Factors Affecting English Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)



Factors Affecting English Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, English is the second language spoken after Arabic.  It is usually associated with political, religious social and economic overtones. One factor that has increased the use of English in Saudi Arabia is globalization and modernization policies that have been adopted in the country.  In order for the nation to fully participate in the international arena many of the citizens have been taught English at schools from an early age.

From 1970 to 2001, students in KSA used to start learning English at grade 7. They then studied in clays for the next 6 years until grade 12.  English lessons organized in such a way that the students had 4 lessons per week with each lesson taking 45 minutes.  This was the lesson plan structure at every grade level. Just like in many countries, education system in KSA is centralized and as such, it is under the Ministry of Education. Subsequently, all English teachers at each level are given the same syllabus and guidelines that they are supposed to follow. This ensures that all the students in Saudi Arabia are taught from the same sources and hence they can sit for the same standard exam’

In 2003, following political and social pressures the KSA government decided to introduce English two primary schools. This was a highly debated topic with many thinking that the government made the decision to introduce English to primary schools because of intense pressure from US government. The objective being to expose   youth to different ideas which could teach them acceptance and tolerance of others. This was visible in the new English curriculum, which diverted away from the previous curriculum that concentrated on local cultures. Today western culture as well as different ways of thinking have been introduced to schools and have positively contributed in making KSA students universal citizens.


Culture-factors Affecting English Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

English language learning is influenced by culture in different ways. One aspect of culture that influence English language learning is social perspective. In order for a teacher to effectively teach English as a second language to KSA students, then he or she has to pay attention to the culture of KSA.  Since KSA was not colonized then the culture of Saudi Arabia remains greatly uninfluenced by European cultures. Nevertheless, due to the annual pilgrims the Saudi culture has been affected by other cultures, which pay pilgrimage every year to perform Al-Hajj.

There is also a strong belief in Saudi Arabia that one cannot properly learn English without travelling to the native countries. Therefore, many students in KSA if given the chance to go and learn English in native countries they would grab the chance without much hesitation.

Islamic Culture and its effects in Saudi Arabia-factors Affecting English Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

Saudi Arabia is the origin of Islam as a religion and is home to most important places to Muslims. Since the inception of this country, Islam has been and remains the dominant religion in the country. The teachings found in Islam form the moral fabric of the society.

It is important to note that as Saudi students advance in their studies they tend to prefer to be taught by native teachers. They believe that native teachers are at a better position of using teaching methods and motivating students to learn. Similarly, native speakers tend to be more employable then non-native speakers even when the non-native speakers have better qualifications.

Many Saudis believe that English is important as a language as well as for the future of their country.  They believe that it is need for different aspects of the country and hence there has been an increase in the number of students who are learning English past the compulsory level.

Saudis also believe that English is an international language which enhances ones chances of landing a job, gaining more knowledge, studying oversees as well as understanding other cultures.

However, Saudis still feel that they have no opportunity of using English besides the classroom. Even though Saudi Students learn English, they hardly use it due to lack of strategies on how to apply what they have learned in class.

There are also sections of people who argue for the use of English for both industrial and economic reasons. There is also another section of people who oppose the use of English terming it as colonizing language and they are of the perspective that the use of English may undermine the local values and beliefs.

Today I had an interview with Saudi students studying English. I met them at English Language Center (Yasuda center).Factors Affecting English Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

The first student I talked to is called Ibrahim. The following is my interview with him

Me: Why are you studying English in America?

Ibrahim: Because I got a scholarship and I believe, learning English in America will make me understand English better. Learning English will also help me get a better job and at the same time, I will be able to interact with people from different countries since English is a global language. It therefore, makes me part of a global community.

Me: What are the best ways to understand the teacher and do prefer a native or non-native teacher?Factors Affecting English Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

Ibrahim: I prefer the classes to be quiet and a lot of teamwork in place. I also lean towards non-native English teachers because I am more comfortable with them. When I have the attention of the teacher, it makes me feel better and thus improves my self-confidence.  I also prefer a class with students from different languages since I will have better opportunities of learning new things in class.

I also met other two student, Khalid and Mohammed. They were of the same opinion that native teachers are better since they can help in acquiring accent.  They also prefer a teacher who is cheerful and connects what he or she is teaching to an event in real life. Unlike Ibrahim, they prefer to have students of the same language since they believe that they will assist in learning English.