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• Lecturers should be mindful of their influences on the learners, the learners’ emotional state and social disturbances during language acquisition and assist the learners to overcome their anxieties in the language learning classroom.
With regard to course material:
• Grammar and vocabulary teaching should relate to topics familiar to adult learners.
• Communicative skills training should be more practical, for example, male and female learners could demonstrate to make Arabic coffee, or prepare their countries national dish.
• Lecturers should refrain from using culturally insensitive course material.
• Learners could benefit from on-line English language programmes, under the supervision of the lecturer.
5.5.2 Recommendations for future research
• This research was conducted with only one English language centre in Qatar.
Therefore it is recommended that a similar study be done at other centres in this country, as well as other countries where English is taught as a second or foreign language.
• It is recommended that a longitudinal study be carried out to get the effect of the so called Third Culture Kids (TCK’s). These learners are now being taught in English in Qatar; they are able to communicate in their mother tongue, but unable to read or write in it. The effect this inability to read or write in their mother tongue has on their studying English as a second or foreign language needs to be investigated; again it needs to be determined how this inability to read and write in mother tongue would affect their lives back in their respective home countries.
• Learning strategies should be taught in the beginning stages of language acquisition, for them to be effective and to heighten motivation for further studies.
5.6 Personal theories on teaching and learning English in Qatar
Teaching English as a second or foreign language to adult male and female learners in Qatar is from the outset, a very unique experience. This experience should never view in isolation, owing to the diverse cultural backgrounds of the learners. These learners are not just from the local Qatari population, but some are from many other Arabic speaking countries; while other who came to Qatar to seek employment are from various nationalities from all over the world, and now require competence in a language spoken in all spheres of life in Qatar. As such, a lot of English is spoken among nonnative speakers, who are not too concerned about grammar and pronunciation, as long as they are understood.
The next realization as a lecturer, is that you are dealing mostly with highly educated learners, like doctors, dentists, engineers, nurses and teachers, to name but a few.
These learners have the expertise in their own respective fields, but are just unable to communicate effectively in the commonly spoken language, English.
With regard to cognitive abilities:
To date, there has been no scientific proof that there is a critical age for second language acquisition. As this study involved adult learners, is enough proof that language learning can still take place effectively even at the age of these learners, so long as learners are positively involved. The adult language learner is constantly faced with the “need to know” in respect of what he or she is learning and also with the challenge as to how relevant the learning content is. They therefore want to know what the outcome of the particular learning will be and how it will benefit them afterwards.
Therefore, the role of the lecturer is to assist in linking the existing knowledge with the newly learnt language structures and their functions in order to stimulate effective leanings. Quite often, learners can more readily answer the “why” they want to acquire English, than the “how” this is achieved.
In learners’ experience, learners have various ways to acquire English. Some use every opportunity available to speak, irrespective of grammatical errors they commit. Others watch English TV programmes with sub-titles in their native language and others study by reading sections over and over or by writing it down. Within the classroom, the adult learner does better when he or she can relate to subject matter to the real life situations, or when he or she learns the subject content, the context of which is relevant to the activities that were performed earlier.
With regard to motivations towards studying English as a second or foreign language:
English second language learners have different reasons for studying and that influence their motivation towards acquiring the language. Many learners want to acquire English, because it will afford them a promotion at work, and as such, the monetary value attached to it, plays a role. In the researcher’s personal view, the men seem to be more interested in obtaining certificates, that acquiring proficiency in the language;
whereas the women seek personal accomplishment. Competition within the classroom, especially among learners from the same organisation such as the Armed Forces, the banking or petroleum industries, sometimes act as a great motivator to study, and this would be equally so for men and women. Learners, who study for personal enrichment, are normally more motivated to acquire the language, because they see the benefit of it when being used outside the classroom.
With regard to strategies employed during English second language acquisition:
As the lecturer of English as a second language to adult learners in Qatar, the researcher was at all times fully aware that learners’ cultural values would have an influence on the various strategies they employ to acquire the language. Learners who are from a background where they are used to group and pair-work might prefer strategies applied by others, like independent work.
Direct strategies which directly involve the Target Language (TL):
• Memory related strategies. Learners used that especially to store newly learnt vocabulary in the long-term memory, to be retrieved and applied later.
• Cognitive strategies. The learners used that to link new information to what was already familiar.
• Compensatory strategies. Learners would use guessing from time to time to overcome the limitations in their newly learnt language knowledge and to talk around certain words.
Indirect strategies, which indirectly support language learning:
• Meta-cognitive strategies. The adult language learner has by now developed his or her own style of organizing and planning to take control over learning. Some learners, however, would ask for guidance from the lecturer.
• Affective strategies. As in any normal situation, even the adult language learner will at times be affected by his or her attitude and motivation towards language acquisition.
• Social strategies. At times learners would interact with others in the classroom during discussions, even though he or she might not be aware that such an interaction contributes to learning experience.
The researcher as a more mature person almost stumbled upon the use of colour (memory related strategy) during learning and the effectiveness of employing it in order for learning to occur. Although colour was not widely used by the adult learners, some ladies did and others were even very interested to test this. It seems that learning English was more successful by employing various strategies for the task at hand.
With regard to anxiety towards second language acquisition:
The cause of anxiety in the language learning classroom and the effects it has on the learning process should never be underestimated by lecturers. Considering situational variables, the researcher is ever mindful of her behaviour and that it should never be seen as threatening to learners. Although a prescribed curriculum is followed at the language centre, course related items, such as classroom activities and social interaction with other learners are always conducted by taking the learners’ cultural diversities and backgrounds into account. The learner variables include emotions, motivation and individual personality traits. Family and family matters play a significant role in the everyday life of Qataris. For this reason, when a learner receives a telephone call from a family member about an emergency, this learner would immediately drop whatever he or she is doing, being that in the middle of a lecture, to attend to that.
With regard to the researcher’s teaching methods:
The researcher is always mindful of the fact that the adult language learners do not just enter the classroom with a wealth of experience; but might also come from an environment with its own everyday stressful life. So in the researcher’s experience as a lecturer, every endeavour is made to create a welcoming, fun-filled atmosphere, but with effective learning as a priority.
In the constructivist classroom, as a lecturer, the researcher organizes information in a manner that all learners will be engaged in an exciting and interesting way. This involves the active participation of the learners through sharing of ideas, and also the intervention of the lecturer through which learners are assisted to develop new language skills and to link them with the previously learnt subject content. By selecting topics that challenge their emotions, lessons are more meaningful. Learning will be effective by linking it to something that is already familiar. Acting as the facilitator, the researcher generally guides learners in using cognitive strategies such as self testing, practising communicative skills, without placing any emphasis on accuracy, and encouraging them to focus on fluency when speaking. In this way, they have ample time to reflect on newly learnt grammar and vocabulary and have enough opportunities to implement what was learnt.
With the above in mind, the following is noteworthy:
• Assessment should not necessarily only be done by way of a formal test, but also involve interaction between lecturer and learner to assess performance.
• Subject matter should be in context of the learners’ everyday world, but also presented in a way that lead to step by step discovery of knowledge.
• Learners should regularly be challenged to master a next level of competence in order to develop their language confidence.
• Curriculum should be followed, but allow for flexibility to create a more meaningful learning experience.
Adult language learners, male and female, required opportunities to speak English. They would at times voice their frustration, because of the limited opportunities to speak the language. For this reason, as the second language lecturer, the researcher gives them enough time within the classroom to practice their communicative language skills and in
this way, enhance their communicative competence. This is achieved by:
• Interaction between the researcher and the learners during class discussions in English.
• Giving learners enough time for group and pair-work to practice their language skills.
• Encouraging the learners to listen to the language they hear (input) and then emulate to enhance their communicative competence.
• Practicing pronunciation and not be afraid to make mistakes when pronouncing new words.
• Getting learners to pay attention to feedback, but at times allow for fluency to prevail over accuracy to build their confidence.
• Encourage them to speak English as often as possible and not be afraid to experiment.
Great effort is made to explain unfamiliar words to learners. In some instances, where even the best explanation does not clarify a concept to the learner, a fellow learner might be of assistance, using their native language, while ensuring that it is once again explained in English, for the lecturer to hear that the explanation was indeed accurate.
With writing exercises, especially in respect of Arabic speaking learners, their first inclination is to start from right to left, as in the Arabic language. For this reason, they would instinctively write different letters as they would in the Arabic language, for example, making an ‘o’ clockwise and not anticlockwise as would be the norm for native English speakers. In the Arabic alphabet, there is no equivalent for the letter ‘p’. For this reason, they find it extremely difficult to distinguish between the ‘b’ and ‘p’ sound at the end of a word, like ‘job’ or ‘jop’. Besides grammar activities, the researcher always likes to conclude most session by doing a spelling test. In doing this, the researcher is always very careful only to use familiar words that were from related classroom activities of the day, and not to incorporate unfamiliar words at the stage.
For learners who require extra information and learning experiences, the researcher often refers them to online studying. The learners, who make use of additional technologically available learning material in their spare time, show a marked improvement in their overall performance and confidence to speak English.
Normally, learners would choose their own language centre, depending on availability and not necessarily on curriculum content. Companies might however, also have their preferences, and again, as such the learners have no insight into the curriculum. These learners would then almost be “confronted” with the course material, and if their needs are to enhance communicative skills, they get frustrated with learning grammar and vocabulary.
The desire to acquire English as a second of foreign language might not be placed on the same level of the scale of priorities by all learners. By using carefully constructed teaching methods and proper guidance by the lecturer, where the adult male and female English language learner also accept responsibility for language acquisition, learning could be successful.