Developing intercultural communicative competence in the Arabic curriculum : a survey of learners at beginner level

Rehman, Muna Saeeda
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In recent years FLE researchers and instructors have become increasingly interested in devising theoretical frameworks and pedagogical materials that prepare learners for the realities of today’s globalized world. Current FLE research suggests that equipping learners with intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is the best approach to achieve this goal. As a result of this, administrators and instructors of foreign language programs are reassessing their curricula to ensure that the cultural content is effective and sufficient for enabling learners to successfully function in a culturally diverse world. This thesis aims to reassess the cultural component of the beginner Arabic curriculum at the University of Texas at Austin by serving two objectives. The first objective is to present the results of a survey that examines the impact of the cultural content in the current beginner Arabic course at the University of Texas at Austin on learners’ ICC development. The second objective is to incorporate these results in a pedagogical framework to further enhance the development of ICC in the beginner Arabic classroom setting. The results were gathered from two student surveys, conducted at the beginning and end of the academic year, and from follow-up interviews administered half way through the study’s duration. The findings indicate that the majority of Arabic learners at the beginner level are predisposed with good general knowledge and positive perceptions with regard to the Arab world, suggesting that they are primed to develop ICC before commencing their study of Arabic. In addition to this, the findings show that the current Arabic curriculum did help to further develop ICC in learners to a certain extent. However, there are some areas for improvement, mainly regarding the organization and selection of topics. These observations were taken into consideration in designing the pedagogical framework that presents learning outcomes specific to the beginner Arabic curriculum. The intention is that such a framework will align curricular goals that will in turn result in learners becoming informed global citizens of the world.