Response to the article Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World

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Response to the article Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World

Abstract

This article explores the importance and impact of culture in English teaching in the Arab world by determining whether there is a need to teach culture along with English. The literature reviewed by espouses discordant views on culture and English language teaching in the Arab world, thus, necessitating the need for identifying the significance of including the local culture of students into English language teaching. The research conducted conclude that teaching culture with English is not only inevitable is important, but there is a genuine need to include what is appropriate for teaching and exclude that which may be inappropriate or considered a threat to Islamic Arabic cultural values.

Keywords: English, language, culture, Arab, world, nations

Response to the article Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World

According to Mahmood (2015), the culture of a learner plays an important role in determining the acceptance or rejection of learning a foreign language. Thus, the prominence of cultural context cannot be denied in English language teaching in the Arab world. English language has spread across all levels of education in the Arab world including primary, pre-K, preparatory, secondary, higher institutes and universities. Moreover, English has become increasingly vital in various aspects of Arab countries over the past decade such as knowledge, economics, employment, politics, science, education and tourism. However, most students in Arab countries experience some form of culture shock when they first step into an English classroom. This can be attributed to the challenge of English language teaching and Islamic Arabic culture that relates to the portion assigned to discussing Islamic Arabic culture in English textbooks, with most portions being loaded with Western culture. However, students in classroom can be made to feel comfortable when in English language classrooms. The literature reviewed by Mahmood (2015) espouses discordant views on culture and English language teaching in the Arab world, thus, necessitating the need for identifying the significance of including the local culture of students into English language teaching. Mahmood (2015) found that mixing local and global culture can be helpful in maintaining the local identity of EFL leaners as Arab Muslims since embedding the cultures in a comparative manner enables the students to contemplate the similarities and differences between both cultures. Moreover, it would be easier to teach and learn English in the Arab world when the local teachers consider the Arab cultural background as it will help the students discern English fast.

Teaching culture with English is not only inevitable in the Arab world but also vital, but there is an urgent need to include what is appropriate for teaching and exclude that which may be inappropriate or considered a threat to Islamic Arabic cultural values.

The main problem that this article addresses is the perception that since English teaching occurs in a vast array of contexts in non-English speaking nations, it is a threat to the cultural identity of students in the Arab world. In order to fully address this problem, Mahmood (2015) looked into the culture that should be addressed when teaching English language in the Arab nations, whether learning of English in the Arab world means that students should also learn the culture of the language and how the inclusion of the local culture of the students aided their process of learning English? The main argument that Mahmood (2015) makes is that English teaching poses a threat of loss of local culture or identity of the students and teaching English without the inclusion of the local culture of the students in the Arab world makes it difficult for the students to understand the language due to culture shock. Thus, inserting local culture into English language teaching prevents alienation and assimilation of the students and helps them comprehend the language.Response to the article Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World

Mahmood’s (2015) main argument is supported by research conducted by different scholars as evident in the article. For instance, Byram and Flemming (1998, p. 9) are of the opinion that learning English without including a particular culture results in students becoming “fluent fools,” that is, people who speak English language, but barely comprehend its philosophical and social content. The ultimate objective for one is to be able to communicate effectively and appropriately using English language and an individual cannot to do this with only grammatical knowledge and no cultural and historically background as Silberstein (2001) asserts. Mahmood’s (2015) argument that teaching culture with English is inevitable is supported by the research conducted by Valdes (1990) that stated that “every lesson is about something, and that something is cultural.” However, in as much culture is not only inevitable in the Arab world but also vital when teaching English language, it is vital to consider which culture is appropriate and which culture is inappropriate when incorporating local culture into English language teaching. This is because certain cultural influences may hinder students in the Arab world from properly grasping the English language such as difficulty communicating meaning using English language with speakers from a different society. Moreover, certain aspects of cultural insertion into English language teaching in the Arab world may result in clashes with the culture of the leaner, particularly from sociocultural and religious viewpoints. The strength of this article lies in the way it relays to the reader the inseparable link between language and culture such that it is almost impossible to teach and learn English language without dealing with culture. Nonetheless, the weakness of this article lies in its insufficient elaboration on why certain aspects of culture should not be incorporated into English language teaching in the Arab world.

There are scholars who are opposed to the concept of incorporating culture in English language teaching.  For instance, Alptekin (2005) and Jenkins (2005) assert that English has already acquired a lingua franca status and as such should be taught in a culture-free setting or context. Another criticism of the need to include the local culture of students in English language teaching and learning is the argument or concern that unfamiliar information that teachers may introduce based on local culture so as to help students in the Arab world better understand English language can hinder them from getting the linguistic information conveyed by content. While this argument does not dispute the fact that cultural content helps student process the information content of English language, it emphasizes that it is the unfamiliar local cultural content that can inhibit the content of English language. Another counterargument put forward in this article is that instead of looking at culture and English teaching in Arab world through the perspective of there is a need for schools and syllabuses to include the local culture of students in English language teaching, students and teachers can look at the issue from the perspective of having the opportunity to understand discordant cultures through English language. This means that by comparing the Arabic culture and Western culture English language learners can reflect on both cultures and learn from them instead of viewing one culture as inhibiting the other.Response to the article Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World

This article addresses the issues regarding the culture that should be addressed when teaching English language in the Arab nations, whether learning of English in the Arab world means that students should also learn the culture of the language and how the inclusion of the local culture of the students aided their process of learning English through the perspective of research conducted by other scholars in this field. While Mahmood’s (2015) arguments are based on studies by other scholars, they are not assumptions since they are drawn from evidence-based research. However, the authors’ arguments for incorporation of local culture in English language teaching in the Arab world are based on the concern that the Arabic culture could be lost when students are exposed to the western culture through English language instead of addressing the issue from the perspective of the benefits that including local culture in English language teaching brings to the learning process.Response to the article Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Alptekin, C. (2005). Dual language instruction: Multiculturalism through a lingua franca. Paper Presented At The TESOL Symposium On Dual Language Education: Teaching And Learning Two Languages In The EFL Setting, Bogaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Byram, M., & Flemming, M. (Eds.). (1998). Language learning from an intercultural perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Jenkins, J. (2005). The position of English as a Lingua Franca.. Hltmag.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from http://www.hltmag.co.uk/mar05/idea.htm

Mahmoud, M. (2015). Culture and English Language Teaching in the Arab World. Adult Learning, 26(2), 66-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1045159515573020

Silberstein, S. (2001). Sociolinguistics. In R. Carter & D. Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages (pp. 101-106). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Valdes, J. (1990).The inevitability of teaching and learning culture in a foreign language course. In B. Harrison (Ed.), Culture and the language classroom (pp. 20-30). Hong Kong, China: Modern English Publications.