A new understanding of heritage : a case study of non-Arab Muslims in the Arabic classroom
MetadataShow full item record
For decades, the heritage language learner has been the topic of research in the field of second language acquisition for commonly taught languages such as Spanish. However, in the field of Arabic second language acquisition, little research has been done on this learning community. This report seeks to fill this gap in scholarship by reporting the survey results of religious heritage language learners of Arabic, defined as non-Arab Muslim students. This report analyzes a qualitative survey of fourteen religious heritage students of Arabic. The analysis helps characterize this community with regards to trends in previous exposure to Arabic before enrolling in university courses, motivations for learning Arabic and shifts in motivations, attitudes and preferences towards teachers, and the effect their studies has had on their personal spirituality and perceptions about their spirituality. Each section of this report presents suggestions for further research and implications on teaching and learning. Finally, I propose suggestions for curriculum development based on the results of the survey. Given the geopolitical importance of the Middle East and the prevalence of misperceptions about the region amongst Americans, competence in Arab cultural literacies is especially timely and critically urgent. A closer look at religious heritage students of Arabic can help educators strategize the teaching of cultural literacy. For instance, religious heritage students can help their peers learn about Islam and the religious significance of Arabic. At the same time, religious heritage students in particular may benefit most from being taught about the religious diversity of the Arab world and other aspects of the rich Arab cultures to which they may not previously been exposed. By re-envisioning the role of religious heritage learners of Arabic, the hope is that educators can create curricula that effectively and efficiently convey cultural literacy to all students in the Arabic language classroom. The study of religious heritage also has potential for targeted improvement of pedagogical praxis for teaching the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing to these students.