Dissertation: Eva Aramouni

Cohort 2, published 2011


The Impact of Diglossia on Arabic Language Instruction in Higher Education: Attitudes and Experiences of Students and Instructors on The U.S.


The purpose of this study was to review the core Arabic curriculum in higher education at four-year colleges and language institutions in the United States to find the extent to which these institutions are preparing their students to communicate effectively in the Arab-speaking world after completing the equivalent of six semesters of Arabic or achieving high-intermediate proficiency. This study investigated students’ perceptions and learning preferences for spoken Arabic. It also examined instructors’ perceptions on teaching preferences of spoken Arabic. The students interviewed for this research had all traveled to the Arabic-speaking world for language immersion study, and were considered to have acquired high-intermediate proficiency. The primary countries of destination were Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. This study was undertaken in direct response to the paucity of literature pertaining to English-speaking learners of Arabic on study abroad. In actual fact, the Modern Language Association’s most recent language report states that Arabic enrollment increased more than any other language from 2002 to 2006 (Furman, Goldberg, & Lusin, 2007). With the increase in Arabic enrollment, it is probable that more and more American students will desire to study Arabic in the Arabic-speaking world, and that more research is needed to guide Arabic language instruction and immersion study. Four research questions guided this study. The overall question aimed at finding the impact that diglossia has on the quality of Arabic language instruction of undergraduates students in the United States. To answer this, the second question investigated the students’ learning preferences and the third question investigated the instructors’ teaching preferences. The last one attempted to find the differences between students who study spoken Arabic before immersion and those who do not. Based on four research questions, the findings of the study indicated that diglossic situations, availability of classes, and usefulness of MSA top the list of the students’ and instructors’ themes that emerged from data analysis. The study revealed that some Arabic programs are not preparing the students sufficiently in the Arabic spoken language acquisition. However, it also documented that both student and instructor participants think Modern Standard Arabic should continue to hold a prominent place in the Arabic curriculum. The study concludes by providing some recommendations peculiar to the field of teaching Arabic as a foreign language in United States. It also includes a set of areas in which further research is needed as well as the limitations of the study. It is recommended that faculty review the study and use the data to guide curriculum development efforts. This should ultimately result in improved curriculum alignment with the (ACTFL) American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages standards and improve graduates’ performance in speaking competency and fluency in Arabic. It is hoped that this research will provide empirical insights pertaining to the linguistic experiences of the learners of Arabic in the study abroad programs in the Arabic-speaking world.

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