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Participants responded as follows to the final question, “What additional information about the above mentioned questions would you like to bring to my attention?” (ISM01) “Well, I like to study. That is why I’m here. I get irritated by students who want to fool around in class and teachers who can’t stop that.” (ISM02) “Nothing to do with the school really. But I wish I can go back to my old school and tell the other students there to work hard and study, study, study. It will make life a lot easier for when they leave school and have to find a job. It is not easy when you have all the responsibilities of a working person.” (ISM03) “How long will it take me to be more fluent in English?” (ISF04) “We had enough time to interact in the class, but still, that was not enough for me to practise speaking. For that reason I prefer to have a private tutor and will keep on doing that for some time. It just gives me that little bit of extra time and I feel I have to perform, almost, because it is just the two of us during that time.” (ISF05) “.....it’s very particular what I think. I think some people are born with a gift for a language and fortunately, I have this gift and for me it’s very easy to learn foreign languages. I don’t know if it’s so easy. I don’t know if it’s easy for other people.
Accommodating these adult learners in one English language learning classroom is extremely challenging, and at the same time rewarding when learners acknowledge that they feel learning has occurred.
4.4.6 Research findings based on field notes kept throughout the process Field notes were kept throughout the research and the following complements the findings based on the classroom observations, SILL questionnaires, focus group interviews as well as individual interviews with lecturers and learners.
The adult male and female English language learners came to the centre with their own preconceived expectations and with varying knowledge of the target language, but most of the times qualified in a specific field of employment. They all however, had the desire or need to study English.
When teaching adult males and females from various nationalities, lecturers have to be constantly aware that they will acquire English as a second or foreign language differently. From classroom observations and individual interviews with lecturers, it seemed clear that men preferred conversations about personal interest such as cars or outdoor activities and women were quite happy discussing trivial subjects like shopping, children and associated items. The adult learner also enters the language learning classroom with life experiences that are used as a source of learning. These adult learners need to know the relevance of what they are learning and the future benefits of what they learn.
The lecturer needs to know the adult learners’ motivation for studying English when they enter the language learning classroom. From classroom observations, focus group interviews and individual interviews with lecturers and learners, it became clear that for men, getting a promotion at work, and therefore the monetary value, is a great motivator. The women regarded developing communicative skills, to be able to interact with others in the target language, in this case, English, as a strong motivator to study.
Lecturers have to take the motivation of the adult learner into account as an important variable in second language acquisition.
In the language learning classroom, lecturers have to be constantly aware that the adult male and female learners employ various strategies to facilitate learning. With the focus group interviews, it was clear that learners employed different strategies, such as repetition of words verbally and visually, by reading the same thing over and over. Some learners would memorise words that they can relate to their native language. The use of colour as a helpful tool was used infrequently. From the individual interviews with lecturers, one responded that the present curriculum does not always allow enough time to incorporate teaching of specific strategies. Another responded that women quite often use acronyms to help them remember work and that man would memorise an entire paragraph without understanding what they have learnt. Lecturers therefore, have to become the facilitators to guide these adult language learners to acquire the target language and to make this process more effective. In order to achieve this, lecturers have to allow learners enough time in the classroom to organize their work.
They also need to remind these learners not to rely on their memories only, but they need to understand what they are learning.
For language learning to be effective in the classroom, lecturers have to be aware of the learners’ anxieties that will influence acquisition of the target language. Social variables and learner variables need to be taken into account when teaching English to adult male and female learners. During classroom observations, focus group interviews and interviews with lecturers and learners, it became clear that learners preferred lecturers who know their own limitations, are familiar with the course work, can create a pleasant classroom atmosphere and allow learners enough time for interaction in the target language. In order to be effective with English second or foreign language teaching, the lecturers also have to keep the learners’ age, attitudes, beliefs, culture, gender and personalities in mind at all times.
With reference to the perceived powerless speech of women when compared to the socially dominant speech of men (see subsection 2.2.1), this study did not come to the same conclusion. The male and female focus group participants, as well as the individual learner participants were all very articulate and never answer questions with a simple “mhm” or “yeah.” One of the female participants for the individual interviews with learners did however, start a sentence twice with “mhm” before continuing with the rest. But could be as a result of her being able to speak five languages, so she only needed time to organize her thoughts in English. Only one of the female participants for the focus group interviews started a sentence with “mhm”. Therefore, for the purpose of this study, this indicated that an assumption that there is a difference in male and female speech during an interview could not be supported.
The only significant gender differences that became evident during this study, was when comparing the final assessment results of these male and female learners. The women on average scored significantly higher marks, than the men during their final classroom assessments. This could indicate that women either worked harder or that they simply had a better understanding of English at specific language learning level.
Teaching English in Qatar can never be seen in isolation without taking the cultural diversities of the lecturers and learners into account. From classroom observations, focus groups interviews and individual interviews with lecturers and learners it became clear that learners required a competent and knowledgeable lecturer. In order for learning to be more effective, teaching should become more learner-centred, with ample time for learners to interact with the lecturer and other learners. Lecturers just have to be constantly mindful to be culturally sensitive, in order not to be offensive towards any learner.
4.5 Consolidation: Themes and subthemes that emerged from the findings
Five main themes, related to the problem formulated in subsection 1.5.2 emerged from the data, namely (1) different cognitive styles of the adult language learner; (2) motivation toward language acquisition; (3) strategies employed by adult language learners; (4) anxieties experienced in the language learning classroom; and (5) teaching styles in the culturally diverse adult language classroom. A number of subthemes were
indentified from these five themes and are depicted in Table 4.1:
4.5.1 Different cognitive styles of the adult language learner The adult male and female learners who enter the centre to acquire English as a second or foreign language all they need to know is the relevance of what they are going to learn. Although some of these learners want to acquire the language for selfenrichment, the majority do it in order to be promoted at work.
The lecturers who took part in the research mainly indicated that male and female English language learners seem to start out the same way, by drawing similarities between the target language and their respective native languages. They also indicated that women seemed to be more successful in acquiring the language, because they tend to be hardworking and demonstrated a greater effort towards given tasks, but certainly there was a difference in learning styles. Women seemed to learn more by repetition and using acronyms and men by memorising. From a language acquisition point of view, however parallel repetition and memorisation might be, repeating newly learnt vocabulary and grammar verbally and by writing it down, seemed more effective than memorising portions of work, without really understanding the meaning thereof.
The various life experiences that the adult male and female language learners bring with them to the English language learning classroom, can significantly affect their language acquisition. These experiences might not always be positive and therefore, negative influences such as anxiety or no motivation towards studying can have an adverse effect on learning. Lecturers were ever mindful of this and tried to create a non-threatening environment, where learners could use existing knowledge in a positive way, as a foundation on which their newly learnt skills could be based.
Learning English as a second or foreign language in a classroom cannot always be seen as a natural way for language acquisition. Learners were however, given ample time to practise newly learnt language skills with greater emphasis on fluency than accuracy in order for learners to become more relaxed in using the language. This afforded learners the opportunities to interact with each other and in this way build on existing knowledge.
4.5.2 Adult learners’ motivation towards language acquisition The adult learners’ motivation towards language acquisition may affect their ability and desire to learn English as a second or foreign language.
The skilled lecturers indicated that they were all fully aware that their personalities and teaching methods, as well as the personalities of the adult male and female language learners might influence motivation towards successful language acquisition.
With reference to instrumental motivation, the lecturers and adult learners who participated in the research indicated that a promotion at work was a strong motivation to acquire English as a second or foreign language. For men in particular, the strongest motivation was the monetary value attached to it.
With reference to integrative motivation towards language acquisition, for both males and females, it was to keep up with the times, to get into universities around the world, or just to be able to use it when travelling overseas. The female learners also indicated that they wanted to learn English to be able to communicate with others, be that in a bank, at an airport, or with the English speaking teachers at their children’s schools.
The cultural influence on motivation towards language learning can never be overlooked. At the centre, a unique learning environment exists, mainly because of the composition of the learners. The culturally diverse group of learners in one language learning classroom could influence their motivation and perspectives on acquiring English. One lecturer indicated that for the Arabic speaking women in particular, to be able to compete with the men, was a strong drive. These Arabic women, in particular, seemed to be more disciplined, better behaved and more determined to achieve high standards in language acquisition.
In terms of evaluation of adult English language learners, the majority indicated that they needed to achieve good marks in order to either get a promotion at work, be eligible to enter university, or to be accepted for immigration to a foreign English speaking country. The majority of these learners also indicated that they are affected by negative marks for a test and that it could temporarily hamper their language learning motivation.
4.5.3 Strategies employed by adult language learners
The lecturers, who participated in the research, indicated that various strategies were employed to facilitate language learning. One lecturer reported that repetition of work was a great tool to be successful, but only if learners were willing to do so. Another lecturer indicated that, especially in the Arab culture, if the male learners’ fear of failure could be taken away and these learners could relax in front of others, effective learning would normally occurred.
The adult male and female learners, who formed part of the individual interviews, indicated that organising work, writing it down and reading the same things over and over, facilitated learning. Some female learners also indicated the use of radio and television programmes in English, as well as on-line English language learning programmes, facilitated their learning. One female learner indicated that she relied on her photographic memory to assist her language learning.
The learners who formed part of the focus group interviews were not really too aware of the different strategies they employed during language acquisition. Some also indicated that repetition assisted them to learn, as well as having enough time to communicate in the target language. Only one learner reported using colour as a strategy to assist learning.