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• Individual interviews with lecturers The lecturers, who took part in the individual interviews, were given a code to protect their anonymity and that served as a reference for the rest of the study. They were also informed that the interview would be tape recorded, but no names would be used and that they had the option to withdraw at any stage, if they did not want to continue with the study. That assurance made them feel at ease.
The three participants for the individual interviews with the lecturers were coded ILF01, ILF02, for the female lecturer participants and ILM03, for the only male lecturer participant. The lecturers for the individual interviews were as described in subsection 18.104.22.168.
The data collected by tape recorder was prepared for analysis by listening to each individual tape recording twice before transcribing the data verbatim. After the recordings were typed, they were once again listened to, in order to ensure no information was omitted.
• Individual interviews with learners The six adult learners, three males and three females, who took part in these individual interviews, were as described in subsection 22.214.171.124. They were assured of their anonymity during the process and were each given a code, that would serve as a reference for the rest of this study. The six participants who formed part of the individual interviews with adult learners, three males and three females were coded ISM01 to ISM03, for the male learner participants, and ISF04 to ISF06, for the female learner participants.
They were also informed that the interviews would be tape recorded, but without the use of personal names. Although initially uneasy, all participants gave their consent to be tape recorded. The learners, who had to obtain prior permission from family members, did so.
The data recorded by audio tape was prepared for analysis by listening to each individual recording twice, before it was transcribed verbatim.
Personal notes were always written down immediately after the classroom observations, the focus group interviews, and individual interviews with lecturers and learners, as well as after the researcher’s own English language teaching classes. These notes were written down as soon as possible and while they were still fresh and foremost in the researcher’s memory and still contained the researcher’s own preconceptions, expectations, emotions and prejudices.
Finally, from these sets of data collected, the researcher captured the key features for this study.
The findings of the research will be discussed in the following sections.
4.4.1 Research findings related to classroom observations Five classes of adult English language learners were observed, as described in subsection 3.4.1 and the following findings were obtained:
With particular reference to cognitive styles, males were asking as many questions as females in order to clarify or understand better what they were learning. All Spanish ladies (CR05) circled words they did not understand during a listening exercise, and thereafter asked the lecturer to clarify and explain the meaning of the words. All these ladies reported to the lecturer that they liked to watch English movies with Spanish subtitles, which helped them with pronunciation of words. During instructions from the lecturers, the males seemed to understand instructions a lot faster and could follow them right away, whereas females sometimes asked for a second explanation. Although, in terms of accuracy, in executing the task, the females were more accurate. The women also seemed faster with reading activities and displayed a better comprehension of what they were reading and were able to summarize the content of what was read.
This seemed to indicate that women were more accurate with performing verbal tasks, as referred to in subsection 2.2.2.
When prompted by lecturers as to their motivation to study English as a second language, the overwhelming responses indicated more towards instrumental motivation, as referred to in section 2.5.1, with the majority wanting to get a promotion at work, or finding a job with a better salary. One lady (CR05) however, reported that she was studying English in order to communicate effectively with lecturers, restaurants staff members and airport customer services staff members, and also for making new friends.
One Arabic speaking male (CR03) and one Arabic speaking female (CR04) required English to study at university.
The strategies employed to acquire English as a second or foreign language, varied.
With regard to memory-related strategies, males and females seemed to find it easy with topics that were familiar to them during classroom discussions, like the latest movies (CR01). Men found it easy to discuss cars and desert trips and the women enjoyed conversations about shopping, cooking and children. This indicated that existing knowledge helped with the learning of new vocabulary, and for learners to be able to retrieve this knowledge at a later stage, as and when required to do so.
For cognitive strategies, males and females all used note-taking as a way of remembering what was being said, or explained (CR01). Females however, incorporated this a lot more, by taking lots of notes and they would also ask for additional clarification before commencing with a particular task. Men just seemed to write down individual words written on the white board (CR03). When given a verbal task to match corresponding information from section A with section B to complete a particular sentence, men used the numbers only to complete the task. The lecturer had to explain once again to the men, that by actually writing out the complete words, will teach them correct spelling and sentence structure, which they then reluctantly did. This indicated that cognitive strategies were employed more by women than men during language acquisition.
Concerning using compensatory strategies to overcome limitations about the newly learnt language, it was found that both males and females used them. Men however used gestures to get around unfamiliar words, whereas the women would talk around them. This indicated that in the language learning classroom, males and females make use of compensatory strategies to assist their language learning.
Meta-cognitive strategies were employed by both males and females. When correcting mistakes of others, they all seemed to be able to do it quite accurately, but men sometimes failed to notice their own spelling mistakes and had to be corrected by the lecturer (CR01) and (CR02). During classroom observations, the females seemed more organized when it came to writing down information and planned what they wanted to say, by first writing out a sentence before using it in front of other learners. This indicated that females use this strategy more effectively.
Affective strategies were used by both male and female learners. The women (CR04) were however, more forward in responding to “rewards” for learning English, by saying, “My father will give me a gift when I get good marks” and “Now I am going to buy a new handbag, because my marks were good.” The men were better in controlling their feelings, but showed signs of embarrassment if they gave an incorrect answer. None of the men observed, spoke about rewarding themselves for good behaviour or good marks in a test. Women however, would say, “sorry”, correct the mistake and continue with a given activity. This indicated that males and females are affected, but men possibly to a lesser degree.
Social strategies were also employed by both males and females. During the lessons, the Qatari males (CR03) were more likely to pose questions to the lecturer and one even asked the researcher how long she had been studying and how long it would take her to complete her studies. Although learners sometimes naturally “grouped” themselves according to nationalities, or native language, they all had to use English as the language of communication within the classroom and socially. This indicated that some learners would seek out opportunities to interact and speak with native English speaking persons in order for them to have an advantage of learning directly from the native speakers of the language.
With regard to anxiety in the classroom, some female learners initially seemed shy to speak, especially in the presence of male learners. In the classroom with male and female Arabic speaking learners (CR02), the ladies seemed more relaxed once the lecturer invited them to move closer to her; that suggested they were scared or uncomfortable to speak while sitting next to male learners they were not familiar with.
This indicated that, although these female learners seemed more reserved, they participated freely in classroom activities, once their initial anxieties were overcome, in order for learning to be effective. The classroom with the all male Arabic speakers (CR03), were about to write a test and when questioned by the lecturer, all indicated that they were not anxious at all. This indicated that they either felt really comfortable in the language learning classroom, or that they did not want to reveal their true feelings about an upcoming test. In the classroom with the Spanish speaking ladies (CR05), one learner in particular could give a vivid account of her own anxiety, starting from when she first arrive in Doha, Qatar. She said, “When I first arrived, it felt like I was in a Star Wars movie. Everything was alien to me and I realised that was because of two things.
In the first place, I was not being able to speak English. And in the second place, the people all looked so different and I realise that was because of the cultural differences that they dress so differently. I needed the language to speak to the people at the airport and later to speak to the teachers at my children’s school. Now it’s ok and I’m not anxious to speak English anymore.” This indicated that at least one learner was able to verbalize that for her, once anxiety was overcome, language learning definitely occurred.
In respect of teaching methods, it became clear that each of the five lecturers had his or her individual style of teaching, but nevertheless effective in teaching English to adult male and female learners.
During communicative exercises, which were observed in the first classroom (CR01), female learners were more inclined to use ambiguous words they had heard when watching English movies. These words were not always used in context and the lecturer had to explain. After having explained the differences of the words, “find, found and founded”, one female learner constructed the following sentence: “My book was missing and I founded”, which was then corrected by the lecturer. When asked to question another learner during pair-work, she said: “Have you ever cooked a meal and used a recipe?” Men seemed to struggle more with pronouncing words like “Thai food” and “recipe.” In the second classroom (CR02) observation, the use of the “present continuous tense” in the passive form was explained to learners by constructing sentences like, “The city is being polluted by smog.” Learners did not immediately grasp the meaning of the word “smog”, but did not ask for clarification and formed sentences using other words. This indicated that the learners seemed to talk around certain subjects and in this way, avoiding words they did not understand or could not pronounce.
During the third classroom (CR03) observation, learners were taught how to use a dictionary to help them with more correct spelling. Learners were verbally given these three words, “instruction, pronunciation and pronounce” to find their meanings within five to ten minutes, as an exercise. It took some learners slightly longer to complete the exercise and seemed to indicate that what they had learnt was not properly reinforce or consolidated. Learners had to be reminded that the words are arranged in an alphabetical order in a dictionary, and that a dictionary is used from front to back and from left to right, unlike in the Arabic way where writing is reversed, in other words, starting from right to left.
In the fourth classroom (CR04) observed, learners had to do pair-work by asking questions using the words “always, never, sometimes, hardly, ever and often.” The lecturer gave the learners the example sentence, “How often do you take a deep bath”?
Because it was an all ladies class, the learners were not shy at all to interact. This seemed to indicate that learning occurred and there was no anxiety or shyness to hinder it.
The final classroom (CR05) observation with the Spanish speaking ladies, who studied English to improve their communicative skills. Learners had to use the word “unacceptable” in a sentence, starting with a gerund or an infinitive. The lecturer first had to explain to them, as it was not too clear when to use “un” or “in” as the prefix, as it differed from their native language. Once that was understood, they could form sentences like, “Kissing on one cheek is unacceptable in my culture” and “To kiss on one cheek is unacceptable in my culture, as we kiss on both cheeks.” During a further discussion about “pet hates”, the lecturer explained that it was not to embarrass anybody or to be judgemental, but that they should behave normal, and the discussion continued uninterruptedly. This seemed to indicated that the Spanish ladies in this class were familiar enough with one-another, as well as the lecturer and the learning objective attained.
4.4.2 Research findings related to questionnaires completed by learners 126.96.36.199 Strategy Inventory for Language Learning questionnaires Of the twenty SILL questionnaires that were handed out to learners, only thirteen completed ones were returned. Learners completed the questionnaires anonymously and only indicated whether they were male or female participants. Of the thirteen completed questionnaires, eleven were filled in by females and only two by males. The Strategic Inventory for Language Learning questionnaires (see Appendix B), as described in subsection 3.4.3, were used to determine if the same conclusions for classroom observations, learners’ own perspective of learning strategies they employ during language acquisition, and lecturers’ perspective could be accepted or rejected.
The responses to the questions on direct strategies, the ones that involve reviewing and
practice in the target language (TL) were as follow: