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And perhaps they soon learn that that isn’t enough. But I think it would be like learning any physical skill.” And, “I think I don’t really see any difference in learning whether you’re in a classroom, or whether you’re learning it from your parents when you were a child, that you can do it by any other way, than copying. I think we have been taught and very much in believing that by using books and this and that. But in a way they are learning by copying and not necessarily understanding what they are doing. It’s not that that’s what we are teaching, but we ought to.” (ILM03) “I think they both acquire the language by associating it with their native language. So they would try and find similarities in terms of grammar structure in their language and English language. So that I guess, they try and build on their foundation, or sometimes on the basis they can comply to formally learn the language.” Interpretation: The adult male and female language learners have their own individual ways of acquiring language and the way lecturers teach, have to accommodate these individuals. The responses from the lecturers indicated that learners acquire language by building on the already existing structures of their native language, but that teaching styles of lecturers differ. One responded that learners first need to be able to copy what they are learning, before they actually understand what they are learning.
On the question, “What in your opinion are the difference in the way men acquire
English and women acquire English?” they responded as follow:
(ILF01) “Yeah, generally speaking, I find that women these days do try to work harder and they take it a little bit more seriously. I think in general men here, are mostly coming because they want to get a certificate or promotion at work. And they don’t seem to do their homework as often as the ladies and I certainly do feel that these days, women are definitely trying harder.” (ILF02) “Mhm, I think men have a clearly different approach from women. First of all, I don’t think that men think they need to learn as much as women do, being generally.
Men assume a higher level of knowledge or competence in English than they actually have and women assume a much lower opinion, not all.” And, “Women underestimate and men overestimate themselves. So I think men are usually an awful lot lazier than women. Women don’t actually realise that they are as good as they are and they try a lot harder by doing the work that is given to them, whereas men don’t usually do that.
But, in acquiring it, I don’t see how they actually physically acquire it without copying.” (ILM03) “Hmm, in terms of teaching men and women, performance wise, women tend to be, or grasp it a little faster than men. I’m not particularly sure why, but I would assume, especially because in the Qatar culture, I have seen women are much more hardworking and willing to put effort forward. Where with the guys, they like to be spoon-fed and if it doesn’t work the first time, there must be something wrong. That’s my opinion.” Interpretation: It was clear that the participants saw women as harder working learners that their male counterparts.
On the question, “What, in your experience are the differences in cognitive styles of
male and female learners in language acquisition?” the participants answered as follow:
(ILF01) “I can’t really answer this one.” (ILF02) “Well, as far as I know, we know that male and female brains are different in the way they are sized.” And, “I think the idea of women being more conscientious about learning anything, including languages and men are less conscientious, because they think they can do it already. But there is also something physical, I think there is a difference that makes it easier for women to do it.” (ILM03) “From the way they learn English, I haven’t really noticed the difference.
Because they all seem to start out the same way in drawing similarities between their native language, Arabic and English. And from there, when they find some sort of similarity in structure they can use as basis. But it depends on their personalities, really.
Where men tend to associate terms with business, or cars and outdoor activities, women more along the lines of shopping or decoration, or even just simple conversations. Ah, but they all start from the same point, but differentiate on their personalities.” Interpretation: It is possible that men and women learn language almost in the same way, by building on existing knowledge and using known similarities to suit their personalities, but there is a slight indication that acquiring a language is easier for women than for men.
Participants responded as follow on the question, “What motivates them to study English?” (ILF01) “Over the past few years the motivation has been to get a promotion in their jobs, to travel overseas, or to go to university, as that has been a pre-requisite that they have to learn English, but currently that has changed now. I think, I see, in fact, not as many people actually seem to want to learn English at the moment, as previously. I don’t know why.” (ILF02) “What motivates them? I suppose because it’s an international language, because it’s going to open doors for them. So social things, work things. Therefore more money, more power, anything, it’s going to empower them, I guess, and could lead to more money, better social life and more possibilities and better everything.” (ILM03) “In this particular country, it’s, ah, to keep up with the times. Hmm, a lot of high positions or a lot of opportunities only come nowadays, with English. It is very common nowadays to see a Qatari man, fifty-six years old in the Army or government department, where he’s hit a glass ceiling, because he does not have English. This can provide him with an opportunity to learn, if he learns, he gets a promotion. So, it’s more monetary value. Although I have seen a few guys come in wanting to improve, all on their own. So that would be the main reasons they are here.” In a follow-up question as to how would this affect the motivation of women, the
(ILM03) “For the women, phew, it would be a part yes, but the main drive would be to compete with the guys. Because they have the excellent example set to them by Sheikha Moza, (consort of the Father Emir) who speaks English, is well educated, and who is not shy to go after her ambitions. Also that in their high schools, they are much more well behaved than what I have seen in the male high school. So they are taught discipline from an early age, that sticks with them and they are much more hard working and determined.” Interpretation: The motivation to study English as a second or foreign language by adult men seems to be the desire to get a promotion at work, and therefore more of a monetary value. As for the motivation of adult women to study English, an inner drive to achieve and to be on equal basis with their male counterparts. Being able to communicate more fluently in English also empowers the adult learner.
About the strategies employed in acquiring English by adult male and female language learners, the question was ”What makes it easier to remember things and do you use any special strategies to make it easier for these language learners?” The answers were
(ILF01) “The course we have doesn’t always lend itself to doing that exactly. But what we are trying to do, is always do review, review, review. We get them to do different exercises and extra homework activities. As long as they are willing to do it.” (ILF02) “To help them, I get people to use pictures or abbreviations, that kind of stuff.
But to write things down, is the way to remember things. I get people not to translate things, just get it, it’s there, and it’s in your mind.” (ILM03) “Hmm, I find that they find it easier to remember when I can take away their fear or anxiety. Hmm, especially with the guys. Because in the Arab culture, if they come in front of so many other people, they consider themselves ambassadors of their family.
This is a good thing. But at the same time they are pretty nervous in terms of making mistakes. So they would come into class, I tell them, you’re here to learn. You have come here to makes mistakes, so I can correct you, and you can move forward. Once they get over that initial anxiety sensation, they tend to relax. And once they relax, I see their performance increase.” On the follow-up question, “So how do learners remember information?” the answer
(ILM03) “Mhm, I think women, they learn. They do it by creating acronyms, like SWOT, for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A lot of females students in my class use information to create a key acronym and they use that for their vocabulary, and they use that to remember. In terms of the guys, they seem to memorise it. They tend to memorise an entire paragraph verbatim. So when the exam comes, they copy and paste the entire paragraph. So that’s the biggest difference I can tell.” The follow-up question was, “Do you think that by memorising they understand what they are learning?” (ILM03) “No, no, not in the least bit. In terms of the copy and paste method, I ask them questions and they draw a blank. No recollection, no sense of critical thinking.
Interpretation: Lecturers use various strategies to facilitate language acquisition. One participant used review of the work to make learning more effective. To get learners to write down what they are learning, improves their language skills. Another participant responded that women use acronyms as a way to remember information and men remember information verbatim, without really understanding the work, but by removing their classroom anxiety, learning will occur.
When responding to classroom anxiety, the answer to the question, “Do you think they
get anxious before they write a test or speaking in front of others?” the responses was:
(ILF01) “Definitely before writing a test. That can go right through, right the way up to the top. Of course, if you see them come in and do course, after course after course, you do see them improving and you do see them growing in their confidence. The men try to play it down a bit. The women get particularly anxious.” (ILF02) “Some people do get anxious before writing a test or speaking. Speaking in front of others is probably the most nerve-racking thing they can do, whether it’s your own language or another language. I think, if you can help them, with preparing it properly, then they tend to be less nervous. I think, it also depends on who’s doing it and who’s watching them, as well. If you could do it on a very limited base or film, it’s less nerveracking. Speaking in front of other people is a nervous thing for anybody. But if you have a proper plan, and that’s what I always try and get them to have, is a system, and what I’m trying to do, is to give them notes and out-lines and things like that, to feel more confident.” (ILM03) “In terms of writing a test, to be honest, every student who comes to write a test in business studies, they get very anxious, because they really don’t know what to write.
So I really don’t think that that applies, but for men speaking in front of others, that absolutely terrifies them. In front of a class of five, ten or twenty, the focus is totally on them. So, everything would be analysed, grammar, mistakes, body language or any activities that they may have, that sort of stuff. For the men especially, I find them very, very, very anxious. Surprisingly, some of the women have been anxious, because they don’t normally mix with men, so when they are in a mixed class, they get very shy. But some of the women, most of the women, are not shy to speak their minds, hey. They bring in elaborate presentations, and have fun. I was quite surprised when I first saw this.” Interpretation: Language learners are extremely anxious before writing a test. Men, in particular, are also very anxious when they have to do a presentation in front of the class, as they realise their every movement will be scrutinised by fellow learners.
Lecturers can assist these language learners by helping them to plan properly before a presentation or test, in order to lessen their anxieties.
On the question of what teachers are doing to accommodate the learning process, and how that is being done to accommodate different genders in the classroom, the