy, tourism and aviation (Hughes, 1989).
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With the increased adoption of English language worldwide, many countries have opted to teach it in their learning institutions. Every country has its own language that it mainly uses in the day-to-day communications. For example, Arabic language is the mostly used language for communications in Saudi Arabia and English language is the second commonly used language of communication in Saudi Arabia.
Despite English being the second commonly used language in Saudi Arabia, many Saudis are not conversant with English language. Bersamina (2009) blames the Saudis culture as well as the poor teaching methodologies used to teach English language as the main factors that negatively affect the adoption of English language in Saudi Arabia learning institutions.
The Saudis culture does not allow junior classes to be taught English language. Bersamina (2009) argue that introducing English language to Saudi Arabia elementary classes will make Saudis children not to develop proficiency in Arabic language as well being conversant with Islamic religion.
Similarly, Sakui (2004) also concurs with Bersamina (2009) on the importance of teaching only Arabic language in Saudi Arabia elementary classes. Thus, the teaching of English language remains a serious problem in Saudi Arabia because majority of Saudis have not yet realised the importance of learning English language (Alamri, 2008, P. 14).
Through the processes of globalisation and technological changes, many societies have responded in accordance to these transformations. The Saudis have not taken appropriate measures to learn English language. Good master of English language will help them to cope with the contemporary social, academic, linguistic, technological and scientific changes (Bersamina, 2009, p. 2).
It is noted that many technical books are written using English language. Thus, in order to comprehend the information from these books, people need to have adequate skills in reading, speaking and understanding English language.
Therefore, this language can indirectly affect the ability of a nation to assimilate technological inventions when they are not in a position to comprehend prevalent foreign languages such as English (Lapp & Flood, 1983). Similarly, when people travel, they have to communicate with foreign people.
Since English language is commonly used in many countries worldwide, it acts as a universal language and those people who do not comprehend it often faces a lot of challenges when they travel to foreign nations where it is widely used for communication (Howatt, 1984).
For instance, when a student who is well conversant with English language travels abroad to study, he/she is able to interact with other students from other nations who are in the same class. This helps in the sharing of knowledge among students as well as strengthening ties between different nations.
Despite the prevailing great globalization of the world economies, the Saudis have shown very little progress in learning English language. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia has very few people who have managed to master the English language (Rabab’ah, n.d, p. 2).
The main factors that have affected high attainment of English language in Saudi Arabian education institutions are Saudis culture that discriminate early learning in elementary classes. Similarly, the outdated methods that are being used in teaching English language are also to blame for the lag behind English language in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, the culture in Saudi Arabia plays a strong role in determining the teaching methods adopted to teach English language in the country. Teachers in Saudi Arabia use traditional methods in teaching English language, consequently, the students’ level of English acquisition is very low.
Despite the great efforts that are currently put to teach English language in Saudi Arabia, positive results are still not significant.
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Therefore, it is imperative for Saudi Arabia to change its learning curriculum and incorporate modern teaching methodologies as well as introduce learning of English language in the elementary level in order to enable the Saudis to learn proper English language in their early years. When Saudis learn good English language, it will help the Saudis to co-exist as well as trade and interact with other people worldwide more efficiently.
Learning English language at an early stage will help to leverage the high number of Saudis who travel abroad to pursue higher studies. Similarly, it will help those Saudis, who travel abroad to study, to pursue their studies more easily as they are able to communicate well with other students as well as teachers in their new learning institutions ((Alwahibee, 2000).
This research will analyse the factors that make secondary school teachers in Saudi Arabia to use traditional approach of teaching which greatly hinder the learning of English language in Saudi Arabia.
Significant of the Study
This research is very important because it will help to identify the underlying factors that cause poor acquisition of English language by Saudis learners.
Subsequently, the study will help the concerned education stakeholders such as the ministry of education in Saudi Arabia as well as relevant government agencies to learn the factors that hinder appropriate acquisition of English language in Saudi Arabia schools in order to formulate and implement appropriate policies.
Moreover, the study will help the researcher to use appropriate teaching methodology while teaching English language in Saudi Arabia in order to ensure effective learning process.
Aims and Objectives
The main aim of this research is to establish why secondary teachers in Saudi Arabia use traditional approaches in teaching English language. The study will use the following objectives in order to help the realization of the main objective of the study.
- To identify the approach that secondary school teachers use to teach English language in Saudi Arabia.
- To find out why CLT method is not applied in teaching English in the Saudi Arabian School system
- To find out the teachers’ views of using CLT method in Saudis Arabia school
- To identify any obstacles that limit teachers in Saudi Arabia to use CLT teaching approach.
- To identify appropriate teaching approach that will enhance English learning in Saudi Arabia.
The study will try to answer the following questions:
- Which are the approaches that secondary school teachers use to teach English language?
- Why is CLT method not applied in teaching English in the Saudi Arabian Schools?
- Which are the views of Saudi Arabia teachers in using CLT method?
- What should be done to enhance the learning of English language in Saudi Arabia?
Factors That Limit Learning of English Language in Saudi Arabia
Language is perceived as the most significant tool of communication. It is believed that language has a considerable impact on an individual’s cognitive development. According to Bersamina (2009), lack of language can make a person to have challenges in thinking. Similarly, it can affect individuals’ ability to integrate and associate the things they see as well as translate their thoughts into communicative form.
All nations have their own set of native languages as well as dialects. Saudi Arabia uses Arabic as its national language. They use Arabic language in their day-to-day communications as well as the language of instructions in learning institutions. To make the matters worse, they use it while even teaching the English language (Arab news, 2011).
Lack of proper teaching strategies in Saudi Arabia learning institutions have greatly contributed to the Saudis being very poor in reading, writing as well as speaking English language (Arab news, 2011). This problem is significant among those Saudis students who have graduated from both high schools as well as Saudi Arabia universities.
Failure to expose Saudis to the English language at an early age has significantly contributed to the low level of English acquisition in Saudi Arabian learning institutions. In Saudi Arabia, students are denied a chance to learn English language before the age of twelve years. Learning of English language in Saudi Arabia learning institution starts in the last year of the elementary school.
According to Brown (1994), a child has higher ability to learn a new language between the age of five and fourteen. In line with this, the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia has approved to start the teaching of English language from the first grade; however, this has not yet been implemented because of the controversial debate that entails whether early teaching of English language will hinder the pupils learning process.
The Saudi Arabian culture greatly inhibits the learning of English language in Saudi Arabia. This is because some Saudis suffer from the misconception that if students start learning English at an early age, it will slow them down learning their mother tongue and their comprehension of Islamic religion (Arab news, 2011).
Thus, they advocate children to first focus on the Arabic language and Islamic teaching because they argue that teaching English language at the beginning of elementary schools will weaken the student’s ability to learn Islamic religion (Arab news, 2011). However, in contradiction to this view, various scholars/teachers feel that the students are denied a very valuable opportunity to learn English language at an early stage.
Brown (1994) stresses the importance of learning English language at an early stage. He argues that Saudis are denied a chance to learn English language at the right time (Arab news, 2011). Brown (1994) claim that students are more receptive to foreign languages at younger age than when they are grown-ups.
Al-Maliki (2011) agrees with Brown (1994) and emphasises that learning English language at an early stage will not affect Saudis negative while learning the Arabic language. Consequently, most researches have indicated that learning foreign languages boosts the ability of a child to master the mother tongue (Arab news 2011, par 1).
By learning the structure of the foreign language, a child masters some concepts which help them in learning their native languages. Many scholars argue that the right age-range to learn English language varies considerably. Richards & Rodgers (2001) presents the argument that the ideal age to learn English is at the age of 11- 13.
Conversely, other language specialists claim that “the sooner a child starts the better” (Lapp & Flood, 1983). Carless (2003) identifies the ideal age to learn English language as ‘from birth’ (Introduction). The above discussion raises questions of whether starting to learn English at a later age limits the learner to speak fluently?
Or whether the cause of poor acquisition of the English language is as a result of Saudis teachers using mother tongue in the classroom to teach the target language that hinders Saudis students having an ample time to learn and practice English at a younger age?
This concept arises because students who learn at the age of twelve usually start from the alphabet and have no previous language knowledge other than their mother tongue. Therefore, teachers and students have to depend on this in the classroom. Factors such as age and the use of mother tongue is a part of the Saudis culture which has a severe impact on the learning of English in the country.
“English teachers in Saudi Arabia use Arabic language as the language of instruction while teaching English language. This inhibits English learning in Saudi Arabian schools (Hedcook, 2002, p. 45).” He posits that the use of Arabic language by teachers in Saudi Arabia in teaching English language makes Saudis perceive English language as less inferior thus, developing inferior attitude towards it.
In order for the English teachers to show the importance of English language as a medium of communication in Saudi Arabia, they should use English language while teaching as well as when communicating with their students in order to encourage the students to use English language in their daily communications.
This will be imperative as it will give the Saudi Arabian students an opportunity to learn to the pronunciations of difficulty terms as well as have an opportunity to practise spoken English. This will be important because when teachers teach in Arabic, students do not get a chance to listen to spoken English language.
They also experience problems in their pronunciations since they can only learn appropriate pronunciations through listening to the teachers as they speak English language. Teachers are supposed to teach in English language in order to change negative attitudes prevalent in Saudis about English language.
Previous research has shown that many students are failing to learn English language effectively due to lack of motivation.Consequently, their English language skills will remain very poor because the Saudis culture emphasizes more on the importance of acquiring the Arabic language (mother tongue).
Methods That are Used to Teach Languages
According to Lynch (1996), the teaching methods applied to teach languages are very important in determining the effectiveness of a language acquisition. For effective learning of any language, it is important to provide students with different learning experiences. English teachers in Saudi Arabia apply only the traditional methods in teaching English language in Saudi Arabia schools.
The main methods which are used in teaching English in Saudi Arabia are audio-lingual and grammar translation methods (Banks, 2001). Nonetheless, the English teachers in Saudi Arabia are noted to ignore many aspects of the audio-lingual method in their teaching processes. Subsequently, they do not use language laboratories while teaching English language.
Therefore, students are not given opportunity to learn spoken English. Most teachers prefer the grammar translation method in teaching English language. This method entails translating words, idioms, phrases and sentences from Arabic to English. Hammerly (1985) argues that the use of mother tongue to teach foreign language is very effective in the acquisition of the language.
This is because the method helps the learner to understand the meaning of difficult vocabularies because the meaning of new words is given in both languages. Conversely, Nunan (2000) is of the opinion that the use of Arabic language in teaching English language should stop as it affects negatively the acquisition of English language in Saudi Arabia learning institutions.
Nunan (2000) states that learners who come from Asian countries are taught in the traditional teaching style (grammar translation method). These methods involve strict teacher lessons and a formal education environment.
They lack appropriate experience in collaborative learning that entails great learner interactions through group work, games and diverse activities and situations where they are given appropriate opportunity to communicate with each other in English language.
Lynch, 1996; Brown, 1994; Hammerly, 1985 & Hedgcook, 2002 argue that the Grammar Translation method should be avoided in teaching foreign languages because it denies learners appropriate opportunities to practise the language being learned. Instead of the learners as well as the teachers using the language being learned in their communication during the learning process, they mostly use their mother tongue.
Therefore, teachers should adopt more effective methods in teaching languages in order to increase the value of their teaching. There has been very little innovation on the methods of teaching. This method recommends the use of teaching aids as well as the use of practical in the learning process (Hammerly, 1985).
Saudi Arabian teachers have not yet embraced the scientific method of teaching which is more interesting and effective than the traditional methods they use (Arab news 2011, par 11).Consequently, Lynch (1996) claims there is a need for a more modern and effective approach known as the Communicative Language teaching (CLT) method in teaching languages.
The method prohibits learners as well as teachers to use mother tongue in class rooms while leaning a foreign language. The CLT method uses visual aids, body language as well as the opinions of the learners as its teaching strategies. It gives the learner the opportunity to express their real life experiences through real life visual aids.
According to Lynch (2006, P.78), “Use of visual Aids in teaching English language helps to enhance learning of English language greatly.” The adoption of this teaching method in Saudi Arabia will greatly facilitate the acquisition of English language in Saudi Arabia learners.
Conversely, if this method is adopted to improve the English teachings in Saudi Arabia it would raise concern by some religious people who consider the teaching aids that are used in CLT such as T.V, video to debase the Saudi Arabia culture. Religious people disagree with the use of these aids as they feel that these distract the student to foreign cultures.
This signifies that culture is preventing the use of the CLT to improve the learning of English language. People would argue that the teacher is the only means of learning therefore the CLT method would not be suitable because the teacher would not be doing her job if students mark their work in pairs, which the CLT method allows.
It is for these reasons that it is stated that culture is deeply embedded in the teachings and this only helps the student to become aware of their own cultural identity (McDonough & Shaw. 1993)
Type of Teaching Aids used to Teach English Language in Saudi Arabia
The teaching materials that are used to teach English language in Saudi Arabia are restricted to the Arabic culture. Carless (2003) argues that the English that is taught in Saudi Arabia is based on the citizens own experiences and the cultural activities that they perform.
For instance, the textbooks that they use to teach English language mainly focus on making Arabian coffee, talking about the Saudi Riyal, going to pilgrimage and uses of Saudi maps. These materials do not give the Saudis foreign experiences that portray a multi-culture approach. Thus, lacks of such experience limit most students not to focus on a multi-culture perspective (Rowntree, 1982).
Most of the teachers concentrate more on teaching the content of the syllabus rather than developing communication competence among the students (Carless, 2003). This indicates that the teachers rarely encourage the students to speak in English, despite the increasing need for competence in English.
Teachers are the role models for the students and they should lead in setting good examples by speaking appropriate English language in order to motivate students to emulate them. While learning a second language, motivation plays a very important role in determining the success of the learning process (Dubin & Olshtain, 1986).
In order for student to learn language effectively, they should have the ability to manipulate words in a sentence in different patterns as well as combinations (Hammerly, 1985). Otherwise, the student will not be able to understand the meaning of specific sentences. Many study carried out showed that the place of birth can have a significant impact on the process of learning English language as a foreign language (Hedgcook, 2002).
Students who learn in cosmopolitan institutions learn English language faster than the others because they get opportunities to speech spoken English. However, in some societies, the students are discouraged from learning second language due to the fear of culture erosion.
On the other hand, students who are motivated to learn a second language have higher ability to master the language in question. This identifies the cultural pattern that lack of motivation limits the language fluency (Lapp & Flood, 1983).
Those teachers who teach English in KSA in Saudi Arabia are mainly natives’ graduates who hold Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the local universities. However, there are some non-native teachers in the schools who are recruited from other Arab countries. This raises a concern since there is no rationality in the recruitment process. The recruitment process is based on the place of origin of the candidates.
That is, those teachers that are recruited are mainly those people who have strong Saudi Arabic cultural beliefs. They embrace the tradition perception pupils should not be taught English language at an early age to avoid them suffering from cultural erosions. This may result in recruitment of non competent teachers for the purpose of conserving the Saudi Arabia tradition.
Most of these teachers that are recruited to teach English language in Saudi Arabia do not have extemporary training as English teachers. They do not have appropriate teaching methodologies that are currently widely adopted in teaching of English language such as the CLT method that is imperative to improve the acquisition of the English language by Saudis learners.
Arab news (2011) posits that it is imperative for the Saudi Arabia government to implement appropriate policies to support the adoption of the CLT method in the learning institutions.
Situated Cognition Theory
According to Lave and Wenger (1991) situated cognition theory views the learning process as a phenomenon that happens in socially as well as culturally situated contexts, but not in abstract and idealized environments.
In the sphere of education, the situated evaluation theory recognizes two forms of learning; a documented version that prescribes idealized teaching methodologies and a realized version that occurs when curriculum is implemented in real classrooms. The situated evaluation theory outlines various factors that affect curriculum implementations.
One of the factors that influence the implementation of the curriculum is the teacher who is responsible for interpreting as well as implementing the curriculum. Freeman and Richards (1996), argues that teachers should be monitored to ensure that they implement the curriculum as outlined.
The monitoring is important because most teachers are known to implement the curriculum depending on their beliefs and environmental contexts, but not according to how it is formulated.
Types and Sources of Data
This research will use both primary as well as secondary research. Secondary research will involve a review of relevant literature pertaining to the subject matter. The review of the literature will comprise exploring what other scholars have researched about the subject from relevant books, journals as well as appropriate articles from the internet.
The literature review will also discuss suitable theories that will be used to guide the study. The primary research will be qualitative in nature. The researcher will use a focus group to collect the required data. Primary data will be collected from appropriate school stakeholders in Saudi Arabia (Creswell, 1998).
The research Study entails selection of a topic and a paradigm. A paradigm consists of a whole framework of beliefs, methods as well as values within which research takes place. A qualitative research is an inquiry process of understanding a social or human problem that entails on building a complex and holistic picture and often conducted a natural setting.
On the other hand, quantitative paradigm is considered as a social or human problem that is based on testing a theory that is composed on variables that are measured in terms of numbers and often analyzed with statistically. Qualitative study stresses on understanding through looking closely at people’s actions, words as well as records.
Conversely, quantitative approach looks at the fundamental mathematical significances of these words, actions or records. Quantitative research looks at the patterns of meanings that result from data collected and analyzed. On the other hand, qualitative study involves finding patterns within those words or actions and then presents them in order for other scholars to study them.
Qualitative study is often regarded as a multi-method that consists of interpretive as well as naturalistic approach to the subject matter. It studies things in their natural settings, attempting to interpret them in accordance to the meanings they bring to them.
This research will use qualitative study. The researcher will try to find any pattern that may exist between the traditional methods used by English teachers in Saudi Arabia and the present poor acquisition of English language in the region. The researcher will use an interview to gather the required data to deduce the needed inference.
The researcher will organize two focus groups that will consist of English teachers and education representatives from the ministry of education. The researcher will use probes to gather appropriate information from the interviewees. The interview will have detail-oriented probes that will be meant to get more details.
Similarly, the interview will feature elaborative probes that will be meant to encourage interviewee to give more information. Lastly, the interview will have clarification probes that will be tailored to give clarifications when the interviewer is unsure of what the interviewee is trying to put across. Through this process, the interviewer gets an opportunity to ask for clarifications (Creswell, 1998).
Data Collection and instrumentation
The research will use a focus interview to collect relevant data that will be analysed accordingly to answer the research questions. The study will use interviews as the methods of data collection. The researcher will conduct a focus group interview with relevant education stakeholders such as secondary school English teachers, education representatives from the ministry of education.
The researcher will conduct the first interview with approximately ten secondary English teachers. The researcher will also conduct another interview with relevant stakeholders from the ministry of education. These interviews will greatly assist in gathering important information concerning the interview. The researcher will formulate a number of questions that will be used to guide the discussion.
Before conducting the actual study, the researcher will conduct a pilot study to identify any errors that may arise during the interview. Subsequently, while conducting the interview, the researcher will establish a good rapport between the interviewer and the respondents to enhance participation.
To improve the data collection, an interview guide will be prepared to make sure that the interview is conducted in a more organized manner. The interviewer will make sure that the respondents are given a few minutes to understand the questions before answering them.
The researcher will incorporate the concept of sampling in order to identify the appropriate group to participate in the research. In conducting the research, the targeted population will be secondary school teachers who teach English language in Saudi Arabia schools.
In addition, the researcher will target education stakeholders from the ministry of education in order for them to participate in the focus interview. The researcher will use random sampling to sample those people who will participate in the research.
Validity and Reliability of the Instruments
Before administering the interview, the researcher will make sure that all the questions in that are meant to guide the discussion are well structured for ease of understanding by the participates. Any kind of ambiguity in the questions will be eliminated. In addition, the researcher will conduct a pilot study to determine the reliability of the interviews scheduled.
This will involve prior conducting the interviews with relevant education stakeholders that will take part in the actual study. This will help in determining whether the study will be effective in collecting the data that is needed to infer the required assumptions. Any error that will be identified in the interview as a result of the ambiguity of the guiding questions to be used will be corrected accordingly (Sanger, 1996).
In order to minimize errors in the study, the researcher appreciated the importance of using a small sample size of 15 participates. The first interview will have ten teachers and the researcher who will act as the facilitator who will guide the discussion.
The next interview will comprise of 5 education stakeholders from the ministry of education. The researcher will act as the facilitator who will guide the discussion in both interviews. The sample size will be selected through simple random sampling.
The data that will be collected will be analysed accordingly. The researcher will try to look for appropriate patterns in the data collected to try and establish whether the tradition methods used by Saudi Arabian teachers are really the cause for poor English acquisition in Saudi Arabian schools.
Thus, in order to get appropriate inferences from the data collected, the researcher will make use of qualitative analysis which will entail relating the collected data with appropriate theories and making appropriate deductions (Rubin, 1995).
In order to make sure the research conducted is effective, a number of ethical issues that arises in such cases will be addressed. For instance, the researcher will make sure that every participant is respected. Respect of the participants will increase the participation of the respondents. Similarly, the participants will be protected from exploitation. This means that adherence to human dignity will be observed throughout the study.
To ensure that the study conducted is ethical, the researcher will ensure that there is informed consent will. It will be achieved by making sure that all participants understand what will be involved by participating in the research. The researcher will make sure that there is informed consent for all participants.
Through, informed consent, it will be possible for the participants to make a conscious decision on whether to participate in the research or not. This will mean that the participants that will take part in the research will do it willingly. Similarly, the participants will be granted the freedom to withdraw from the research voluntarily.
The researcher appreciates the importance of getting permission from the concerned authorities to conduct the study in the respective areas. As, a result, the researcher will explain the objective of conducting the research while applying for the required permit. This will help to minimize suspicion from the public during the actual study. Since the study will in addition involve an interview.
Those people who will take part in the interview will be informed in advance. Some of the issues they will be made aware of in advance include the rationale, risks as well as the benefits of the research. In addition, the researcher will inform the respondents that the information they will provide will be confidential (Strauss, 1987).
Limitation and Assumptions
There are a number of limitations that will accompany this study. For, instance the sample size that will be selected for this study is relatively small (5). The researcher aspires to use a small sample size because of financial as well as time constraints (Mukherji & Albon, 2010).
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