Dialects in the Arabic classroom : a pedagogical survey of Arabic language learners

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Weinert, John Orbison

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The study of Arabic as a foreign language in the US has witnessed a tremendous increase in recent decades, especially in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Implementation of modern communicative language teaching methodologies has been complicated by the diglossic nature of the Arabic language, as well as the wide variations between the many varieties of spoken colloquial Arabic; only recently has the field seen a widespread shift towards the teaching of the Arabic dialects at beginning levels of study. As a result of this shift, there exist increasing numbers of Arabic learners who have been exposed to one or more Arabic dialects in addition to the formal written language. This thesis presents the results of an interview-survey of Arabic learners who had studied more than one dialect of Arabic in structured classroom contexts, either in the US or the Arab world, with the goal of determining to what extent such instruction had helped or hindered their progress in the language. Results indicated that a majority of participants believe that despite increased challenges, exposure to multiple Arabic dialects was beneficial to their learning experience, and would advocate for such exposure in beginning and intermediate-level Arabic courses. However, many respondents also cautioned that alternate dialect forms should not be presented with the expectation of active production in class. Participants also commented on the ways in which they felt Arabic dialect instruction could be improved; frequently mentioned issues included further development of formal written materials for dialect study, and increased flexibility and understanding on the part of instructors with regard to classroom use of alternate dialectal forms.



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