Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula: Bilingual Policies in a Multilingual Context 9781783096602

This collection examines the urban multilingual realities of inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula in the early 21st cent

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Table of contents :
Multilingualism in the workplace: English and Bengali
Part 1: Multilingualism in Private Spheres and Public Spaces
1. Heritage, Heteroglossia and Home: Multilingualism in Emirati Families
2. Emirati Pre-Service Teachers’ Perspectives of Abu Dhabi’s Rich Linguistic Context
3. Commercial Signs in Oman and Yemen: A Study of Street Advertising in English
Part 2: The English Language and Arab Peninsula Identity
4. Emirati Cultural Identity in the Age of ‘Englishisation’: Voices from an Abu Dhabi University
5. A Phenomenological Study of Identity Construction in the Education Sector of Qatar
Part 3: Forging Societal Bilingualism Through English Medium Instruction
6. From ‘Late–Late’ to ‘Early–Early’ Immersion: Discontinuities and Dilemmas in Medium of Instruction Policies and Practices
7. Revisiting the Suitability of the IELTS Examination as a Gatekeeper for University Entrance in the UAE
8. English in the United Arab Emirates: Innocuous Lingua Franca or Insidious Cultural Trojan Horse?
Part 4: The Position of English in Teaching and Research Careers
9. Novice Practitioners’ Views on the Applicability of Post-method and Critical Pedagogy in Saudi EFL Contexts
10. Between the Covers: A Case Study of Scholarly Journal Publishing in Oman
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Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula

MULTILINGUAL MATTERS Series Editor: John Edwards, St. Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University, Canada and Leigh Oakes, Queen Mary, University of London, UK. Multilingual Matters series publishes books on bilingualism, bilingual education, immersion education, second language learning, language policy, multiculturalism. The editor is particularly interested in ‘macro’ level studies of language policies, language maintenance, language shift, language revival and language planning. Books in the series discuss the relationship between language in a broad sense and larger cultural issues, particularly identity related ones. Full details of all the books in this series and of all our other publications can be found on, or by writing to Multilingual Matters, St Nicholas House, 31–34 High Street, Bristol BS1 2AW, UK.


Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula Bilingual Policies in a Multilingual Context Edited by Louisa Buckingham

MULTILINGUAL MATTERS Bristol • Blue Ridge Summit

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Names: Buckingham, Louisa, editor. Title: Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula: Bilingual Policies in a Multilingual Context/Edited by Louisa Buckingham. Description: Bristol: Multilingual Matters, [2016] | Series: Multilingual Matters: 166 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016030410| ISBN 9781783096596 (hbk : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781783096619 (epub) | ISBN 9781783096626 (kindle) Subjects: LCSH: Multilingualism—Arabian Peninsula. | English language—Arabian Peninsula. | Language and languages—Economic aspects—Arabian Peninsula. | Language and languages—Social aspects—Arabian Peninsula. | Language policy—Arabian Peninsula. | Sociolinguistics—Arabian Peninsula. | Arabian Peninsula—Languages. | English language—Arabian Peninsula—History—21st century. Classification: LCC P115.5.A5 L37 2016 | DDC 306.44/60953—dc23 LC record available at British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue entry for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN-13: 978-1-78309-659-6 (hbk) Multilingual Matters UK: St Nicholas House, 31–34 High Street, Bristol BS1 2AW, UK. USA: NBN, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, USA. Website: Twitter: Multi_Ling_Mat Facebook: Blog: Copyright © 2017 Louisa Buckingham and the authors of individual chapters. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. The policy of Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications is to use papers that are natural, renewable and recyclable products, made from wood grown in sustainable forests. In the manufacturing process of our books, and to further support our policy, preference is given to printers that have FSC and PEFC Chain of Custody certification. The FSC and/or PEFC logos will appear on those books where full certification has been granted to the printer concerned. Typeset by Nova Techset Private Limited, Bengaluru and Chennai, India. Printed and bound in the UK by the CPI Books Group Ltd. Printed and bound in the US by Edwards Brothers Malloy, Inc.


Contributors Multilingualism in the workplace: English and Bengali Introduction Louisa Buckingham

vii xi 1

Part 1: Multilingualism in Private Spheres and Public Spaces 1

Heritage, Heteroglossia and Home: Multilingualism in Emirati Families Gary T. O’Neill



Emirati Pre-Service Teachers’ Perspectives of Abu Dhabi’s Rich Linguistic Context Melanie van den Hoven and Kevin S. Carroll



Commercial Signs in Oman and Yemen: A Study of Street Advertising in English Louisa Buckingham and Anwar Al-Athwary


Part 2: The English Language and Arab Peninsula Identity 4

Emirati Cultural Identity in the Age of ‘Englishisation’: Voices from an Abu Dhabi University Sarah Hopkyns


A Phenomenological Study of Identity Construction in the Education Sector of Qatar Amir Abou-El-Kheir



Part 3: Forging Societal Bilingualism Through English Medium Instruction 6

From ‘Late–Late’ to ‘Early–Early’ Immersion: Discontinuities and Dilemmas in Medium of Instruction Policies and Practices Kay Gallagher v



L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a


Revisiting the Suitability of the IELTS Examination as a Gatekeeper for University Entrance in the UAE Hilda Freimuth



English in the United Arab Emirates: Innocuous Lingua Franca or Insidious Cultural Trojan Horse? Anthony Solloway


Part 4: The Position of English in Teaching and Research Careers 9

Novice Practitioners’ Views on the Applicability of Post-method and Critical Pedagogy in Saudi EFL Contexts Kyle Nuske

10 Between the Covers: A Case Study of Scholarly Journal Publishing in Oman Louisa Buckingham and Kirankumar Ramachandran Index


220 240


Amir Abou-El-Kheir has lectured at English medium post-secondary institutions in the Middle East for over 14 years. His research investigates the social development of Arab students and teachers with specific focus on the dominance of English and the decline of Arabic use in education and its implications on local culture and identity. He has authored a number of articles and chapters and has participated and presented his findings at conferences internationally. He is also a consultant for various government bodies and organisations in the Middle East. Anwar Al-Athwary is an assistant professor in Sana’a University, Yemen, and currently works at Najran University (Saudi Arabia). Contact linguistics and linguistic landscapes in Yemen and Arab Gulf states are his areas of current research interest. His particular focus is on loan phonology, lexical and grammatical borrowing, and what may be called ‘cultural borrowing’. The transfer of foreign cultural elements is clearly manifested in the public spaces within a given region. In his co-authored chapter on the linguistic landscape of Sana’a and Muscat, he examined and compared the language of commercial advertising from structural and cultural perspectives. Louisa Buckingham previously lectured at the University of Nizwa (Oman). She has conducted research into the rich diversity of cultures, languages and dialects throughout Oman. This has included three studies on attitudes held by teachers and students towards accents in English commonly heard in the Gulf region. A subsequent project involved a nationwide study of English language use on commercial signage informed by linguistic landscape methodology. Insights from research collaboration with colleagues prompted her to investigate the place of English in the academic careers of lecturers in Oman from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. The latter two projects formed the basis of her two chapters in this book. Kevin S. Carroll, an associate professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, previously worked at Emirates College for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi, UAE. While in the UAE, he used an electronic language survey vii


L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a

to document language practices among Emiratis and he published on tertiary language policies and their impact on the use of translanguaging practices within this unique context. His current writings focus on literacy instruction in Arabic and the need for children’s books to be published in Emirati Arabic to promote L1 literacy in the country. Hilda Freimuth has worked at two different universities in the United Arab Emirates over the last 13 years. She first conducted research on the cultural bias of the reading component of the IELTS examination for her PhD studies in South Africa. Her interest grew in the notion of cultural bias in international English examinations as a result of her findings and the significant gap in the literature. In her study, she argues that the use of the IELTS or TOEFL examinations for gatekeeping purposes at universities in the Emirates is cause for concern. Kay Gallagher is an Abu Dhabi-based educational leader, teacher educator and researcher in English language education. Her own bilingual schooling in Ireland resulted in a lifelong interest in medium of instruction practices and policies, and this has been further informed by her experiences as a language teacher educator in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. The recent introduction of English as an additional medium of instruction alongside the traditional medium of Arabic provided an opportunity to examine pedagogical issues in medium of instruction in the UAE, and to investigate the attitudes of Emirati educators towards bilingual education. Sarah Hopkyns has taught English in Japan, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, and is at present a faculty member at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. She is currently completing her Doctorate in Education at the University of Leicester, focusing on English as a global language and its effect on Emirati cultural identity. Her interest in this area stemmed from teaching Arab students in Canada and intensified once she became fully immersed in the Arab Gulf context herself. Her research relates closely to pivotal themes in local public and scholarly discourse and the media. She is interested in investigating the views of stakeholders. Kyle Nuske specialises in critical teacher education in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. One major domain of his research is investigating how linguistically and culturally diverse cohorts of novice scholar-practitioners respond to the teaching of critical pedagogical content in settings of formal graduate education. While conducting one such project, he noticed striking similarities in Saudi instructors’ views on the extent to which critical language teaching approaches could be enacted in their home country. His chapter in this book illuminates how these individuals negotiated with authoritative knowledge claims in order to establish locally sustainable pedagogies.

Contr ibutors


Gary O’Neill has taught Academic English for over 14 years in the United Arab Emirates. Living in Dubai and teaching Emirati women led him to observe the growing superdiversity of the city and the rapid changes occurring within the lives of his students. His interest in the varied linguistic predispositions of Emirati students and their differing language and literacy practices with regard to English and Arabic (and other languages), led him, in 2010, to embark on an ongoing ethnographic research project at a national university. His findings with regard to home language and literacy practices and how they have developed over the last three generations, formed the basis of his chapter. Kirankumar Ramachandran is a Senior Lecturer at Caledonian College of Engineering in Muscat (Oman). He has been teaching English and developing ESL curricula on the Arabian Peninsula since 2007. His involvement in a science education project, commissioned by UNESCO, gave him first-hand experience of the role that the English language plays in science and technology in non-English speaking countries. This interest is evident in his co-authored chapter, a case study of an English language scientific journal. He is also involved in a study of technology in ESL classrooms in Oman. Anthony Solloway has taught EFL/ESL and EAP at various levels in England, the PRC, Hong Kong, Oman and latterly in the United Arab Emirates, where he teaches academic composition and has also acted as mentor to final year BA applied linguistics students completing teaching practicums. His current research interests include English as a medium of instruction, and the role, place and standing of the English language on the Arabian Peninsula, in particular the UAE. Anthony has published and presented papers on these themes at international conferences and his contribution to the present volume represents a confluence of these two research interests. Melanie van den Hoven lectures at Emirates College for Advanced Education, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Struck by the pace of educational reform in the emirate and the growing debates around the increased use of English in education, she has undertaken research on student attitudes towards several varieties of English accents prevalent in the Gulf and perspectives of English as a medium of instruction. Insights from these research projects have prompted ethnographic investigations of patterns of conversational activity in English and Arabic and perspectives of Abu Dhabi’s rich linguistic environment.

Multilingualism in the workplace: English and Bengali

This advertisement appears on the door of an establishment which provides administrative support and language services in the coastal city of Sur, Oman. The English version is quite typical for the use of the language as a lingua franca on commerical signage throughout Oman. Interestingly, the information in Bengali (or Bangla) does not accord with the norms of standard Bengali, but appears to be a transliteration from the English version.1

Note (1) I am grateful for Jalal Uddin Khan (professor at the University of Nizwa, Oman) for this insight into the use of Bengali on this sign. xi

Introduction Louisa Buckingham

The Arabian Peninsula possesses a relatively high profile in world affairs. Headlines converge predictably on oil production rates, sectarian tensions, political alignments in the region, and more recently, armed foreign interventions. Concomitantly, the region’s soft power is variously projected through a dynamic media industry, sporting spectacles, religious leadership, a reputation for avant-garde architecture and shopping extravagance. The casually superficial nature of much English-language media coverage, and the overrepresented focus on the spectacular, leads inevitability to what is often a cursory, partial and essentialised view of dynamic, complex and multi-layered societies. In contrast, the share of academic research on the region and, in particular, fieldwork on societal issues, is meagre. Sustained investment in education and infrastructure, coupled with policies targeting low income families and women have brought far-reaching social changes to the Peninsula in the late 20th century, examples of which include the increased salience of women in public spheres and, in line with global trends, a growing commitment to life-long formal educational opportunities (see for instance, Al-Barwani & Albeely, 2007; Samier, 2015; Schvaneveldt et al., 2005). Attained in just a few decades, this progress is remarkable considering the paucity of universal education and the widespread functional illiteracy prior to the commencement of a socioeconomic development paradigm dependent on extractive industry revenue. Arab Peninsula societies, with the exemption of Yemen, have become highly networked, literate and mobile, and they display an increasingly widespread bilingual (or multilingual) profile. Academic disciplines have been slow to recognise the need to better understand the daily lived realities of the Peninsula’s inhabitants, whether citizens or non-citizen residents. As a contribution towards this emerging area of study, the chapters in this collection examine the urban multilingual realities of inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula in the early 21st century in private and public spheres, and from the perspectives of learners, teachers and researchers. Far from being culturally homogenous, the Arab Peninsula States display considerable variation in governance, demographics, topography, socioeconomic indicators and cultural practices. The two nations of the Arabian Sea, Yemen and Oman, for instance, positioned on an ancient maritime route connecting Asia and Africa, have a rich legacy of trade and migration, and of 1


L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a

colonisation and subjugation, visible today in the coastal architecture, traditions and the countries’ regional languages and dialects (Peterson, 2004). Specifically, the historical legacy of Oman’s former territories in East Africa and the coastal region around Gwadar in Pakistan is visible in the ethnolinguistic composition of its population, and it contributes to shaping contemporary Omani foreign policy. Previous book-length studies in applied linguistics on the Arabian Peninsula are usually delimited to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), thereby excluding Yemen. As a republic with an elected president, Yemen differs in terms of type of governance, economic structure, natural resource endowment and, in light of the extraordinary social development in the GCC States over recent decades, in socioeconomic indicators. Yemen, sadly, lags in social indexes compiled by organisations such as UNICEF and UNESCO; it struggles to approximate the high levels of literacy, school completion rates and internet usage witnessed across the Peninsula, and achieves considerably lower levels of female educational attainment. During recent history, remittances, frequently sent from neighbouring States, contributed to keeping Yemeni families solvent. It should be remembered, however, that the existence of a Yemeni diaspora, and the propensity of Yemenis to work abroad is not exceptional in the Arabian Peninsula context. Omanis were also known to be migrant workers by necessity in the immediate region and beyond before the investiture of the incumbent Sultan Qaboos (Alhaj, 2000; Peterson, 2011). This backdrop is intended to contribute to situating the studies in this book. An examination of the differentiated use of languages within a region needs to be securely grounded in the social reality of a given context and attentive to the dynamics which contribute to shaping or texturing localised language practices. Neither static nor timeless, as Akbari (2013: 9) notes ‘being real is a negotiated process that takes place within a specific context and involves the interaction of different social, historical, and political forces’. A logical corollary, as Akbari discerns, is that applied linguistics is in essence a situated discipline and the relevance of research topics and the applicability of findings may not necessarily transcend any given cultural context. Thus, as Akbari unapologetically concludes in his own introduction, the discussions presented in a compilation of studies on the Middle Eastern (or, in this case, the Arabian Peninsula) region, may only coincide in part with those emanating from Western or East Asian contexts. I contend, however, that we can and should, with increasing confidence, autonomously pursue research relevant to the wider Middle East or specific Arab Peninsula context, liberated of the expectation that research priorities and perspectives should a priori be aligned with those generated in culturally distinct settings. As such, this compilation, building on previous works by Akbari and Coombe (2013) and Dahan and Al-Issa (2011), contributes to laying the groundwork for a strand in applied linguistics research informed by the Arab Peninsula cultural context.

Introduc t ion


The rapid and relatively uniform social development of recent decades across most Arab Peninsula States was doubtlessly facilitated by the modest size of these nations, the social welfare policies targeting specific social groups and the restriction of such benefits to residents satisfying stringent citizenship requirements. The carefully formulated conceptualisation of the ‘citizen’ (and in some cases disincentives for exogenous marriages) jars with the ethnolinguistic and cultural heterogeneity of Peninsula societies (see Babar, 2014; Sater, 2014), and the ongoing reliance on labour migrants across almost all economic sectors to achieve socioeconomic development targets. In this, the Arab Peninsula is not unique. Reliance on foreign labour recruitment programmes to drive economic growth was a well-documented development strategy in West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Similar to the German experience, the permanency of labour migrants on the Arab Peninsula was often not restricted to the limited periods originally envisioned, but extended to second or third generations as families were reintegrated or formed. And comparable to the German experience prior to the change to citizenship laws in 1999, no feasible path to citizenship was provided to these long-term non-citizen residents and children born and raised in this context. As discussed in recent studies documenting this phenomenon in the Arab Peninsula context, upon reaching adulthood, second generation migrants may find themselves in a between-state vacuum as they are without legal rights to remain in their country of (often life-long) residence but may be without any personal history in the country of which they hold citizenship (see Ali, 2011; Babar, 2014; Gardner, 2010; Vora, 2014, 2015). Arguably, when viewed from a human resource perspective, the case for providing secure long-term residence prospects for individuals of migrant heritage is compelling. Their multilingual competence, international connections, qualifications and, importantly, local knowledge and empathy towards their domiciled country are an advantageous combination. Many authors in this book are a case in point. As qualified resident migrants, with (in many cases) a long-term commitment to our chosen country of residence, our knowledge of and empathy for the local context and culture is considerable. Our positions in public and private educational institutions enables us privileged daily insight into the concerns and aspirations of the respective nations’ youth and into the daily operation of a large complex institution. The lack of prospect of any long-term right of residence will propel many to eventually leave, in recognition that careers and lives cannot flourish in a context where the future extends only as far as one’s one or two-year residence permit. While acknowledging that the majority of authors in this book can make no claim to an Arab Peninsula identity, I argue that our level of long-term engagement with localised societal and educational issues, and our resultant enmeshment with Peninsula citizens (and a diverse array of non-citizen residents) in social and professional contexts combine to lend our voice legitimacy. While a higher proportion of Arab


L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a

Peninsula contributors was targeted, and calls for abstract submissions were received by universities throughout the Peninsula, the final chapter selection was ultimately the result of a multilevel peer review process typical in academic publishing, during which nationality was not a criterion. Most Peninsula States have, in recent years, introduced policies to encourage the preferential employment of nationals across a range of economic sectors in a bid to counter rising unemployment and lessen reliance on non-citizens. Increased rates of female employment outside the home will strengthen the reliance on (foreign) domestic workers as carers and home-makers (Sater, 2014). As discussed in Part 1 by O’Neill (Chapter 1) and van der Hoven and Carroll (Chapter 2), young Peninsula Arabs are thus often raised in a multilingual home environment and may acquire, through this naturalistic exposure in their early years, some knowledge of Asian languages. This may be bolstered by further exposure through the media and entertainment industry. Household access to the internet and cable television is widespread and the popularity of the Bollywood film industry has been noted in countries such as Oman, Yemen and the UAE (Kraidy, 2014; Renuka, 2011). While South Asians are both numerous and prominent throughout the Peninsula, in Oman and Yemen in particular, their presence reaches back centuries (Jain & Kumar, 2012; Machado, 2014). Whether attracted by trade opportunities or brought as administrative officials of British India, both Hindu and Muslim Indian families were long resident and well integrated into local society prior to the wave of migration in the late 20th century. This heritage is still visible to the discerning eye in the public language use of street signs, as discussed in Chapter 3 (Buckingham & Al-Athwary). Diverse home languages are usually incorporated into school curricula as heritage language instruction in the extensive array of private schools which cater for specific migrant communities. Wilkins and Urbanovič (2014) document particular instances of additional foreign languages used as the medium of instruction at tertiary level, in response to the demand for tertiary education in world languages such as Russian and French by migrant communities.1 The prevailing view that equates English-medium instruction (EMI) with educational quality and competitive job prospects has led to increased enrolment in EMI private sector tertiary institutions by Peninsula nationals. This is perhaps particularly the case in the UAE as EMI is a central feature of the nation’s internationalisation strategy for the educational sector (see for instance Wilkins et al., 2012). These settings have become contexts of social interaction in which nationals and non-citizen residents interact and, according to Vora (2015), on a relatively more equitable footing than in work contexts. The often more confident use of English by students with a migrant background, supported, among other factors, by their prior experience of schooling in EMI, has led to some favouring the inclusion of EMI public high schools.2 On account of the prevalence of EMI at tertiary level, however, many Peninsula Arab families wish to provide their children with

Introduc t ion


naturalistic exposure to English through the early introduction of EMI. The impact of such social trends and educational policies on Peninsula nationals’ identity construction is explored in Part 2 by Hopkyns and Abou-El-Kheir. The issues discussed in these contributions may be particularly pertinent to the UAE and Qatar on account of the aforementioned internationalisation strategy of the education sector and the particularly high ratio of resident migrants to nationals in these two countries. Owing to such contextual particularities (as previously discussed), the insights from these exploratory studies may be unique to these two countries. The contributions in Part 3, despite being situated in the UAE context, address issues of regional significance. In her overview study of medium-ofinstruction policies in the UAE and the aspirations to produce a biliterate society, Gallagher discusses the effects of early introduction of English on students’ development of their L1. The erosion of academic literacy skills in Arabic (or in some cases, even general literacy) has been previously documented in various Peninsula countries, leading to the call for a stronger focus on L1 education (Al-Issa & Dahan, 2011; Badry, 2011; Bassiouney, 2009: 255–256; Holes, 2011). As Gallagher ascertains, however, it is not necessarily the quantity of exposure to Arabic in educational contexts that is problematic, but the quality, and Gallagher argues for a modernisation of the Arabic language curriculum to reflect contemporary approaches to literacy pedagogy. Arguments in favour of recognising alternative standards to the US and UK norms that dominate high-stakes international English language testing have been aired across the world, particularly in contexts where English has become the first or additional language for some sectors of the population and is the commonly used language of administrative affairs, education and media. While not possessing, strictly speaking, a British colonial legacy (apart from the British Colony of Aden in Yemen), in many parts of the Peninsula English serves important lingua franca functions. Freimuth questions the appropriateness of using proficiency exams such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which originated in a very different cultural context, at tertiary institutions throughout the Peninsula. Solloway tackles the difficult terrain of the progressive de-Arabisation of the educational sector through the views of students enmeshed in the system. Attempts to elicit students’ own experiences of bilingual educational contexts enable the complexities of their social realities and envisioned futures to surface. While the prevalence of English is viewed as detracting from cultural identity, students may not actually consider the language itself as the irritant, but rather the degree to which English competence can determine life trajectories and, on a broader scale, the seemingly inextricable link between English and the internationalisation of the UAE’s economy and cultural spheres and, concomitantly, the UAE’s increasingly confident role in international affairs beyond the Peninsula (see, for instance, Carvalho Pinto, 2014).


L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a

Part 4 examines this intersection between domestic priorities or traditional practices and global trends in the spheres of English language teaching (ELT) and academic journal publishing. Arab Peninsula students trained abroad in contemporary language teaching pedagogy may find that allegedly universal approaches to classroom language teaching to have limited applicability in their home teaching contexts. Approaches to teaching and conceptualisation of learning often entail assumptions of social roles and the anticipated purposes of foreign language usage, while teaching materials, as cultural artefacts, inevitably manifest underlying assumptions of social values and norms. Such assumptions are not always transportable which, as Nuske discusses in Chapter 9, presents novice EFL teachers from the Peninsula with the dilemma of how to integrate knowledge and practices assimilated during Masters’ programmes abroad into their localised home contexts. The final contribution concerns the growing profile of some Arab Peninsula universities as research nodes, often integrated into wider supra-regional research networks. Building local research capacity is a fundamental component of this broader research orientation. Research output statistics have displayed consistent growth in the Arab Peninsula States over recent decades. Data from SCImago3 reveal that not only did the number of publications double between 2007 and 2014 across all nations of the Peninsula (including Yemen), but the percentage of such publications with international collaboration rose to around 60% (or 80% in the case of Qatar). While the impact of publications (as measured by the h-index) between 1996 and 2014 remains mid-range, it is nevertheless comparable to that of many considerably more populous states with a longer legacy of universal tertiary education. As Buckingham and Ramachandran illustrate in their investigation into the publishing practices of a competitive scientific journal, regional disciplinary journals can exercise an important function in developing local research capacity. However, the effectiveness of this hinges on the journals’ capacity to implement supportive journal management policies while maintaining competitive publishing standards. Growing numbers of the first generation of state-sponsored scholarship students have begun to return home, bringing with them tertiary degrees conferred abroad and, equally important, life skills and the experience of adapting to foreign cultures. Their integration into the workplace may contribute in the medium term to strengthening the contribution of knowledgebased industries to the economy, a need that has been reiterated in different independent analyses (e.g. Callen et al., 2014; EIU, 2009, 2010). The extent to which the prevailing sociopolitical structures may allow for this is uncertain however. Certainly, in some Peninsula countries, attempts to respond to the disaffections of an educated youthful population and measures to provide evidence of leadership, accountability and direction have been forthcoming in recent years. This is discernible, for instance, in the extension of suffrage and the right to stand for election to women in Saudi Arabia in 2015. The

Introduc t ion


importance of creating channels attentive (and potentially responsive) to social dynamics is also seen in the creation of the respective positions of ministers of happiness and tolerance in the UAE (both of which are to be filled by women) in early 2016. Stimulus for this move could have been the recent World Happiness Report, which ranked the level of overall perceived wellbeing in the UAE highest in the region (closely followed by Oman) during the period from 2012 to 20144 (see Helliwell et al., 2015). A third illustrative initiative by Peninsula leaders to promote informed discussion of socioeconomic issues in the region constitutes the recent publication of critical analyses by the Economist Intelligence Unit (see EIU, 2009, 2010), sponsored by the Qatari Financial Centre Authority, and the acknowledgement of Kuwaiti support for recent research into GCC economies by the International Monetary Fund (see Callen et al., 2014). While a detailed examination of these publications is beyond the remit of this Introduction, both EIU reports issue a sober warning with regard to food security and the management of environmental resources, coupled with an injunction to improve the integration of resident migrants and to attain greater coherence between educational curricula and contemporary workplace requirements. Such concerns are by no means exclusive to the Peninsula context; indeed, that parallels may be drawn with numerous countries worldwide is arguably testimony to the degree of integration of Peninsula economies and societies into supraregional networks, and concomitantly the degree of exposure of the region to external socioeconomic uncertainties and environmental risks. As authors of this compilation, we do not claim privileged insight into the potentially variegated developmental paths that Peninsula societies may follow. But as participant observers (or observant participants) and as educators committed to fostering the intellectual curiosity of our students, our studies collectively argue for a socially responsive approach to education and language policies, and greater inclusiveness of the rich ethnic diversity of the region’s inhabitants. To conclude, I wish to gratefully acknowledge the research facilities at Bilkent University (Turkey), my employer while undertaking work on this book. That I was able to assume the task of compiling this volume is in no small part due to the supportive environment at this University.

Notes (1) The enrolment of children in private tertiary institutions provides a means for families to remain intact, as upon reaching early adulthood, children are no longer covered by their parents’ residence permit. (2) Attendance of public schools may be restricted to citizens. (3) See (4) It was only one of two countries on the Peninsula (the second being Kuwait) to record a rise in perceived wellbeing between these years, when compared to the previously recorded period of 2005 to 2007.


L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a

References Akbari, R. and Coombe, C. (2013) Middle East Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Dubai: TESOL Arabia Publications. Akbari (2013) Introduction. In R. Akbari and C. Coombe (eds) Middle East Handbook of Applied Linguistics (pp. 1–13). Dubai: TESOL Arabia Publications. Al-Barwani, T.A. and Albeely, T.S. (2007) The Omani Family. Marriage & Family Review 41 (1–2), 119–142. Ali, S. (2011) Going and coming and going again: Second-generation migrants in Dubai. Mobilities 6 (4), 553–568. Alhaj, A.J. (2000) The political elite and the introduction of political participation in Oman. Middle East Policy 7 (3), 97–110. Al-Issa, A. and Dahan, L.S. (2011) Global English and endangered Arabic in the United Arab Emirates. In L.S. Dahan and A. Al-Issa (eds) Global English and Arabic: Issues of Language, Culture and Identity (pp. 1–22). Oxford: Peter Lang. Badry, F. (2011) Appropriating English: Languages in identity construction in the United Arab Emirates. In L.S. Dahan and A. Al-Issa (eds) Global English and Arabic: Issues of Language, Culture and Identity (pp. 81–122). Oxford: Peter Lang. Babar, Z.R. (2014) The cost of belonging. The Middle East Journal 68 (3), 403–420. Bassiouney, R. (2009) Arabic Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Callen, M.T., Cherif, R., Hasanov, F., Hegazy, M.A. and Khandelwal, P. (2014) Economic Diversification in the GCC: Past, Present, and Future. International Monetary Fund. Carvalho Pinto, V. (2014) From ‘follower’ to ‘role model’: The transformation to the UAE’s international self-image. Journal of Arabian Studies 4 (2), 231–243. Dahan, L.S. and Al-Issa, A. (eds) (2011) Global English and Arabic: Issues of Language, Culture and Identity. Oxford: Peter Lang. EIU (2009) The GCC in 2020. The Gulf and its People. London: Economic Intelligence Unit. EIU (2010) The GCC in 2020. Resources for the Future. London: Economic Intelligence Unit. Gardner, A. (2010) City of Strangers: Gulf Migration and the Indian Community in Bahrain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell/ILR Press. Helliwell, J.F., Layard, R. and Sachs, J. (eds) (2015) World Happiness Report 2015. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Holes, C.D. (2011) Language and identity in the Arabian Gulf. Journal of Arabian Studies 1 (2), 129–145. Jain, P.C. and Kumar, K. (2012) Indian Trade Diaspora in the Arabian Peninsula. New Delhi: New Academic Publishers. Kraidy, M.M. (2014) Mapping Arab television. Structures, sites, genres, flows and politics. In K.G. Wilkins, J.D. Straubhaar and S. Kumar (eds) Global Communication: New Agendas in Communication (pp. 35–49). Oxon: Routledge. Machado, P. (2014) Ocean of Trade. South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean 1770–1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Peterson, J.E. (2004) Oman’s diverse society: Northern Oman. Middle East Journal 58, 32–51. Peterson, J.E. (2011) Oman faces the 21st century. In M.A. Tétreault, G. Okruhlik and A. Kaspiszewski (eds) Political Change in the Arab Gulf States: Stuck in Transition (pp. 99–118). London: Lynne Rienner. Renuka, M. (2011) ‘Bollywood’s Second Home: Dubai, Where Receptiveness of Bollywood Movies is Ever-Increasing’. The Economic Times (New Delhi), 14 August. See http:// (accessed 2 December 2015).

Introduc t ion


Samier, E. (2015) Emirati women’s higher educational leadership formation under globalisation: Culture, religion, politics, and the dialectics of modernisation. Gender and Education 27 (3), 239–254. Sater, J. (2014) Citizenship and migration in Arab Gulf monarchies. Citizenship Studies 18 (3–4), 292–302. Schvaneveldt, P.L., Kerpelman, J.L. and Schvaneveldt, J.D. (2005) Generational and cultural changes in family life in the United Arab Emirates: A comparison of mothers and daughters. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36 (1), 77–91. Vora, N. (2014) Between global citizenship and Qatarization: Negotiating Qatar’s new knowledge economy within American branch campuses. Ethnic & Racial Studies 37 (12), 2243–2260. Vora, N. (2015) Is the university universal? Mobile (re)constitutions of American academia in the Gulf Arab States. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 46 (1), 19–36. Wilkins, S. and Urbanovič, J. (2014) English as the lingua franca in transnational higher education: Motives and prospects of institutions that teach in languages other than English. Journal of Studies in International Education 18 (5), 405–425. Wilkins, S., Balakrishnan, M.S. and Huisman, J. (2012) Student satisfaction and student perceptions of quality at international branch campuses in the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 34, 543–556.

Part 1 Multilingualism in Private Spheres and Public Spaces


Heritage, Heteroglossia and Home: Multilingualism in Emirati Families Gary T. O’Neill

Introduction The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an increasingly diverse country due in part to the steady transnational inflow of expatriate labour that has occurred over the past 50 years. Linguistically, it is becoming a superdiverse society (Vertovec, 2007) in which several varieties of Arabic, Indian languages, Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, English and many other languages can be heard by simply walking through one of its many palatial shopping malls. Expatriate workers and their families represent 88.5% of the country’s population, while Emirati nationals account for the remaining 11.5% (UAE National Bureau of Statistics, 2011). Globally, the fact that migrants outnumber locals to such a degree is an unusual state of affairs. Public debates demonstrate that Emiratis feel some ambivalence about being a minority in their own country. While there is widespread recognition of the need for foreign expertise and labour to build and service the economy, newspaper editorials frequently voice Emirati concerns that the national language, culture and traditions are under threat (e.g. Ahmed, 2013; Swan, 2014; Zayed, 2013). English, in particular, is seen as a seductive influence by some (Pennington, 2014, 2015), dominating many aspects of life in the country. Consequently, the emergence of ‘Arabizi’ or ‘Arabish’, a mix of Emirati Arabic (EA) and English used in both spoken and online written contexts, particularly among young people, is a frequent cause for concern and debate (Leech, 2013). Arabizi may involve the mixing of Arabic and



Par t 1: Mult ilingualism in Pr ivate Spheres and Public Spaces

English words in daily speech, as follows (overheard recently by the author on a university campus): Student A: Agoolich … Inti finished the homework hag el Communication class? Student B: Still … You’re done, sah? Student A: No, wallah. I didn’t even start it. Student A: Student B: Student A:

Hey [lit. ‘I say to you’] … Did you finish the homework for the Communication class? Not yet … You’re done, right? No, honestly. I didn’t even start it.

Arabizi may also be seen in online written contexts involving either the mixing of Arabic and English words using Arabic script or, more commonly, a modified Latin script (see Bianchi, 2012; Palfreyman & Al Khalil, 2003). In addition to the Arabizi phenomenon, young Emiratis can also often be heard switching between English and EA for extended stretches, or may be seen chatting or posting online (e.g. on Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat) in EA using the Arabic script in some postings and in English using the Latin script in others, often when addressing their fellow Emiratis. It is against this background that this study asks how the changes that the UAE has experienced in the last 50 years have impacted language practices in Emirati homes. It focuses in particular on language practices in the homes of female Emirati graduates and undergraduates of a mainly Englishmedium national public university based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that caters largely for Emirati nationals, the majority of whom are female. The families of these young women generally support English-medium higher education for their daughters. They are, to varying degrees, persuaded of the instrumental necessity of English in the UAE and see it as a vital part of the country’s development and their daughters’ future careers and married lives. They expect their children to be able to communicate successfully in English in encounters outside the home; they also expect them to be literate in both Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and English. However, attitudes to the use of English (and other foreign languages) in the home vary considerably from family to family, leading to diverse home language practices across Emirati society that might be arranged along a continuum from monolingual to multilingual, or diglossic to heteroglossic. The degree of linguistic diversity and language mixing among some Emirati families was summed up by AlShaima, a graduate of the university and one of the Emirati reviewers who read a draft of this chapter: I could see one or two of my friends … in your samples, like S – her mom is from Iran and they speak a mixture of Emirati Arabic and Farsi, N – her

Her it age, Heteroglossia and Home


mom is Indian and they speak EA, Urdu and English, R – she is a Bedouin who speaks EA with her family while mixing EA, other Arabic dialects and English with us, her friends. Her younger sister on the other hand tends to prefer and uses mostly English at home and with her peers and siblings but definitely not with her Bedouin grandparents. There are many other examples, and those only from my social arena … Following an outline of the key concepts and methods used in the study, I will draw primarily on quantitative data to describe linguistic change in Emirati families over the past three generations before going on to present and discuss ethnographic findings related to the place of Arabic, English and other languages in contemporary Emirati homes.

Theory of Practice, Indexicality, Language Ideology and Heteroglossia The research reported here forms part of a larger project which investigates first and second language and literacy practices in English and Arabic in a national university. The study uses Bourdieu’s theory of practice and the concepts of indexicality, language ideology and heteroglossia to focus on the home language and literacy practices of young women and their families, with particular emphasis on their linguistic predispositions and beliefs within rapidly changing local and global contexts. Bourdieu’s theory of practice aims to connect everyday practices, including language practices, with the social and historical forces that created them. For Bourdieu (1977: 653), a ‘whole social structure is present in interaction’. Three key terms he employs are ‘habitus’, ‘field’ and ‘capital’. ‘Habitus’ refers to the embodied dispositions of people and institutions that prompt them to act in particular ways, which are structured by historical life experiences but which are also structuring in themselves (Bourdieu, 1984). Habitus operates within ‘fields’ or structured social spaces, using various types of ‘capital’ (cultural, scientific, linguistic, etc.). These three concepts work together to create practices, as follows (1984: 101): [(habitus)(capital)] + field = practice In other words, ‘practice results from relations between one’s dispositions (habitus) and one’s position in a field (capital), within the current state of play of that social arena (field)’ (Maton, 2008: 51). These concepts will be used in this chapter to examine how changing linguistic predispositions across and within generations, changes in the nature of linguistic capital (e.g. growing English language proficiency in the younger generation) and an increasingly diverse ‘linguistic market’ – a term used by Bourdieu (1991),


Par t 1: Mult ilingualism in Pr ivate Spheres and Public Spaces

similar to ‘linguistic field’ – are leading to changing language and literacy practices in Emirati homes. Three other concepts that link micro and the macro contexts, and which are of value to this study, are ‘indexicality’, ‘language ideology’ and ‘heteroglossia’. ‘Indexicality’ refers to ‘language’s ability – through the sign – to call up social knowledge and association in an immediate and local context’ (Blackledge & Creese, 2010: 64). Choices as to which language or dialect to use in a given context, for example, may index subject positions (Davies & Harre, 1990) related to membership in a specific cultural or national group. Language choices are motivated by personal dispositions and indexicalities rooted in language ideologies, i.e. ‘beliefs about language, the ideas we hold about what good language is and “what the right thing to do” linguistically is’ (Piller, 2011: 158). Traditional ideologies of language and multilingualism tended to view languages as separate bounded autonomous entities. However, several researchers working in the field of multilingualism and linguistic ethnography (e.g. Blackledge & Creese, 2010; Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004; Rampton et al., 2014) view the perceived boundaries between languages as socially and ideologically constructed yet permeable. The term ‘heteroglossia’ (Bakhtin, 1981) has been employed by several of these scholars to describe situations in which people negotiate meaning using whatever signs they have at their disposal. Ivanov (1999: 100) defines heteroglossia as ‘the simultaneous use of different kinds of speech or other signs, the tension between them, and their conflicting relationship …’, and the concept has considerable purchase in describing phenomena such as ‘Arabizi’ in multilingual contexts such as the UAE. Although language and literacy researchers may see linguistic boundaries as socially constructed, permeable and blurred, emic or participant-relevant beliefs may tell a very different story. Local language ideologies may construct languages as bounded entities with differing indexicalities, and this may lead members of particular national and cultural communities to fiercely patrol the boundaries of ‘their’ languages (or dialects) and the identities that they index, particularly in times of social change. This study uses the above concepts to show how Emirati homes have become key locations in which locals, with their various predispositions, negotiate identities and position themselves with regard to cultural heritage and rapid sociocultural change and in relation to distinct ideologies of multilingualism.

Method The methodological frameworks employed in this project to focus on socially situated language and literacy practices, are those of the Ethnography of Literacy (e.g. Baynham, 2004; Street, 1984) and Linguistic Ethnography

Her it age, Heteroglossia and Home


(e.g. Copland & Creese, 2015; Rampton et al., 2014). To investigate the initial question which concerns how female Emirati undergraduates engage with literacy in Arabic and English, I observed and interacted with students in the University, both in class and out of class (e.g. in office hours meetings, or informal meetings around campus). The field notes derived from these observations, in addition to other data such as discussion board postings, literacy journal entries and social network comments, were part of Stage One of the project, which began in 2011. Additionally, a ‘selective intermittent time mode’ of ethnographic enquiry (Jeffrey & Troman, 2004: 540) has continued throughout the project until the time of writing this chapter, in the second half of 2014. Stage Two of the project involved what Dörnyei (2007: 167) refers to as a ‘two-phased design’ – a questionnaire followed by semi-structured interviews. The questionnaire was based on the themes emerging in the first part of the project as well as close observations of language and literacy in this context based on 10 years’ teaching experience in the UAE. Thus, the research employs quantitative survey methods within an overall ethnographic design (Blommaert & Van de Vijver, 2013). The questionnaire incorporated both closed and open-ended questions which focused on several aspects of literacy as a socially situated phenomenon. For the purposes of this study, questionnaire data on the following topics were used: stated L1 and L2 of respondents, parents and grandparents; ability to read and write in L1 and L2 of respondents, parents and grandparents. The questionnaire was sent out by email to all female students and alumnae on both Dubai and Abu Dhabi campuses. Five hundred respondents completed 95–100% of the 42 questions and a further 212 completed at least 50%. The final sample of 712 respondents represented approximately 10% of the University population and was made up of approximately 20% of respondents from each of the four years of study and 20% graduated students. Mean responses on all questions were compared and in order to test for significant differences and similarities between sub-groupings – e.g. with regard to L2 of participants and their grandparents – inferential statistical analysis was carried out using an online two-tailed, two-proportion Z test (Stangroom, 2013). In order to reject the null hypothesis (i.e. that there would be no difference in the responses between sub-groupings), results at p < 0.05 were considered to be statistically significant. However, in most cases the findings were significant at p < 0.01. The data presented here relate to Emirati nationals only and the sample sizes range from 676 to 686. The in-depth interviews, which were conducted in English, were semistructured and retrospective (Dörnyei, 2007). The interviewees’ responses to the questionnaires were used as the basis for the interviews, but participants were given space to expand on their responses, with the aim of developing a participant-relevant, emic or ‘thick’ description (Geertz, 2007) of literacy and language practices in this context. A purposive sampling procedure was used


Par t 1: Mult ilingualism in Pr ivate Spheres and Public Spaces

to identify 30 participants for the interviews from the survey respondents who agreed to be contacted for further information (details of the sampling procedure are given in O’Neill, 2014). As I gathered data and began the analysis, it became clear that there were differing practices among the respondents with regard to literacy in English and MSA due to factors such as family, home and school background, leisure time interests, local and online social networks and differing degrees of exposure to life in an increasingly diverse country (reported in O’Neill, 2014). It also became clear that there were differing predispositions with regard to language choice in daily spoken interactions involving EA and English, and so predispositions in daily speech practices became a concurrent focus of the project along with literacy. In addition to the survey and interview data, I have drawn on data from responses to an online Discussion Board (DB) question which arose from a classroom conversation about languages used at home and at university and the importance of the native language. Wherever participant comments, such as the DB postings, are quoted directly in this chapter, they are reported verbatim, retaining any ‘nonstandard’ usage in spelling, grammar, capitalisation or punctuation, and one of the comments is presented in its original ‘chat room language’ form. The name of each quoted participant is given (mostly using real first names, as was the preference of all but one of the participants, along with the initial letter of patronyms where there are participants with the same name, e.g. Hessa A and Hessa M), along with their age and an indication as to their school background: Arabic-medium public school (AMPuS), Arabic-medium private school (AMPrS) or English-medium private school (EMPrS). Finally, in addition to asking some of the key respondents to review my findings, to ensure that they ‘ring true’ for Emirati readers, I also asked AlShaima, a recent International Studies graduate, to read a draft of the chapter for an additional Emirati perspective.

Linguistic Change across Three Generations I begin my analysis by giving some background, based on the questionnaire data, on the changing linguistic profile of Emirati families over the past three generations. The vast majority of respondents (95.3%) consider EA as their L1 (see Table 1.1). The same is true, though to a lesser degree, of their parents and grandparents. There is no significant difference between daughters and fathers with regard to L1, but daughters are significantly more likely to have EA as their L1 than their mothers (Z-Score 6.5084, p-value 0), which reflects the fact that marriages between Emirati males and non-Emirati females are

Her it age, Heteroglossia and Home


Table 1.1 First languages of Emirati nationals* What is your first language, and what about other members of your family? Emirati nationals

Emirati Arabic




95.3% (647) 94.4% (641) 84.7% (575) 85.1% (576) 82.7% (576) 74.8% (504) 72.4% (487) 84.2% (570)

0.2% (1) 0.4% (3) 4.9% (33) 1.0% (7) 1.6% (11) 5.5% (37) 6.2% (42) 2.8% (19.1)

0.4% 3.1% 0.7% 0.3% (3) (21) (5) (2) 3.5% 0.3% 1.2% 0.2% (24) (2) (8) (1) 4.3% 0.9% 5.3% 0% (29) (6) (36) (0) 10.2% 0.2% 1.9% 1.6% (69) (1) (13) (11) 11.4% 0.3% 2.8% 1.2% (77) (2) (19) (8) 10.5% 0.9% 7.1% 1.2% (71) (6) (48) (8) 12.0% 0.9% 7.3% 1.2% (81) (6) (49) (8) 7.5% 0.9% 3.7% 0.8% (50.7) (6.3) (25.4) (5.4) Total Respondents (for this question) (skipped this question)

Father Mother Grandfather (Father’s side) Grandmother (Father’s side) Grandfather (Mother’s side) Grandmother (Mother’s side) Mean


Another Lang.

Don’t know

Total 679 679 679 677 677 674 673 676.9 680 5

* Percentages have been rounded to one decimal point.

far more common than those between Emirati females and non-Emirati males. Although EA is the most common first language of Emirati mothers (84.68%), almost 15% are L1 speakers of other languages, such as Urdu, Ajami (the local unofficial name for a Farsi dialect spoken in the south of Iran and in several Arab Peninsula countries), English, Farsi, Balochi, Tagalog (and other Philippine languages/dialects) and other Arab dialects. There is an even greater statistical difference in the data for respondents and maternal grandparents, with approximately 25% of the latter group reportedly having languages other than EA as their L1. There are also statistically significant differences between the respondents and paternal grandparents. For example, approximately 15% of paternal grandfathers are reportedly not L1 users of EA. Among both paternal and maternal grandparents who are not L1 EA users, Ajami is identified as the most common language/dialect spoken. With regard to second language (L2), there have also been some significant changes across the three generations (Table 1.2). English is overwhelmingly the reported L2 of the respondents (91%) but there is a significant


Par t 1: Mult ilingualism in Pr ivate Spheres and Public Spaces

Table 1.2 Second languages of Emirati nationals* What is your second language, and what about other members of your family? Emirati nationals

Emirati Arabic




Another No Don’t lang. second know lang.


4.4% (30)

1.0% 1.8% (7) (12)

91.3% 0.6% (621) (4)

0.6% (4)

0.3% (2)



8.2% (55)

5.6% 7.8% (38) (53)

66.7% 1.3% (450) (9)

8.6% (58)

1.6% (11)



15.4% (103)

2.4% 9.7% (16) (65)

53.8% 2.9% (360) (20)

14.7% (98)

1.1% (7)


Grandfather (Father’s side)

17.9% (119)

6.6% 8.8% (44) (58)

12.9% 2.9% (86) (19)

33.3% (221)

17.5% 669 (116)

Grandmother (Father’s side)

21% (139)

2.6% 8.0% (17) (53)

7.5% (50)

3.5% (23)

42.5% (281)

15% (99)

Grandfather (Mother’s side)

18.5% (123)

6.5% 8.3% (43) (55)

13.6% 4.5% (90) (30)

32.6% (216)

15.9% 663 (106)

Grandmother (Mother’s side)

20.4% (135)

3.3% 8.5% (22) (56)

8.6% (57)

41.9% (278)

13.1% 662 (87)

4.1% (27)



Total Respondents (for this question) 681 (skipped this question) 4 * Percentages have been rounded to one decimal point.

difference between this generation and that of their parents. While the most common L2 of respondents’ fathers is reported to be English, the percentage is significantly lower, at 66.7% (Z-score of 11.1121, p-value of 0). The figure for mothers is lower still, at 53.8%, though it is still the most common L2. However, the main differences can be seen in the grandparents’ generation, where English is not the majority L2. Only 12.9% of paternal grandfathers, for example, are reported to have English as L2. Compared with the current generation, this is an enormous statistical difference (Z-score of 28.7516, p-value of 0), and compared with the respondents’ fathers’ generation, it is also significant (Z-score of 20.0673, p-value of 0). The figure for English as L2 for paternal grandmothers is even lower, at 7.5%. In terms of other L2 languages, among the fathers’ generation, languages such as Urdu (5.6%) and Ajami (7.8%) are reported, and a significant number reportedly have no L2 (8.6%). In the case of mothers, reported second languages include EA, Urdu, Ajami, Tagalog (or other languages of the Philippines), Balochi and Farsi.

Her it age, Heteroglossia and Home


Among grandparents, a large number reportedly have no L2 (e.g. 41.9% of maternal grandmothers). When this is compared to the figure of 0.6% of respondents who report no L2 for themselves, a significant difference is evident (Z-score of −18.6141, p-value of 0). The figure of 0.6% relates to a small number of respondents who regard English as being their L1 and do not speak Arabic or any other L2. Other languages are reported as being L2 for grandparents. For example, 20.4% of maternal grandmothers are reported as EA L2, and other languages are reported, such as Urdu (3.3%), Ajami (8.6%) and others as mentioned above. Additionally, respondents were more likely to respond ‘I don’t know’ when asked about grandparents’ L2 (e.g. 13.4% for maternal grandmothers). This is partly due to the fact that grandparents may be deceased, but in some cases, respondents had no evidence as to whether or not their living grandparents spoke a second language and in other cases, they could not decide which language could be regarded as their L2. AlShaima commented that in the pre-oil era, maritime occupations such as fishing and pearl diving and trade with the Indian sub-continent, Iran and Eastern Africa were among the most prominent economic activities. Thus, there was a need for some locals to have a knowledge of Urdu, Farsi and Swahili, and little need at that time for English (despite the fact, I would add, that the Trucial States were a British protectorate from 1820 to 1971). Languages of literacy and literacy levels show a similar change across the three generations (Table 1.3). The majority of respondents can read and write in their first and second languages, as one would expect of undergraduates and alumnae of a university that requires students to be bilingual. Biliteracy is also evident in the parents’ generation, but to a lesser extent. The majority of fathers are reported to be able to read (89.8%) and write (85.9%) in their first language and 71.4% and 66.4% (respectively) are able to read and write in their L2. Some fathers are described as being unable to read and write (5.3% and 5.8% respectively). The figures for mothers are generally lower but not significantly different from those for fathers, except that fathers are significantly more likely to be able to read in L2 (Z-score of 3.5186, p-value of 0.00044) and write in L2 (Z-score of 3.845, p-value of 0.00012). Also, fathers are slightly less likely to be reported as ‘not able to write’ than mothers (Z-score of −2.3574, p-value of 0.01828, significant at p < 0.05). The data for the grandparents’ generation is quite different. Only in the case of maternal grandfathers is a majority reported as being able to read in L1 (50.8%), and as few as 39.2% of maternal grandmothers are reported as being able to read in their L1. Grandfathers are significantly more likely to be able to read in L1 than their spouses (for maternal grandfathers and grandmothers, Z-score of 4.3092, p-value of 0) and grandparents are significantly less likely to be able to read and write in L1 than their children and their grandchildren. For example, for granddaughters and paternal grandfathers

95.3% (647) 85.9% (583) 83.1% (564) 41.7% (283)

26.6% (181)

45.4% (309)

31.1% (211)

97.5% (662) 89.8% (610) 87.5% (594) 46.8% (318)

35.5% (240)

50.8% (345)

39.2% (266)

Yourself Father Mother Grandfather (Father’s side) Grandmother (Father’s side) Grandfather (Mother’s side) Grandmother (Mother’s side)

* Percentages have been rounded to one decimal point.

Can write in first language

Emirati nationals Can read in first language

What languages can you/they read and write in?

10.5% (71)

19% (129)

7.2% (49)

93.4% (634) 71.4% (485) 62.4% (424) 16.6% (113)

Can read in second language

Table 1.3 Emirati nationals’ languages of literacy*

9.0% (61)

16.2% (110)

5.7% (39)

93.1% (632) 66.4% (451) 56.3% (382) 12.8% (87)

Can write in second language

31.1% (211)

18.1% (123)

31.7% (215)

0% (0) 5.9% (40) 9.3% (63) 20.7% (141)

Not able to write

29.3% (199)

31.4% (213)

33% (224)

0% (0) 4.1% (28) 4.6% (31) 33.1% (225)

Not sure about this




2582 2233 2108 1306


Total Respondents (for this question) 679 (skipped this question) 6

28.9% (196)

17.4% (118)

29.5% (200)

0% (0) 5.3% (36) 7.4% (50) 20.5% (139)

Not able to read

22 Par t 1: Mult ilingualism in Pr ivate Spheres and Public Spaces

Her it age, Heteroglossia and Home


with regard to reading, data analysis gives a Z-score of 20.821, and a p-value of 0. The data for writing in L1 is similar (Z-score of 21.2612, p-value of 0). With regard to L2, a minority of grandparents is reported as being literate (e.g. only 16.6% of paternal grandfathers and 7.2% paternal grandmothers are reported as being able to read in L2, and 12.81% and 5.74% (respectively) are reportedly able to write in L2). Once again, the males of this generation are more likely to be literate than the females (for paternal grandfathers and grandmothers with regard to reading, Z-score of 5.358, p-value of 0). The grandparent generation is far more likely to be reported as unable to read and write than their children and grandchildren. With regard to reading, for example, 17.4% of maternal grandfathers and 28.9% of maternal grandmothers are reported as being ‘not able to read’ and 18.1% and 31.1% respectively, ‘not able to write’. This is significantly different from the data for their children and grandchildren’s generations. The data also confirms the pattern of greater male literacy in this generation. Several interviewees and literacy journal respondents commented on the fact that, in some families, girls were less likely to be educated than boys, and that it was often ‘aib’ or ‘shameful’ for girls to be seen reading, especially when there were household chores to be done. AlShaima commented as follows: I think … education was viewed as something that would change the feminine nature of girls and would make them develop unusual aspirations, such as working/getting a job, or perhaps develop a brain or a personality that would enable her to contest men or patriarchal social rules. Another interesting finding from this data is that almost a third of respondents were unsure as to whether or not their grandparents could read or write. Interview data suggests that this may be due to the fact that some grandparents may be deceased or not living locally, or that some respondents had never seen their grandparents engaged in literacy events or practices. Another possibility suggested by the interviews is that some respondents drew a distinction between being able to read and rote memorisation. At katateeb schools, many of this generation were taught to read through rote memorisation of the Quran, and may not have developed the ability to read other texts in Arabic, or even other published versions of the Quran. Against this background of dramatic language change in the UAE over the last three generations, what do young Emiratis report about language practices in their homes?

Languages in Contemporary Emirati Homes The background statistical data have shown that there has been a great deal of change in the linguistic and literacy landscape of the UAE in the last


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three generations. There has been a move towards a greater degree of multilingualism, English as the main L2 and higher levels of literacy and biliteracy. This has occurred alongside great changes in the physical landscape of the country over the 43 years since its establishment, the construction of worldfamous cities such as Dubai, greater diversity in the local population due to the inflow of expatriate labour, the introduction of formal education, the shift in Emirati employment patterns and the almost universal take-up in the younger generation of online and mobile technologies. Responses to the DB thread on languages of the home, in addition to the interview data, revealed that many Emiratis subscribe to an ideology of multilingualism that accepts the need for developing linguistic capital in languages other than Arabic, particularly English, but believe that languages should be domain-specific. EA is regarded by most Emiratis as the appropriate language of the home and families differ in the extent to which other languages, and language mixing, are considered acceptable in this environment. At one end of the continuum, some families have a monolingual policy of ‘Arabic only’ in the home – or diglossic EA/MSA to be more precise – and do not allow other languages to be used in daily home conversation. In these families, English is seen as appropriate only outside the home: Usually I speak with my family, friends and parents Arabic. I feel comfortable and more confident if i talk in Arabic. My parents actually didn’t like us to use english with them and let it only for outside. (Hessa N, aged 20, AMPuS, DB Posting) A common reason given for a policy of ‘Arabic only’ in some families is the fact that EA and MSA are widely regarded as precious resources that represent Emirati, Arab and Muslim heritage and identity. Speaking and understanding EA in the home indexes Emirati nationality for the majority of participants: Local Arabic is vital in Arabs’ life. When people use the common Arabic accent that is used amongst each other (local Arabic), both parties feel a strong cultural bond that connects them, and the flow of the conversation makes it easier for them to understand what is being said. Also, it’s a great way of expressing their complex variety of emotions in words that they feel comfortable and confident when using. Using the idioms and proverbs in local Arabic will summarize the complicated thoughts people want to deliver, in simple yet meaningful words that possess the past civilization of ones country and truthful, pure words. (Muna, aged 18, EMPrS, DB Posting) The main languages I speak at home are Arabic and English. I prefer Arabic because I can explain all my feelings, ideas and thoughts easily

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without adding any emotions or unreal description. I mix English with Arabic all the time without feeling and maybe because I hate English sometimes. It’s very important to speak our native language at home or out of the home because it’s represent our identity of Arab and Emirati. Also it’s important for the next generation. They should know their language better than the others. (Fetoon, aged 19, AMPuS, DB Posting) Because of the rise of Arabizi and the fact that Emiratis can often be heard speaking English together (and chatting in English online), EA is often mentioned as being a language in danger of erosion or extinction. Its use in the home is therefore seen as key to its survival: Keeping your native language as the main language in the household is very important, because if you don’t speak it in the house, then you wouldn’t speak it in the outside world either. We, Arabs, can’t afford to lose our language too. (Hessa N, aged 20, AMPuS, DB Posting) The home is one of the main venues for EA use, since in the multilingual, often heteroglossic, world outside the home, EA is a minority language. Respondents’ use of other languages in the home, particularly English or Arabizi, is met with a variety of reactions, from anger to amusement: The main language spoken in the house is Arabic, I also add a few English words when I speak with my parents and siblings. My mother hates it when we speak English because she finds it disrespectful when we do not speak in our native language. (Hamda, aged 20, EMPrS, DB Posting) Speaking our native language is very important especially if we are dealing with elders since most of them don’t speak English, they always make fun of us whenever we speak in English and say ‘do you think you are Americans?’ (Mahra, aged 19, EMPrS, DB Posting) As the statistical data above have shown, English tends not to be a shared L2 for respondents and their grandparents and, to some extent, respondents and their parents. Therefore, much of the English linguistic capital that exists in Emirati families resides in the younger generation. Aside from the cultural objections parents and grandparents might have, the use of other languages such as English is not even a possibility for communication in some families, particularly at the weekly family gatherings, which are normally held at grandparents’ homes. In other words, there are strong dispositions within these families towards Arabic, greater linguistic capital in Arabic and Arabic holds greater value for them in the multilingual marketplace of modern day UAE due to the fact that it indexes Emirati, Arab and Muslim identity. Therefore, home language practices in these families tend to be almost


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exclusively in Arabic, particularly EA. The instrumental value of English for daily life outside the home is widely recognised, but it is seen by some families as almost invasive in the home context – hence there are strong reactions when English or Arabizi are used. In some households, the preferred language of parents is EA but their children may have different preferences. This is particularly true in the families of respondents who attended English-medium private schools and/or those who have developed strong leisure time interests through the medium of English, or who identify strongly with being a part of a social network (online or ‘offline’ in the ‘real world’) in which English is the lingua franca. These young people often have a strong habitus towards English (O’Neill, 2014) and may be more comfortable speaking English than Arabic, or mixing the two languages heteroglossically, often without being aware of doing so. One DB respondent, Latifa, an EMPrS graduate, daughter of Emirati Arabicspeaking parents, commented as follows: Growing up watching a lot of television and movies, and reading quite an amount of comics, I generally speak English more than Arabic, but it’s a mix at home. At home, I speak nothing but Arabic with my parents, grandmother, and driver. With my siblings, I speak to most of them in English, but I speak Arabic with my younger sister and brother half the time. My closest sister and I always make fun of ourselves in how we lack Emirati qualities in the way we speak and act. My parents make fun of us too, of course. (Latifa, aged 19, EMPrS, DB Posting) She goes on to describe a speech event which might be seen as an example of ‘cleft habitus’ (Bourdieu, 2007; O’Neill, 2014), ‘where the dispositions a child develops as a result of early experiences in the home are at odds with the attitudes learnt through other experiences, most often at school’ (Hardy, 2011: 172): Just last month, I was having lunch at home with my family, when my little brother was telling us about his day at school (my father was there, so he had to speak Arabic). I asked him a question, and he began to respond to me in Arabic, but slowly shifted his language to English. After that, my brother, along with me and two of our sisters, were having a conversation in English. My father quickly interrupted us, telling us to stop speaking English and to speak in Arabic instead. I never speak Arabic with my youngest sister. It was very awkward. (Latifa, aged 19, EMPrs, DB Posting) Latifa concedes that she and her siblings ‘… are technically Emirati’ and that they ‘are supposed to try to fit in’ and she says of herself in this regard: ‘I don’t think I’m doing a good job at that’. She claims that she does not feel particularly Emirati nor Arab, nor that she has any particular cultural

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identity, even in terms of English. Indeed, she reports that when she is online, members of the forums to which she contributes are often surprised to learn that she comes from this part of the world given the opinions she expresses and the way that she expresses them. She believes also that she does not sound Emirati in daily conversation. She recalls being comfortable using Arabic in her early years and, even though she attended English-medium primary school, used EA regularly at school. However, once she left mixed classes, from Grade 5 onwards, and was in segregated, girls-only classes, she says English began to dominate and she started, unconsciously, to develop a non-Emirati accent in Arabic. Her sisters went through a similar process, and to the present day other Emiratis sometimes comment on their ‘non-local’ accent. One of her older sisters recently married and is reportedly now trying to adapt her accent so that she sounds more Emirati to her husband’s family. Latifa is unsure as to where this ‘non-Emirati’ accent comes from since both parents are from families that have spoken EA for several generations. Several months after writing the DB posting, Latifa reports that she is now trying to make more effort to speak Arabic with her siblings, though she still does not strongly identify with the language. Several participants mentioned concerns in their families about children who have difficulty using EA in the home. Some talked of siblings or cousins who had picked up MSA in their speech as a result of watching cartoons in MSA or other Arabic dialects due to their social networks at school or in the local neighbourhood. However, more concern was expressed about those children who replace EA with English. Interviewee Hessa M, for example, mentioned that there was concern in her family about her sister, a senior in an English-medium private high school, who uses only English in the home even when spoken to in EA. One of the reasons Hessa gives for this is that at school, her sister happens to have been placed in a class in which half of the students are in ‘Special Arabic’ – a class for non-native speakers of Arabic. Thus, although she is not placed in Special Arabic classes herself, her social circle is made up largely of Iranians and other non-native Arabic speakers, so English has become her primary language of communication and this has transferred to the home. Hessa recalled how she had attempted to encourage her sister to speak EA for a two-day period by only speaking EA with her but had eventually abandoned the project as it had proved too difficult for both of them. Hessa reported that her parents had begun using English words with their daughter in order to be able to communicate with her. Hessa explains that her own trajectory was somewhat different in that, although she too attended English-medium schools and is very oriented to English, especially in terms of her literacy, she mostly mixed with Emiratis at school and so became used to using EA, albeit mixed with English. At home she is generally able to use EA by itself, though finding the right word can be difficult on occasions and she is forced to consciously translate from English, or use English words. When chatting with friends at university, she uses


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‘Emirati Arabic with English words inserted’. Hessa might be described as having a heteroglossic ‘dual linguistic habitus’ in that she is willing and able to operate in English and Arabic (and Arabizi); however, her sister’s case might be described as a particularly marked example of cleft habitus. The DB postings of another respondent, Hessa A, are further evidence of cleft habitus and illustrate how complex it can be to negotiate life in an Arabic-speaking family when embodied linguistic predispositions tend more towards English. Hessa values Arabic greatly and is able to use EA for basic daily conversations, though struggles somewhat with reading and writing MSA, which is something she is not happy about. She is most fluent in English, yet this has effects on her family life, she feels: Another personal experience is not being able to express my feelings in arabic. My mother knows basic english. So whenever I want to talk to my mother about something bothering me I can’t express myself and she tries her best to understand who [how] I feel. This made me prefer to talk to my sisters and close friends rather than her. Its not a great feeling not being to express your feeling because you basically do not know your language. (Hessa A, aged 19, EMPrS, DB Posting) Hessa’s twin sister, Hend, also mentions the expressive value of English for her and how it leads her to shift from EA to Arabizi to English: For example when I speak to anyone I will start talking in arabic after that I will say an english word here and there and when the conversation starts to get really deep I end up talking in english only because I know thats the only way I fully express myself. (Hend A, aged 19, EMPrs, DB posting) Hessa and Hend’s predispositions contrast markedly with those of Fetoon, quoted earlier in this section, who explained in a short interview recently (and I paraphrase) that she feels that she is not able to communicate her feelings in a nuanced way in English as she either expresses herself too strongly, or not strongly enough, in contrast to Arabic, in which she feels that she is able to communicate with precision. Thus, even though she sometimes mixes Arabic and English when interacting with her mother (mostly when they do not want her younger siblings to understand the conversation), if she wishes to express deeper feelings, she reports that she tends to use Arabic exclusively. Regardless of her predispositions towards English, Hessa A feels that Emirati Arabic is vital for family cohesion. She gives the example of a relative who comes from a family in which English has been prioritised: I have a cousin that has a 3 year-old girl called Reem, and from birth she has spoken to her in english. She can barely say that her name is Reem

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in arabic. When we have family gatherings we all feel closer and play with the ones that speak more arabic than english. I have not noticed we all do this, until I read this question and tried to notice it in the gathering today. It is vastly important for children to be taught their native language before being taught any foreign language. (Hessa A, aged 19, EMPrS, DB posting) Adopting a monolingual policy of ‘English only’ or ‘English mostly’ may be a deliberate attempt by some parents to give children a head start by building capital in English from an early age and paying little or no attention to EA or MSA. Although only a small minority of families appear to take this particular approach, several respondents knew of such cases among family members, friends or acquaintances, and usually reported it disapprovingly. One respondent, the mother of a three year old girl, Mahra, described a similar situation she knew of: I wanted her [Mahra] to be like first in Arabic and then English can be learned … because I see some other people like mothers talking to their child in English … I don’t really agree about that because they should know their first language and then this should be second language and her boy is older than my daughter but till now he can’t communicate well. The thing is she’s communicating in English but sometimes he’s listening to Arabic so I think he’s confused … he just say words in English, only like one word and then you can understand … it’s really bad and I don’t know what’s the purpose behind that … they even took him to an English school I think. (Hessa AlQ, aged 26, EMPrS/AMPuS, Interview) Here, two ideologies of language and multilingualism appear to be at work. Both see languages as being distinct entities, but one assigns languages to specific domains, prioritising heritage and tradition in the home environment, indexed through the exclusive use of EA; the other prioritises modernity, internationalism and ‘getting on’, indexed through the use of English across all domains, apparently relegating Arabic almost to foreign language status. In a large number of families, although EA is the main language of daily communication in the home, a more heteroglossic atmosphere exists, in which children are encouraged to speak English, or not discouraged from doing so. This may be because parents wish their children to develop English skills alongside their Arabic skills, or in some cases, parents themselves wish to develop their English skills by learning from their children, while in other households English is viewed as a resource from which to draw just as much as Arabic, and the boundaries between languages may be blurred. An interviewee who appears to have grown up in such an environment is Muntaha. Although she attended a private Arabic-medium school (AMPrS), she is very


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strongly oriented towards English. She explained that her father’s vision was that English would be important in the future of the UAE and so he and his wife encouraged their children to develop their English through extensive reading and using English words at home: We kind of speak like we do at the university, Arabic with English mixed in equally. Whenever my mum asks us for something and she thinks we won’t understand what she meant, she will say it in English. For example, if my mother wants something from the kitchen, she’ll ask in Arabic and then we would have a blank face, and then she says it in English, for example, the word ‘can opener’ I know in English but not local Arabic. (Muntaha, aged 21, AMPrS, Interview) Despite her private Arabic-medium primary and secondary education, Muntaha is most comfortable speaking English, or Arabizi, yet she claims that her ‘brain just works in English’, that during the teenage years ‘it became a part of my personality that I’m the person who’s good at English’ and that (like Hessa A and Hend A above), ‘I can express myself in English … like even my mother when she sees me upset or something I just said “look I don’t know how to express myself in Arabic”’. Unlike Hessa A, Muntaha seems comfortable with her level of Arabic, even though she feels it is not that strong. Yet she points out that her family’s heteroglossic policy can be a source of disapproval in the wider family: Just in our house, we are the only English-speaking children … between like my cousins and everything … they don’t speak English that much, they hate English … they think like ‘it’s not good to speak English, your first language is Arabic.’ They always like used to tell my mum ‘stop letting them, stop encouraging them for English.’ She’s like ‘wait we’ll see in the future what will happen.’ (Muntaha, aged 21, AMPrS, Interview) AlShaima commented that this kind of peer and family pressure is one reason why some Emirati families have a policy of ‘Arabic only’ in the home – fear of criticism for their children being heard to speak English or Arabizi, particularly with non-English speaking elders. She added that for some, this may be grounded in the fact that EA performs the indexical function of allowing them to distinguish ‘pure Arabs’ from, for example, Emiratis of Ajami descent, and that Arabizi, or the use of English only, dilutes this indexicality. Multilingualism is most obvious in the families of respondents of mixed Emirati/non-Emirati parentage, who may be regarded by other Emiratis as ‘not pure Arabs’ (mentioned by several interviewees, including Sarra’a, who is the daughter of Kumzari/Ajami L1 parents). Mixed marriages account for

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approximately 20% of marriages involving Emirati nationals (Shaaban, 2012). Mixed-nationality marriages between Emirati males and non-Emirati females are far more common than those between Emirati females and nonEmirati males; this is due in part to legislation in effect until recently around citizenship rights, which tended to reduce the likelihood of marriage between Emirati females and non-Emirati males (see Emirates News Agency, 2014 for recent news on this issue). Often with several languages at their disposal, these families negotiate communication in various ways. One interviewee, graduate Mona, for example, comes from a family in which multilingualism and heteroglossia are very evident. In the interview and in subsequent social network posts, Mona explained that her father is an Emirati national who himself grew up in a mixed environment, with an Emirati Arabic speaking father and an Ajami speaking mother. While reviewing this chapter, Mona commented, on the issue of Ajami not being regarded as ‘pure Arab’, that many Ajami were originally Arabs who moved from Arab countries to Iran for economic reasons and then returned speaking their Farsi dialect, which includes a large number of Arabic words. Mona’s father used both EA and Ajami growing up, so Mona is unsure as to what he would regard as being his L1. Her mother is Iranian and settled in Dubai after marrying. Farsi is the main language of communication between her parents as her mother’s Arabic is minimal and her father’s knowledge of Ajami would have been of assistance in acquiring his wife’s language. Farsi is also the language of daily communication when both parents and the children are together. When interacting just with her father, Mona uses both Farsi and EA, but the former to a slightly greater extent. In more public situations, such as at family gatherings with her father’s family, they tend to use Arabic. At such gatherings Mona’s mother speaks Farsi and other family members reply in Ajami. Mona and her siblings use either Farsi, Arabic or English with each other at home, ‘depending on the context of the conversation and the mood … for example in serious talks we tend to speak either Arabic or Farsi. I dunno why, but we just do that’. In contrast, she states that they use English ‘when we r in “cheeesy” or crazy moods J’. But she goes on to say that ‘… sometimes we tend to use a word from different languages when we feel that we cant think of the right word in the language that we r supposedly talking in at that time’. Mona’s comments demonstrate both sides of heteroglossia. She sees being multilingual as a blessing, in general; she enjoys speaking and reading several languages, and mixing them with those close to her, yet she also feels some internal conflict between her three main languages and some difficulties when communicating in one language only, as if part of her lexicon has been closed off: Sometimes it’s like frustrating because my mum sometimes doesn’t understand, ya’nee [I mean], I want to prove a point but I’m finding it


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very difficult to, to do so, as I have three languages in my head and I don’t know how to put things right. (Mona, aged 21, AMPuS, Interview) Although she is generally able to separate the three languages as the interaction demands, it seems that Mona feels most comfortable, most expressive, in a heteroglossic space where she can select freely from the three languages at her disposal, as if they were one language, and know that she will be understood. In some mixed families, English is used as a lingua franca. Interviewee Safeeya’s father is an L1 EA speaker while her mother speaks Cebuano (the Philippine language referred to by its speakers as ‘Bisaya’, or ‘Visayan’ in English). The parents communicate in English and English became the language of family communication. Safeeya and her father do not interact in EA and she sees herself as being very weak in Arabic, particularly MSA, while English is her L1, and Cebuano and Tagalog her L2 and L3. She and three of her siblings were sent to Arabic-medium schools initially, but because they were unused to Arabic at home, this proved to be difficult: My Dad tried, it didn’t work … I couldn’t take it, it’s in Arabic and he had a hard time too I mean like it was me and my sister and my brother all together and … he had to teach each of us. My mum doesn’t know Arabic so he had to teach us and he got so tired so he’s like ‘You know what? Go to private English school’. (Safeeya, aged 21, EMPrS, Interview) She was sent to English-medium schools and struggled in Arabic class and so was placed in Special Arabic as she was regarded as a non-native speaker of the language. When she arrived at university, she campaigned for the introduction of a similar Arabic class and also successfully lobbied the institution to open Islamic Studies classes in English so that she would not have to struggle to take them in Arabic. Safeeya commented that her father has changed his policy in the family after seeing the difficulties that his first four children had with Arabic at school. He now speaks EA with the fifth and sixth children in the family to develop their Arabic, but English is still the overall family lingua franca. Communication with domestic staff is another aspect of daily home interaction that is negotiated in different ways by different families. Ninetyseven percent of respondents’ families ‘bring maids and drivers’ from the Philippines, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka etc, and the majority (62%) of respondents communicate with them using Arabic. In some families, there is a preference for employing Indonesian maids, as they are predominantly Muslim; in addition to religious reasons, this is also for linguistic reasons: The main language that I use is Arabic and we never mix languages at home. All of us speak only Arabic, my parents, brothers and sisters, even

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the staff my mother brings them from Indonesia especially because most of them tend to work in Arab places, so they can speak Arabic very well. (Sara R, aged 20, AMPuS, DB Posting) In addition, Bahasa Indonesia contains a considerable number of Arabic words (Campbell, 1996), which may facilitate more rapid learning of Arabic in the workplace. Regardless of background, however, in most families, domestic staff are required to have, or to quickly acquire, Arabic, though English may be used as a lingua franca initially. In the interview data, several respondents reported that they were more likely to speak with staff in English than were their parents and grandparents, though most tend to follow the family policy. Thirty-four percent of respondents use English to communicate with domestic staff. The employment of maids is a controversial topic among Emiratis in the University, and in wider Emirati society, as evidenced in the local media (e.g. Zayed, 2013). In course discussions and written compositions, the view is regularly reiterated that employing maids has negative effects on Arabic language and culture and on the upbringing of Emirati children, for example children learning ‘non-Emirati’ accents in Arabic and ‘bad grammar’; some express the view that children’s English may also be in some ways tainted by contact with maids whose proficiency in the language may be minimal. All of these anxieties arise from a situation in which Emiratis are increasingly dependent on domestic staff. The above findings suggest that the home has become a locus for the negotiation of Emirati identity to a far greater extent than ever before as linguistic predispositions change, particularly in the younger generation. One powerful ideology of multilingualism that is at play in UAE society views languages as bounded and domain specific – EA as the language of Emirati heritage and home; Standard Arabic (Modern and Classical) as the language of Arab heritage, faith and public-sector education and business; English as the main language of private sector education, business and contacts with the wider world. Emirati families position themselves in relation to this ideology in various ways. As we have seen, some families align themselves very closely with this ideology, adopting a policy of ‘EA only’ in daily home language practices, with no language mixing and careful selection of domestic staff in line with this. While they understand the need for their daughters to develop sufficient linguistic capital in English for education and work purposes, there is also considerable concern arising from the feeling that their culture is endangered, and a potent symbol of this is the Arabic language, particularly their local variety. For most Emiratis, use of EA is indexical of heritage, tradition and local identity; in contrast, use of English in certain contexts indexes a modernity that is seen by some as both constructive and destructive. English is seen, in Bourdieu’s terms, as the language of symbolic violence (Bourdieu, 1991; Findlow, 2006). In the younger generations, this


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conflict, or cleft habitus, may be felt internally, viscerally and emotionally. Linguistic capital and predispositions push them in the direction of English literacy practices and English speech practices, yet they feel that something is amiss, that they are losing something precious, linguistically, culturally and even in terms of family relationships. For others, the requirement to develop linguistic capital in English creates conflict since they are more strongly predisposed and oriented to Arabic, which may lead them to ‘hate English’ on occasion. Other families position themselves in relation to a different language ideology, adopting a monolingual home language policy (‘English only’), and constructing and prioritising English as the language of modernity and ‘the future’, in contrast to Arabic which they may view as the language of the past. It is understandable that mixed nationality families might adopt English as a lingua franca, but this also appears to be happening (although still relatively infrequently) in families where both parents are L1 EA speakers. Further research with these families might focus on whether or not they feel that EA and MSA are significant in terms of their Emirati identities, i.e. whether or not it is considered possible to identify as a ‘pure Arab’ Emirati speaking English as L1. The families who allow a certain degree of English or Arabizi to be spoken in the home in addition to EA (e.g. Muntaha’s family) might be regarded as pioneers of a new multilingual ideology in the UAE, in that although they appear to regard languages as bounded entities to some degree, they take a less domain-specific view, using the full range of linguistic capital at their disposal to facilitate communication in a variety of contexts, including the home. In other words, a more heteroglossic ideology may be emerging. As Ivanov’s definition suggests, however, heteroglossia may be challenging at times, with the ideological, cognitive and emotional pressures around languages conflicting with and affecting each other. An example is Mona’s need to use words from her other languages in cases where she wants, or is required, to speak only one language, and her frustration at not being able to use her full lexicon to express herself to her mother. It is interesting, however, that she is generally happy with her multilingualism, possibly because she has developed a fair degree of linguistic capital in all three of her languages, so that in most cases she feels she is able to negotiate her identities successfully and there is no sense of conflict or cleft habitus. In contrast, Hessa A has developed strong linguistic capital in English, but feels that her MSA is relatively weak and that she is not able to express herself completely in EA. She and her family appear to subscribe to a domain-specific multilingualism ideology. Thus, she feels that she is somehow falling short in terms of her Emirati identity and this cleft habitus causes some psychological discomfort. At the same time, she also seems to subscribe to a more heteroglossic ideology. In the class discussion preceding the DB question, Hessa said of English and Emirati Arabic: ‘I kind of see them as one language’.

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This apparent ambiguity is an example of the dialectic currently at work in UAE society.

Conclusion In an increasingly diverse globalised country such as the UAE, in which the traditional language of the indigenous inhabitants is now spoken by a minority, it is understandable that there should be some concern about the future of that language, and that English might be seen both as an opportunity and as a threat. Emirati parents have important choices to make with regard to the language policy of the home, type of school to which to send their children, and so on. These decisions have an impact on the predispositions that their children develop. However, there are other linguistic influences beyond their control, such as those arising from social networks, media, leisure-time interests and increasing exposure to a globalising world. The predispositions that develop in children may be seen as being at odds with those of the family and with those of Emirati tradition. Language mixing clearly happens very frequently, particularly among young people, but it is still not regarded as being acceptable to most Emiratis, even to those who practice it (although some are also comfortable with it, as we have seen). Steps are being taken in Emirati society to bolster the use of Arabic while still encouraging the acquisition of linguistic capital in English. The Arabic Language Charter (UAE Government, 2012) positions Arabic as the official language of the country, the language of government and government services and a key aspect of the education system. It reinforces the requirement that private schools offer high quality teaching and curriculum in Arabic as well as English. Ambitious projects such as the New Schools Model (Abu Dhabi Education Council, 2014) aim to develop bilingualism and biliteracy in Arabic and English in the public sector. However, in addition to these initiatives, the home is a crucial locus for the protection and development of Arabic, both EA and MSA. As parents become increasingly bilingual and biliterate, moving into the next generation, it may be that English, MSA and EA will increasingly become one set of resources, that heteroglossia will become the accepted norm. After all, EA has a long history of incorporating words from other languages – particularly Farsi and Urdu (Holes, 2011). This would, of course, require Emiratis to reach a new consensus about what is meant by ‘Emirati Arabic’ – i.e. how much English can someone speak and still be said to be speaking EA and indexing Emirati identities?. Canagarajah (2013: 199) argues that languages ‘don’t determine or limit our identities, but provide creative resources to construct new and revised identities through reconstructed forms and meaning of new indexicalities’. Similar views were also expressed in recent articles in The National newspaper (AlMazroui, 2014; Leech, 2013). It is of course true that languages can be


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threatened and that they can change and even die out. EA is spoken by a minority of the inhabitants of the UAE; however, because it is the dialect of the powerful minority, it has every likelihood of surviving as long as Emiratis themselves use the dialect, celebrate it and allow it to adapt to reflect, and to create, the changes in their society. Rather than being a threat to Emirati Arabic, Arabizi may be a key to its survival.

Acknowledgements I would like to sincerely thank the research project participants who gave their time and thoughts very generously. In particular, I would like to thank Mona and AlShaima for their very insightful comments on the early drafts of this chapter, and Professor Ingrid Piller, Dr David Palfreyman and Dr Amir Kaviani for their invaluable help and advice. I would also like to give special mention to my wife Brenda, for her patience, wisdom and love.

References Abu Dhabi Education Council (2014) New School Model. See Students/PS/Pages/New-School-Model.aspx (accessed 01 November). Ahmed, A. (2013) Abu Dhabi’s push for schools to focus on Arabic. The National, 15 April. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See abu-dhabis-push-for-schools-to-focus-on-arabic AlMazroui, A. (2014) The debate over Emirati identity is clearly mistaken. The National, 01 June. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See comment/the-debate-over-emirati-identity-is-clearly-mistaken Bakhtin, M.M. (1981) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Texas: University of Texas Press. Baynham, M. (2004) Ethnographies of literacy: Introduction. Language and Education 18 (4), 285–290. Bianchi, R.M. (2012) Glocal Arabic online: The case of 3arabizi. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 2 (4), 483–503. Blackledge, A. and Creese, A. (2010) Multilingualism: A Critical Perspective. London: Continuum. Blommaert, J. and Van de Vijver, F. (2013) Combining Surveys and Ethnographies in the Study of Rapid Social Change (No. 108). See WP108_Blommaert_and_van_de_Vijver_2013_Combining_surveys_and_ethnogra phies_in_the_study_of_rapid_social_change Bourdieu, P. (1977) The economics of linguistic exchanges. Social Science Information Social Science Information 16 (6), 645–668. Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge. Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press. Campbell, S. (1996) The Arabic element in Indonesian – What do students need to know about it? See (accessed 07 October 2014). Canagarajah, A.S. (2013) Translingual Practice: Global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations. New York: Routledge. Copland, F. and Creese, A. (2015) Linguistic Ethnography. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd.

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Davies, B. and Harre, R. (1990) Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20 (1), 43–63. Dörnyei, Z. (2007) Research Methods in Applied Linguistics (Vol. 19). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Emirates News Agency (2014, 25 August) Ministry of Interior grants citizenship to 106 children of Emirati mothers. See 1395268911747.html (accessed September 2014). Findlow, S. (2006) Higher education and linguistic dualism in the Arab Gulf. British Journal of Sociology of Education 27 (1), 19–36. Geertz, C. (2007) Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In L.F. Monaghan and J.E. Goodman (eds) A Cultural Approach to Interpersonal Communication: Essential Readings (pp. 27–28). Oxford: Blackwell. Grenfell, M. (ed.) (2011) Bourdieu, Language and Linguistics. New York: Continuum. Grenfell, M.J. (2014) Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Hardy, C. (2011) Language and education. In M. Grenfell (ed.) Bourdieu, Language and Linguistics (pp. 170–196). New York: Continuum. Holes, C. (2011) Language and identity in the Arabian Gulf. Journal of Arabian Studies 1 (2), 129–145. Ivanov, V. (1999) Heteroglossia. JOLA Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9 (1–2), 100–102. Jeffrey, B. and Troman, G. (2004) Time for ethnography. British Educational Research Journal 30 (4), 535–548. Leech, N. (2013) A “chat” language derived from Arabic and English – progress or problem? The National, 31 October. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See arts-culture/a-chat-language-derived-from-arabic-and-english-progress-or-problem Maton, K. (2008) Habitus. In Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts (pp. 49–65). Stocksfield: Acumen. O’Neill, G.T. (2014) “Just a natural move towards English”: Gulf youth attitudes towards Arabic and English literacy. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives 11 (1). See (accessed September 2014). Palfreyman, D. and Al Khalil, M. (2003) “A funky language for teenzz to use:” Representing Gulf Arabic in instant messaging. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 9 (0). doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2003.tb00355.x Pavlenko, A. and Blackledge, A. (2004) Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Pennington, R. (2014) English language “seducing” UAE pupils. The National, 08 December. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See ucing-uae-pupils Pennington, R. (2015) Special report: Arabic “at risk of becoming foreign language in UAE.” The National, 01 March. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See education/20150301/special-report-arabic-at-risk-of-becoming-foreign-language-inuaePenning Piller, I. (2011) Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Rampton, B., Maybin, J. and Roberts, C. (2014) Methodological foundations in linguistic ethnography. In Working Papers in Urban Languages and Literacies. See http://www. the-papers/WP125-Rampton-Maybin-Roberts-2014-Methodological-foundationsin-linguistic-ethnography.pdf (accessed September 2014). Shaaban, A. (2012) The marriage puzzle. Khaleej Times. See http://www.khaleejtimes. com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/nationgeneral/2012/July/nationgeneral_ July185.xml§ion=nationgeneral (accessed February 2014).


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Stangroom, J. (2013) Statistics Calculators – Z-Test, T-Test, Chi-Square Test. See http:// (accessed 16 March). Street, B.V. (1984) Literacy in Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Swan, M. (2014) Emirati dialect faces threat of decline. The National, 17 April. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See UAE Government (2012) Arabic Language Charter. The Official Portal of the United Arab Emirates. See (accessed February 2014). UAE National Bureau of Statistics (2011) Population Estimates 2006–2010. See http://www. Estimates 2006–2010.pdf (accessed 31 October 2014). Vertovec, S. (2007) Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30 (6), 1024–1054. Zayed, P. (2013) Foreign workforce poses challenge to Arabic language. The National, 30 October. Abu Dhabi, UAE. See comment/foreign-workforce-poses-challenge-to-arabic-language


Emirati Pre-Service Teachers’ Perspectives of Abu Dhabi’s Rich Linguistic Context Melanie van den Hoven and Kevin S. Carroll

Introduction Studying in English throughout higher education (HE) is a defining experience for female Emirati pre-service teachers in Abu Dhabi. The high regard for degree-holding women, who can fill positions in various sectors of the economy, including education, points to a radical societal transformation within four decades (Profanter, 2011; Bristol-Rhys, 2010). Many of today’s generation of Emirati university students attended government schools, where the medium of instruction was Arabic, and English was taught as an important foreign language. However, continuing onto institutions of higher education within their own country has meant an abrupt transition from Arabic-medium instruction (AMI) to English-medium instruction (EMI). The spotlight on English has obscured the complex linguistic realities in this cosmopolitan city. As teacher trainers, who appreciate the challenges and rewards of operating in a foreign language, our interest lies in building on our students’ funds of knowledge (Moll et al., 2005), where the knowledge that students bring into the classroom is viewed as a resource. Our stance is inherently framed by our view of language as a resource (Ruiz, 1988) instead of a problem for language teaching and language acquisition. Within this orientation, students’ whole linguistic repertoires are regarded as pertinent to language learning and are viewed from the lens of additive bilingualism. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to document the perspectives that female Emirati pre-service teachers have of the rich linguistic context that is characteristic of the capital city of the UAE. Understanding of the local linguistic diversity in addition to the linguistic skills needed to



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communicate in a multilingual context is a neglected area of educational research (Mahboob & Lin, 2016); however, learning more about the sociocultural context of our participants, who are future teachers, is important if the goal for the education sector is to build upon Emirati students’ own sociocultural experiences. Throughout the UAE, learning English and graduating from Englishmedium universities are linked to respectable work outside the home with high-paying salaries, not readily offered four decades ago. As English language and linguistics professionals working with a decade of experience in Abu Dhabi between us, we agree with Mahboob’s (2013) emphasis on the heterogeneity of the Middle East and the importance of a context-specific frame. Furthermore, Mahboob (2014) suggests that research concerned with the place of English within the Arabian Peninsula should be open to linguistic complexities. While concerned with the role of English in Abu Dhabi, our research is premised on the presence of other languages and the ways they facilitate the need for a lingua franca. While this research does not pretend to be an exhaustive or representative account of the voices of all Emirati pre-service teachers, it does offer a snapshot of the linguistic complexities that they encounter and how they make sense of them. Attending to their understandings of the languages used in Abu Dhabi, as well as the gaps in awareness (Phipps, 2013), is important as the teachers’ experiences and how they make sense of them will impact their future students’ for years to come.

A Snapshot of UAE History, Demographics and Education Prior to the founding of the UAE in 1971 as a federation of seven emirates, Great Britian played a important role in the development of trade routes, as well as political and military relations in the region (Al Fahim, 2006). While the former British protectorate was never regarded as a British colony, it was guided by ‘British tutelage’ (Heard-Bey, 2004: 337) and there was generally little exposure to English until oil was discovered (Al Fahim, 2006). However, with the manufacturing and export of oil, the rapid transformation of Abu Dhabi from a backwater to ‘one of the most impressively vibrant economies in the Arab world’ (Davidson, 2009: 2) has created an undeniable need for a language to facilitate intranational (i.e. between the country's linguistically diverse residents) and international communication with nonArabic speaking nations. Formal education began four decades ago with the establishment of the UAE and an Islamic constitution. On account of historical ties to Great Britain, the English language was first taught to boys as a foreign language in 1964 in the northern emirate of Sharjah (Heard-Bey, 2004: 331). Despite

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advanced cultural developments in the cities of Sharjah and Dubai, Abu Dhabi was chosen as the capital city because its oil wealth would be instrumental in the funding of various federal infrastructure investments such as roads, schools and hospitals (Heard-Bey, 2004: 367). Opportunities for postsecondary education for males and females in Abu Dhabi began in 1977, and shortly thereafter, English replaced AMI (in non-Islamic Studies and Shari’a Law majors) at United Arab Emirates University. Furthermore, under the directives of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the Emir of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s first president, English was promoted as the language of academic learning in many other federal and emirate-funded tertiary institutions. The financial importance of the Abu Dhabi emirate to the UAE and its regard as ‘a new economic superpower’ (Davidson, 2009: 1) is well known. The emirate attracts a diverse group of speakers of English, Arabic and countless other languages to work in many sectors of the expanding economy in the city and surrounding area. Employment opportunities buoyed by oil and gas resources account for a population explosion since the 1970s resulting in great cultural and linguistic diversity, which is visible in many neighbourhoods of Abu Dhabi (Bristol-Rhys, 2012). From a sociocultural theoretical position, this rich context potentially provides meaningful connections to student experiences with speakers from a wide variety of languages. As the largest, wealthiest and most populous emirate in the UAE, Abu Dhabi has lured skilled labourers and professionals from around the world seeking employment in all sectors of the economy, including education (Davidson, 2009). The cultural diversity, however, also reflects a population imbalance: the ratio of citizen to non-citizen is reported as roughly one to four. According to population statistics from mid-2012, there are 253,740 mainly Arabic-speaking Emiratis living among an additional 1.16 million speakers of Arabic, English and other languages. This population imbalance has given rise to an extremely high numbers of private schools, which mainly feature EMI. Government schools have catered to Emiratis and, until recently, have been exclusively AMI. Recent publications in the local media document the cultural diversity present in the two types of schools and their social and cultural differences. One report claims there are 451 schools in Abu Dhabi emirate, of which 183 are private schools and 268 are government schools. In total, over 30,000 teachers and administrators are employed (Kumar, 2013). According to figures from the same period, only 50 Emirati teachers were employed in Abu Dhabi private schools but over 8000 Emiratis are teaching in government schools – with the vast majority being Emirati females (Pennington, 2014b). Emirati pre-service teachers have mainly been educated in government schools, which are free of cost and mainly cater for Emirati nationals, although in some instances non-nationals can attend.


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Emirati pre-service teachers often find positions in the higher paying government schools. The role of English and Arabic in private and government schools can differ greatly. While some private schools teach in languages other than English and Arabic, many private schools pride themselves on an exclusive English-language curricula. While private schools cater for Emirati and international students, it is widely reported that Arabic is neglected. In contrast, the discourses concerning educational reforms and government schools are framed around preserving national identity and aiming for international benchmarks in academic achievement. Currently, biliteracy in English and Arabic is promoted (Gallagher, 2011); however, as local students move into tertiary education there are concerns regarding academic readiness as an even greater emphasis is put on English-medium instruction with little, if any, coursework conducted in Arabic in most higher education institutions (HEIs).

Understanding the Language Dynamic in Abu Dhabi Before the extraction of oil, the territory of today’s Abu Dhabi was affiliated with the tribal peoples linked to the BaniYas, of whom a minority were nomadic Bedouins. Heard-Bey (2004) notes that the culture and Arabic language of Abu Dhabi Emiratis is better explained by the tribal structure of society established via the interaction among a set number of regional tribes than referring to a homogeneous national group. This raises questions regarding the homogeneity of a national variety of Arabic. That said, the varieties of spoken Arabic within the UAE share many features with other varieties found within the Arabian Peninsula, including identity. While the reports on the socio-cultural dimensions of English in the Peninsula have recognised that the region is truly ‘multilingual and multicultural’ (Syed, 2003: 338), Arabic is regarded as the sole official language of the Arabian Peninsula. Similar to other countries that use Arabic as an official language, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the official form used for instruction, but this form is often very different to the oral form used in social interaction in the various countries where Arabic is used (Al-Issa & Dahan, 2011). The lack of correspondence between the oral language and MSA is often not acknowledged by English-medium educators in the UAE, who may be less familiar with Arabic diglossia and more attentive to the cognitive and linguistic challenges that teaching and learning in English presents. The relationship between English and Arabic in a context which favours the use of English in higher education has been the topic of recent research (Findlow, 2006; Nickerson, 2015). English also serves various social functions outside of the educational domain but there is little empirical research

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capturing patterns of use in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, Urdu, Farsi, Hindi, Tagalog, Pashto and Sinhala among other languages are heard on a daily basis within a variety of public domains. Hindi, Urdu and Farsi are recognised as historically significant trade languages within the region (Ostler, 2005). Such co-existence of the diverse linguistic populations has set the foundation for the multilingual emirate that is modern-day Abu Dhabi. While different languages have co-existed for centuries on the Arabian Peninsula, their status and prestige have fluctuated. Randall and Samimi (2010) document the waning influence of Arabic as a lingua franca in favour of the use of English within Dubai as they describe the 200 diverse nationalities and 150 ethnic groups residing in the UAE, who speak up to 100 different languages. While the prestige of Arabic within the Peninsula has always been high, economic trends of globalisation and the increasing reliance on foreign labour have facilitated the development of English as the lingua franca within the country (Boyle, 2011). While evidence of the importance of English abounds, little has been reported on how local Emiratis view the linguistic diversity that exemplifies their country. Thus, perspectives of the languages used and recognised by local Emiratis in public spheres will be the primary focus of the remainder of this chapter.

Arabic versus English The tensions generated by EMI in the Arabic-speaking Peninsula have been discussed at length in a variety of publications (Belhiah & Elhami, 2015; Hunt, 2012; Al-Issa & Dahan, 2011; Pessoa & Rajakumar, 2011; Findlow, 2006; Malallah, 2000; Al Haq & Smadi, 1996). As most degreeprogrammes in HEIs in the emirate feature EMI, there is growing concern that English and its position within higher education poses a threat to proficiency in MSA among Emiratis (Al-Issa & Dahan, 2011, Findlow, 2006). While students’ attitudes toward English suggest that English is indeed valued as a resource for academic achievement and professional advancement, students also recognize a reduction in the use of Arabic in these domains (Karmani, 2010). Despite positive attitudes toward EMI, Emirati students understand the importance of Arabic and have requested Arabic language courses in higher education (Troudi & Jendli, 2011). Despite students’ positive views of EMI, a prevalent theme among scholars is the presentation of English and Arabic in the UAE educational context as languages in competition with one another. For instance, in a 2014 panel discussion on the status of English and Arabic in UAE education, a Jordanian official described the dynamic as ‘the really seductive English language and the non-attractive Arabic language’ (Pennington,


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2014: 1). Similarly, Al-Issa and Dahan (2011) describe English as a predator, arguing that ‘[Arabic is] losing its place of power and prestige’ (Al-Issa & Dahan, 2011: 13–14). While such viewpoints are heard on occasion and are present in the academic literature, they have had little influence on the continued growth and prestige of English. Furthermore, EMI curricula in government schools have been positioned as an issue of equity; the new curriculum featuring EMI for half the day and AMI for the other half promotes access to the same benefits of learning in English that were previously only available to fee-paying students in private schools (Gallagher, 2011). Hence, despite minimal attention to improving Arabic instruction, policy makers and academics believe that societal bilingualism can successfully foster competitive bilingualism among Emirati youth. The issue of patterns of language use among Arabic-speaking bilinguals has been largely under-examined but there is speculation that Englishmedium instruction is linked to ‘the emergence of bilingualism’ in the Arab world (Al-Khatib, 2006: 3).

Methods This study involves a description of the ‘sociolinguistic realities’ (Pakir, 2009: 224) of Emirati pre-service teachers and aims to contextualize their experiences of English use in HE within a broader context of language use in Abu Dhabi. According to Hammersley (1998), descriptive claims refer to observations about phenomena which occur at a particular time and place. Close attention is paid to descriptions of how different languages are used, with whom and under what conditions. In so doing, the study addresses ‘the classic sociolinguistic question’ (Levine, 2011: 85) and a gap in descriptive accounts of the ‘current sociolinguistic landscape’ (Matsuda, 2012: 4). The findings presented here are based on an exploratory, qualitative study using focus group discussions and individual interviews as the means of data collection. Thematic analysis, a deductive and inductive process of coding, was used to interpret the data (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). In the spirit of ethnographic research, the categories are largely informed by distinctions made by the participants, with clarifications added from the research literature. To ensure anonymity two letters substitute each participant’s name (e.g. FH), followed by a notation indicating the source: either a focus group interview (FG) or an individual interview (IndInt). In all instances, ‘M’ refers to the female first author of this chapter, who was the sole collector of data for this study. Brackets have been inserted into the extracts when it was deemed necessary to clarify the intended meaning of the participants. A total of 16 participants were included in the study, 12 of whom took part in the four focus groups (numbered 1 to 4 in the Results section). Both

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the focus group discussions and the individual interviews were structured around the same topics (see the interview guide in the Appendix). The participants, aged 21 to 24 years, were fourth year students in a Bachelor’s in Education programme at a teacher training college in Abu Dhabi in 2013. The four-year programme, which uses EMI, qualifies them to teach as English-medium teachers and not Arabic-medium teachers since there is currently no provision for the latter. The training includes a range of coursework, which prepares them to teach the new curriculum, and includes several intensive practicum courses in government schools. Based on the researchers’ experience in this Arab Peninsula context, four general categories were used in the recruitment of participants in order to capture a diverse range of linguistic experiences: (a) married women with children; (b) single high-performing students; (c) single low-performing students and (d) students with mixed parentage (i.e. an Emirati father and a non-Emirati mother). Regarding the selection of individual group members, four female students were recruited from each of the designations. Each student was asked to nominate 2 to 3 like-minded peers within their social networks for a group discussion whom they felt would support an open discussion of language issues. This strategy is a combination of convenience sampling and snowball sampling (Barbour, 2008). Regarding the management and composition of focus groups in the UAE, we followed the advice of Thomas (2008) in keeping our focus groups to 3 to 4 participants of the same gender. As was recommended by Winslow et al. (2002), the all female groups were interviewed by a non-Emirati female which quelled ‘concerns about confidentiality’ (Winslow et al., 2002). After participant consent was granted, discussions were digitally recorded. Each focus group discussion lasted between 34 minutes and 1 hour and 15 minutes and generated a total of 3.3 hours of focus group data. Of the ten individual interviews, six participants originated from the focus groups and were invited to comment in greater depth on selected topics and initiate new topics. These member checks allowed the interviewer an opportunity to establish data credibility (Holliday, 2007). Four new participants were also recruited in order to include fresh perspectives on English use and are considered ‘second-stage sampling’ (Barbour, 2008: 213). All the participants were students of the college and known to the interviewer. These interviews lasted from 49 minutes to 1 hour and 33 minutes and generated over 10 hours of transcribed individual interview data. Most individual interviews took place in the interviewer’s college office. The interview opened with questions concerning language use in Abu Dhabi before moving to students’ personal experiences using EMI. However, the interviews quickly expanded to discuss the other languages encountered on the campus and revealed the rich linguistic backdrop of multilingual Abu Dhabi, including the complex ways these pre-service teachers understand their own use of language(s) within this context.


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Findings From the focus group discussions, four distinct languages were originally recognised as part of Abu Dhabi’s linguistic environment: Arabic, English, ‘Indian’ and ‘Pre-sian’ (Persian or Farsi). The participants reported only being capable of using Arabic and English and described these as the two main languages used but the participants cited members within their speech community, namely fathers and brothers, who were described as having varying degrees of proficiency in ‘Indian’ or ‘Pre-sian’. ‘Filipino’ and Korean had a lower profile and were restricted to context-specific interactions either at the college or in the home.

Linguistic dualism between Arabic and English According to the participants, Abu Dhabi’s linguistic environment supports the daily use of two main languages: Arabic for use with a broadly construed in-group of Arabic speakers; and English for international and intra-national communication with out-group foreigners. AY explains this dynamic in Excerpt 1.

Excerpt 1 I use two languages. For example, when - if there are Arabic [speaking] people, I will talk to them in Arabic. But in – with the English [speaking] people or people who do not have Arabic language, I have to use – to use English because it’s the second [most] popular language in the UAE. (IndInt, AY). Similarly, when asked about general patterns of language use in the UAE, all of the participants agreed that Arabic was the common language used among local Emiratis. This was exemplified by SH who replied, ‘most of the time it’s Arabic [the language used among Emiratis] because it’s our language’ (FG4). Most often, the participants ranked Arabic as the most important language with English falling as an important second, as SR’s statement reaffirms: ‘[f]irst thing, Arabic – as – ah – my own language, my mother language. The second is English and I think it’s important in Abu Dhabi’ (IndInt, SR). In these extracts, the two languages are treated as homogenous entities. Several varieties of English and Arabic, including hybrid ways of using each language, were identified for serving distinct purposes of communication and given distinct labels (van den Hoven, 2014). Throughout the interviews with the students, the participants affirmed the value of being bilingual Emiratis and they believed it was important that they were the appropriate role models for young Emirati children, indicating they felt they could maintain their language and culture while simultaneously adopting English as an ancillary language. Their

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commitment to learning English was not limited to gaining employment as English-medium teachers as several indicated their desire to work in other government sectors. However, the association of learning English with gaining access into the job market supports Findlow’s (2006) claims of linguistic dualism in the UAE in coming to terms with the negotiated use of English and Arabic which allows HE students ‘to tap into bilingual resources’ (2006: 33). While the importance of Arabic and English within the country is undeniable, what often goes undocumented is the kind of engagement with other languages prevalent in the UAE. Thus, the subsequent sections will focus on ‘the languages at the periphery’, a term we use to refer to languages which are secondary in societal importance, but essential in delineating the contours of English as the second choice, or default lingua franca, in this context.

Primary and peripheral languages While Arabic and English were recognized as the primary languages within the UAE, participants mentioned four additional languages used by different members of their community that are a part of their lived linguistic experiences. The languages identified by the participants were: ‘Indian’, Persian, ‘Filipino’ and Korean. ‘Indian’ and ‘Pre-sian’, as they were named by the participants, were regarded as historically significant languages which were used by members of the Emirati community; whereas ‘Filipino’ and Korean served limited and nuanced communicative functions for particular families and social groups. Indeed, many other languages are used among the multilingual residents of Abu Dhabi but the participants only mentioned the two main languages and four peripheral languages. In the following section, the four peripheral languages are presented and then discussed within the larger context of language education in Abu Dhabi.

‘Indian’ – a historically important language While all participants reported proficiency in Arabic and English, none knew how to speak ‘Indian’ or Persian (Farsi). Nevertheless, several participants cited male members within their speech community, namely fathers and brothers, who had some proficiency in ‘Indian’. This language is recognized for two reasons: playing an important historical role in UAE society; and being a feature of daily communication for male family members, who are generally responsible for speaking and negotiating with labourers in various lines of work, such as construction. For instance, in one focus group, the topic was introduced with a certain enthusiasm, which is exemplified with the use of capital letters in the following passage: ‘The MOST important in UAE! INDIAN!’ (AM, FG3). Although discussion began by examining the place of English in their lives, the communication in other languages


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occurring on the periphery of their social worlds generated more enthusiastic commentary. Such discussion centred not only on the historical significance of the ‘Indian’ language and Indian workers for the UAE but also ‘Indian’ language acquisition primarily through face-to-face interaction, as illustrated in Excerpt 2:

Excerpt 2 M: AM: GA: AM:


Tell me about this. Okay, so can you tell me a little bit more about the languages that people use and speak here? First, when the people came to the UAE [M: yeah] from other countries [M: mm], the first people who are in the UAE are INDIAN. Indian and the MAJORITY of the UAE! (GA laughs) Yeah, Indian people, as you know. (GA laughs) Yeah, that’s why, the – our fathers usually - uhm - because they have something to do with them – work - ah [EM: labour] building some - anything. That’s why they used talk in Indian. They DID NOT LEARN how to talk! Yeah they didn’t study Indian! But because of the USE of the – THIS language, they – they can memorize it well. (FG3)

These participants recognized the value of ‘Indian’ as a contact language in the UAE, which predated the arrival of English. In Excerpt 2, AM describes the historical link and importance that those from India have had in the construction of the country and how the impact of routine face-to-face interactions in establishing the local significance of ‘Indian’ in the UAE. Although this language is situated outside their conversational activities, the participants addressed their fathers’ abilities to communicate with speakers of languages from India. A gendered dimension to acquiring fluency in ‘Indian’ was suggested by the participants where linguistic skill in ‘Indian’ is premised on the frequent interaction of Emirati males with ‘Indian’ workers, as indicated in Excerpt 3:

Excerpt 3 AM: EM: AM: GA: AM:

They can say FULL sentence - paragraph for you They are fluent! in Indian A native Indian speaker. We can call them FLUENT in Indian! (GA laughs) even they did not study this language. (FG3)

The three participants in Excerpt 3 convey respect for the proficiency their fathers had achieved in the ‘Indian’ language without ever having

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been formally taught. However, AM and GA were unable to offer further details regarding the ‘Indian’ languages, revealing limited conceptual understanding of multilingual India. This is somewhat surprising since Hindi, Malayalam (spoken in Kerala, India) and Tamil, among other historically important trade languages, have entered the local language, alongside Farsi (Ostler, 2005).

Excerpt 4 M: AM: GA: AM: M: AM: M: GA: AM:

So Indian actually has - like in India, there have many languages, [AM: yeah.] right? So which one is used here? The basic I don’t know. I think the basic that Is that Hindi, do you mean? ‘Cause there’s Punjabi I don’t know the names but yeah. You don’t know. I don’t know which kind of accent - but Indian! That’s it - yeah (All participants laugh). (FG3)

Even though their fathers likely speak a hybrid form of southern Indian varieties mixed with local Arabic and probably English, this excerpt illustrates how the participants felt it was acceptable to relegate the complex linguistic diversity of the Indian subcontinent into one homogenous entity: ‘Indian’. Despite the prominence of Indian and Pakistani expatriates in the region – both in terms of total numbers as well as increasing economic power – in various business sectors, the excerpts presented here indicate a very general linguistic awareness and tenuous understandings of this region and its geography. Greater conceptual understanding of the world’s languages and the linguistic skills in English and Arabic to describe the multiple languages and the complex power dynamics at play would be a desirable component of the school curriculum in this multi-ethnic context.

Persian – a language for some Emiratis In contrast to ‘Indian’, ‘Pre-sian’ (or Farsi) as the participants pronounced it, was identified as a language used by Emiratis of Iranian descent. As shown in Excerpt 5, this language was recognized as used within the confines of the Emirati homes. It should be noted that the interviewer did not inject the word Farsi in the interview in order to stay close to the participants own choice of wording, which was phonetically close to the word Persian, and accepted as the appropriate meaning as shown in Excerpt 5. In addition, it should be added that a lack of familiarity with the meaning of the word Farsi was assumed.


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Excerpt 5 M: Are there any other languages that you use here in the UAE? SH: Ah - like for – ah - people who – ah HA: Ah – okay, where’s like Pre-sian - uhm - between each other they talk [FM: yeah] Pre-sian [FM: Even if they are Emiratis] M: So they - they use, you mean, Persian from, like, where Iran is? SH: Yeah. M: Okay, so where do people speak Persian? HA: Like with each other they are from Iran. SH: From the same family or from the same [HA: they talk] I think HA: They talk to each other and [FM: it’s some] M: So in the house - in the home? SH: Yeah in the home. (FG4) Similar to HA and SH, participant AM also acknowledged the Iranian heritage of some Emiratis when she said: ‘because some people are coming from Iran’ (FG3). ‘Persian’ linguistic heritage for some Emirati families is rarely referenced in the literature. As noted in Bristol-Rhys (2010), the prevailing image of the timeless Bedouin past is a constructed myth of Emirati heritage promoted by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. As a particularly dominant image of the Emirati people before the discovery of oil, the constructed representation obscures the varied ethnic and tribal roots of Emiratis, including those with roots from neighbouring countries, such as Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Historical tensions pushing Sunni Arabs away from the coastal area of present-day Iran led to the flourishing of ‘Arab and Sunni Persians … to the Dubai side of the Gulf’ (Al Fahim, 2006: 32) as migrant communities in the Peninsula. Kapiszewksi (2001) reports that the Peninsula people of Iranian descent are viewed positively for their loyalty and business acumen and many longstanding Peninsula Iranians living in the UAE were naturalised in Dubai by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan in the first decade of the federation.

‘Filipino’ – a familiar language Filipinos constitute a prominent expatriate group employed in Abu Dhabi’s expanding service sector and, thus, ‘Filipino’ and other languages spoken in the Philippines are largely – but not exclusively – limited to communication among employees of this sector. The service sector includes domestic workers in the home and those employed in hotels, restaurants, malls and airlines. However, ‘Filipino’ was noted by one participant, EQ, as used in her home between her Filipina mother and Filipina maid. EQ reported that ‘Filipino’ was not used for daily communication among EQ’s family

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members because of a necessary social distance, sanctioned by EQ’s Emirati father, who wishes to ensure his children prioritize Arabic. According to EQ, ‘Filipino’ is not actively practised in the home but occupies a peripheral space in terms of being an identifiable language, one she recognises as used by Filipino residents in the UAE. However, EQ’s account provides evidence of its use in Emirati homes where intercultural marriages between an Emirati father and a Filipina have occurred. It should be noted that the interviewer replied to EQ using the word, Tagalog, and from this point in the interview the participants began using the word Tagalog instead of Filipino. In the extract below, EQ conveys that Tagalog is a language, which she has heard her mother use alongside, Arabic and English in the home. She goes on to insist that Tagalog is not a language she uses for daily communication but, as she puts it, ‘I can understand some common Tagalog words but I cannot speak fluently’ (IndInt, EQ). Despite the prominence of Filipina housemaids and nannies, it was surprising that there was little discussion of the influence of English used by Filipinas in the home with young Emirati children as the issue of Anglophone home environments has been raised as a matter of increasing concern for some Emirati families (Troudi & Jendli, 2011).

Korean – a source of trendy vocabulary for college friends Using Korean vocabulary in conversations among some college friends is a recent trend enjoyed by a few of the participants. Although it cannot be claimed that some Emirati college and university students speak Korean, three different participants explained how they borrowed Korean vocabulary and hybrid Korean – English words, also known as Konglish, when conversing with peers at the college. For example, one participant explained that Arabic, English and Korean are part of her linguistic repertoire, as shown in Excerpt 6:

Excerpt 6 FH: I speak Arabic and English. A little bit Korean (M inhales) ‘cause I love ‘drama’ and like this. M: Really? And so, how do you experience – ah - Korean? FH: Korean, I watch a lot of ‘drama’, and I’m, you know, a ‘fan’ for some - ah – clubs or like this, some actors and I want to speak in Eng - (FH laughs) in Korean with my friends during – ah - While we are in college, we’re talkin’ in Korean. (IndInt, FH) Although FH claims to know ‘a lot’ of Korean words (IndInt, FH), her knowledge of Korean is limited to slang and informal expressions, which are


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prevalent in the Korean media but less so in formal Korean language courses. Some examples she cited included ba-bo-ya, which is slang for ‘hey, that’s stupid’ and other expressions, such as sarang-he-yo (‘I love you’) and bo-goship-o-yo (‘I want to see you’). FH and two other participants reported initially encountering Korean words and expressions from satellite TV which broadcasts Korean dramas featured on Arirang TV, a Korean television channel which was originally intended for English-speaking audiences but also broadcast internationally and accessible via online media. Korean expressions are subsequently practiced in a Korean club at the college. Interest in the Korean language is not generally motivated by a desire to engage Koreans in authentic conversation. MM reports that she has learned some Korean expressions primarily to keep abreast of trends signalled by her peers. She credits the appeal of watching Korean films for the cultural content more so than the chance to learn Korean vocabulary. In Excerpt 7, MM explains that the dynamics between children and their parents as well as men and women in romantic relationships portrayed in these films appeal to her Arab sensibilities:

Excerpt 7 and it’s the SAME way in – in the Arabic, you know? […]So like Korean, there is some relation between, like the LOVE and how they respect the parents and how they - like - if we talk to SOMEONE it’s the same way too. We are - we feel shy and woman should be, you know, it’s the same way in the Korean. (IndInt, MM) Several different but compatible opinions toward the Korean language were observed. For FH, Korean expressions from watching Korean dramas were incorporated when hanging out with in-group peers at the college. In this sense, speaking Korean signals an awareness of Korean pop culture. Using Korean with peers consists of exchanging greetings, friendly insults and sidecomments which are mixed into casual conversations in local Arabic. In contrast, MM has learned Korean vocabulary from Korean dramas not only to follow trends but also because of the allure of watching foreign films with similar value systems. She explains that the portrayals of interpersonal relationship between men and women, including those between family members who love and respect each other, have made her conscious of similarities between her own culture and Korea and with regard to gender relations.

Discussion The findings highlighted how four different languages played a role in the lives of our pre-service teacher participants in Abu Dhabi. In the subsequent sub-sections, we will discuss how English and Arabic are situated in

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relation to other seemingly peripheral languages, which exemplifies the multilingual terrain that our participants struggled to describe. The quality of the descriptions in the focus groups and individual interviews also signal the value of increased teaching of ethnolinguistic diversity. In the Abu Dhabi context, Arabic is indeed a language of wider communication and used as the official language throughout the Muslim and Arab communities, its use outside these communities in the UAE is not common. Instead English has taken on the role of the default lingua franca among a wide cross-section of expatriate residents. These patterns of use contribute to the recognition, as evidenced in this study, that Arabic and English are recognised as the main languages of Abu Dhabi where Arabic is ranked first in social importance and English as second. While Arabic and English often dominate the discussions of language use within this diverse context, the findings from our interviews with future teachers also indicate their awareness of other languages present in their environment. Little fieldwork has been done on the characteristics of the linguistic diversity present in the country and the particular ways that Emiratis navigate the linguistic terrain. Students’ understandings of the diverse linguistic makeup within Abu Dhabi’s borders can serve as a valuable resource for language education since they reveal conceptual understandings of the various varieties of English and Arabic that they encounter as well as the other languages they recognise within this context by different members of the wider expatriate community.

Increased language awareness: Understanding the differences between English and Arabic As Emirati students, particularly those from government schools, engage with an uneasy transition from Arabic-medium courses to English, it is important for Emirati and expatriate educators to be open to learning more about the main languages students experience within their communities as well as how less used languages come into play in the lives of their students. Language awareness courses for educators can come in different formats and cater for different needs. For instance, students in private schools may benefit from daily interactions with classmates with a different home language, which are then further enriched when schools host international events. Similarly, language awareness courses in higher education could enable Emirati pre-service teachers to hone their knowledge of ethnolinguistic diversity in Abu Dhabi and consider ways to encourage positive attitudes to multilingualism among their students. Furthermore, introductory Arabic classes could benefit English-medium educators new to the region if they targeted differences between English and Arabic, including script and phonological and morphological systems, with an aim to engender greater sensitivity towards the issues that learning to


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read and write in English presents to their students. English, after all, is a language with few cognates in Arabic and little historical contact. That said, hybridised forms of Arabic, which use English graphemes and word borrowing and word blending are increasingly used in settings where standardised forms of Arabic are not necessary. Such linguistic innovations indicate the ways that Emirati students contend with conditions of diglossia, where their spoken language is rarely represented in print form. In other words, when texting in ‘Arabische’ or ‘Englizi’ show how spoken Arabic can be presented using English letters and numbers. Arabic languages courses with this focus on linguistic awareness can foster awareness of the linguistic complexities that Emirati students contend with.

Increased language education: Understanding of languages at the periphery By defining languages in the periphery as those used outside of the domains of government and school, we recognize that these peripheral languages often hold high prestige among the communities that use them regularly, yet those outside of such circles may be assigned low prestige. Furthermore, within the classroom, the use of, or borrowings from, such peripheral languages is often judged as impure and even perceived as a hindrance or obstacle for additional English language learning (Cameron, 2007). Throughout the focus groups and interviews conducted for this study, it was clear that the participants were aware of the presence of various peripheral languages in their everyday lives and they were indeed able to identify them in words they deemed most fitting but it also seemed that the interview was the first chance to do so. The participants’ ability to identify the use of peripheral languages is an important indication of their awareness of the linguistic complexities in a multilingual environment in which Arabic and English are perceived as main languages. In one focus group discussion, the participants raised the rich historical exchange between Emiratis and speakers of various Indian languages. This linguistic influence has, undoubtedly, had an impact on local varieties of Emirati Arabic and also shaped experiences with other varieties of spoken English in Abu Dhabi. It should be noted that Indian merchants in Dubai have had long established and lucrative business relationships with Emiratis, including historically important trade routes between Dubai and India (Al Fahim, 2006). However, as King (2013) documents, recent discriminatory hiring practices tend to relegate Indians to positions of unskilled labour with predetermined salary scales based on ethnicity, and when hired as English-medium instructors, they face constant questions about their qualifications. Creating classroom assignments, which draw attention toward multilingual India and the rich historical exchanges in the Arabian Peninsula, could

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potentially strengthen intercultural and linguistic awareness. This could extend to researching patterns of linguistic engagement that occurs when interacting with some of the peripheral languages in the Abu Dhabi context, such as Farsi and Tagalog. Discussions of multilingual identities of the city’s vast number of expatriate groups as well as the status and prestige of certain languages, including those accessed via the media such as Korean, can serve as a vital means of enriching understanding of linguistic diversity, in general, and the importance of intercultural understanding in Abu Dhabi in particular.

Conclusion Through this chapter we have reported the sociolinguistic dimensions of language use in Abu Dhabi as perceived by 16 female Emirati pre-service teachers. The findings from the four focus group discussions and ten individual interviews, present a much richer linguistic dynamic than the traditional Arabic versus English paradigm that is often portrayed in the literature. While Arabic and English continue to hold high status and prestige, and are perceived as the main languages used in Abu Dhabi, this study suggests that ‘Indian’, Persian (Farsi), Korean and ‘Filipino’ are perceived as belonging to the participants’ speech communities in Abu Dhabi, to differing extents. These languages function as peripheral languages since they reflect conversational activity on the margins of social life for these Emirati pre-service teachers. These languages illustrate the ways in which Abu Dhabi is recognised as a multilingual context that continues to evolve. In this sense, the study affirms the portrayal of the role of Arabic and English in the UAE in Findlow (2006), but it is also responsive to Mahboob’s (2014) recommendations for context-specific research which attends to the multilingual complexities surrounding English use. In sum, this chapter is concerned with documenting Emirati views of the relationship between Arabic and English within the emirate of Abu Dhabi and the other languages, which co-occur on the periphery of their linguistic worlds. Descriptions of local understanding of the linguistic complexity in this context can serve as curricular resources for cultivating intercultural and inter-linguistic awareness. The linguistic encounters, reported by these Emirati participants, are certainty not inclusive of the vast linguistic experiences of all Emirati pre-service teachers, yet the importance of this study is the recognition of the valuable snapshot these accounts provide. Our participants, as future teachers, are expected to serve as important role models for Emirati children in Abu Dhabi government schools in a wider social context where foreigners constitute a majority. Learning more about the linguistic realities surrounding the use of Arabic, English and peripheral languages within this diverse context may facilitate multicultural and multilingual communication in this context.


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Appendix: Individual interview schedule To be read to participant: ‘Thank you for participating in my study. I would like to ask you several questions that have to do with language use at the college. Please feel free to answer as you like; there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers and I am especially interested in your opinions and experiences. I would really to know what you think as a speaker of Arabic and English and what you have experienced. Your participation in my study will be kept anonymous. This means I will not be recording your name in connection with your answers. Also if you would like a copy of the results I will be happy to share them at a later date’. Descriptions of Language Use 1.

Which languages do you experience in your daily life here in Abu Dhabi? • At school: • In public: • At home: 1.1. In which situations do you use or hear English/Arabic/other languages the most? 1.2. Can you tell me a little about who you talk with in English …? • At school • In public • At home 1.3. Where exactly? Who else is involved? 1.4. What do you talk about? 1.5. How often? 1.6. (More detail) You say (Paraphrase.) Has it always been like this? (Paraphrase) When did this start/change?

References Al-Issa, A. and Dahan, L.S. (2011) Global English and endangered Arabic in the United Arab Emirates. In A. Al-Issa and L.S. Dahan (eds) Global English and Arabic: Issues of Language, Culture, and Identity (Vol. 31, pp. 1–22). Bern: Peter Lang. Al-Khatib, M. (2006) Aspects of bilingualism in the Arab world: An introduction. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 9 (1), 1−6. Al Fahim, M. (2006) From Rags To Riches – A Story of Abu Dhabi. London: London Centre of Arab Studies. Al Haq, F. and Smadi, O. (1996) Spread of English and Westernization in Saudi Arabia. World Englishes 15 (3), 307−317. Barbour, R. (2008) Introducing Qualitative Research. Los Angeles: Sage. Belhiah, H. and Elhami, M. (2015) English as a medium of instruction in the Gulf: When students and teachers speak. Language Policy 14 (1), 3−23. Boyle, R. (2011) Patterns of change in English as a lingua franca in the UAE. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 21 (2), 143−161. Bristol-Rhys, J. (2010) Emirati Women – Generations of Change. London: Hurst.

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Bristol-Rhys, J. (2012) Socio-spatial Boundaries in Abu Dhabi. In M. Karmrava and Z. Babar (eds) Migrant Labour in the Persian Gulf (pp. 59−84). New York: Columbia University Press. Cameron, D. (2007) Language endangerment and verbal hygiene: History, morality and politics. Discourses of Endangerment: Ideology and Interest in the Defence of Languages 268. Davidson, C. (2009) Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond. London: C. Hurst. Fereday, J. and Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006) Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 5 (1), 80−92. Findlow, S. (2006) Higher education and linguistic dualism in the Arab Gulf. British Journal of Sociology of Education 27 (1), 19−36. Gallagher, K. (2011) Bilingual education in the UAE: Factors, variables and critical questions. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues 4 (1), 62−79. González, N., Moll, L.C. and Amanti, C. (eds) (2006) Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and Classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Hammersley, M. (1998) Reading Ethnographic Research. London: Longman. Heard-Bey, F. (2004) From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates. Dubai: Motivate. Holliday, A. (2007) Doing and Writing Qualitative Research (2nd edn). London; Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Hunt, N. (2012) Managing Method: A critical inquiry into language policy in a tertiary institution in the United Arab Emirates. RELC Journal 43 (3), 295−311. Kapiszewkski, A. (2001) Nationals and Expatriates – Population and Labour Dilemmas of the Gulf Cooperation Council States. Reading: Garnet. Karmani, S. (2010) On Perceptions of the Socialising Effects of English-Medium Education on Students at a Gulf Arab University with Particular Reference to the United Arab Emirates. PhD thesis, University of Exeter, Exeter. See (accessed January 2014). King, M. (2013) Championing Indian TESOL Teachers in the Arabian Gulf. Journal of ESL Teachers and Learners 2, 163−170. Kumar, H.M. (2013) Abu Dhabi’s population at 2.33m, with 475,000 Emiratis. See http:// (accessed 16 April 2014). Levine, G. (2011) Code Choice in the Language Classroom. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Mahboob, A. (2013) Englishes of the Middle East: A focus on the Kindgom of Saudi Arabia. In R. Akbari and C. Coombe (eds) Middle East Handbook of Applied Linguistics (pp. 14−27). Dubai: TESOL Arabia. Mahboob, A. (2014) Englishes in a multilingual context. In A. Mahboob and L. Barratt (eds) Englishes in Multingual Contexts (pp. 1−12). Dordrecht: Springer. Mahboob, A. and Lin, A. (2016) Using local languages in English language classrooms. In H. Widodo and W. Renandya (eds) English Language Teaching Today: Building a Closer Link between Theory and Practice (pp. 25–40). New York: Springer International. Malallah, S. (2000) English in an Arabic environment: Current attitudes to English among Kuwait university students. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 3 (1), 19−43. Matsuda, A. (2012) Teaching English as an international language. In A. Matsuda (ed.) Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language (pp. 1−14). Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D. and Gonzalez, N. (2005) Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and Classrooms 71−87. Nickerson, C. (2015) Unity in diversity: The view from the (UAE) classroom. Language Teaching 48 (2), 235−249.


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Ostler, N. (2005) Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World: New York: HarperCollins. Pakir, A. (2009) English as a lingua franca: Analyzing research frameworks in international English, world Englishes, and ELF. World Englishes 28 (2), 224−235. Pennington, R. (2014a) English language ‘seducing’ UAE pupils. The National, 8 December. See Pennington, R. (2014b) Study shows Emirati youths have no interest in becoming teachers. The National, 26 April. See Pessoa, S. and Rajakumar, M. (2011) The impact of English-medium higher education: The case of Qatar. In A. Al Issa and L.S. Dahan (eds) Global English and Arabic Issues of Language, Culture and Identity (Vol. 31, pp. 153−178). Bern: Peter Lang. Phipps, A. (2013) Linguistic incompetence: Giving an account of researching multilingually. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 23 (3), 329−341. Profanter, A. (2011) The Middle East at a crossroad: An educational revolution. ProcediaSocial and Behavioral Sciences 15, 1257−1261. Randall, M. and Samimi, M.A. (2010) The status of English in Dubai. English Today 26 (1), 43−50. Ruiz, R. (1988) Orientations in language planning. In S.L.M.S.C. Wong (ed.) Language Diversity: Problem or Resource? (pp. 3−25). Boston: Heinle & Heinle. Syed, Z. (2003) TESOL in the Gulf. TESOL Quarterly 37 (2), 337−341. Thomas, A. (2008) Focus groups in qualitative research: Culturally sensitive methodology for the Arabian Gulf? International Journal of Research and Method in Education 31 (1), 77−88. Troudi, S. and Jendli, A. (2011) Emirati students’ experiences of English as a medium of instruction. In A. Al-Issa and L.S. Dahan (eds) Global English and Arabic – Issues of Language, Culture, and Identity (pp. 23−48). Oxford: Peter Lang. van den Hoven, M. (2014) An Exploration of the Use of English by Arabic-speaking Emirati Pre-service Teachers: Locating English as a Medium of Instruction Paper presented at the The Fifth Annual Comparative Education Society Symposium – Locating the National in the International: Compartive Perspectives on Language, Identity, Policy, and Practice. 8 April 2014, Dubai Women’s College, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Winslow, W., Honein, G. and El Zubeir, M. (2002) Seeking Emirati voices: The use of focus groups with an Arab population. Qualitative Health Research 12 (4), 566−575.


Commercial Signs in Oman and Yemen: A Study of Street Advertising in English Louisa Buckingham and Anwar Al-Athwary

Introduction Language use on public signage is widely recognised as providing an alternative perspective on societal multilingualism that complements traditional survey or self-reported data (Landry & Bourhis, 1997). In the commercial sector, beyond evidencing the mere presence of languages, signs reveal the nexus between language choice and language use and consumer habits, trends and aspirations. As the latter may prove more transient than the physical sign, commercial signage may enable a diachronic view of societal values attached to selected languages within particular urban sub-sectors. Previous studies on language contact in the societies of the Arabian Peninsula have frequently pointed to the penetration of English into the business and educational sectors, but have rarely considered how the particular socioeconomic and demographic contexts in individual countries contribute to a differentiated uptake of English in any given social domain. While the original notion of linguistic landscape included all forms of public written texts from road signs, graffiti, advertising, public notices and even mobile forms of writing such as texts on vehicles (Landry & Bourhis, 1997), most recent studies of linguistic landscapes have focused on a specific text type, with data compiled from one urban centre. Investigations on the language use on commercial signs at a particular locality, for instance, have provided rich insight into the relative visibility of particular languages in this genre (Al-Athwary, 2012; Cenoz & Gorter, 2006; Ling, 2013), the emergence of localised forms of English use within a multi-ethnic community (Buckingham, 2015a, 2015b) and the perceived literacy levels of targeted consumer groups (Shiohata, 2012).



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As commercial signage not only has the purpose of communicating information but also of persuading the local populace, its imagined target audience, signs have both ideational and interpersonal functions. One objective of advertising is to encourage readers to form positive associations between the product and a brand name, image or slogan; such associations may involve references to other products, cultures or advertising texts. In this sense, advertising is also intertextual, in that readers may be encouraged to associate the text (or image) with another text. To achieve the desired perlocutionary effect, the formulation of the message and the selection of accompanying images employed need to be comprehensible, memorable and attractive from the perspective of a particular localised cultural context. A study of street-level commercial advertising thus enables an appreciation of how choices made in the message formulation (text and image) may be influenced by local socioeconomic and demographic contextual factors. This study explores the use of English and the inclusion of cultural references on commercial signs on small private enterprises in the capital cities of two neighbouring countries on the Arabian Peninsula, the Republic of Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman. By examining the textual features of bilingual shop signs photographed in Sana’a and Muscat, this study aims to illustrate how the characteristics of English use and the choice of cultural references on these signs are reflective of the differing sociocultural realities in these two cities. The use of English in the Peninsula States in the public (and private) sphere has often been viewed as a symbol of the advance of English to the detriment of Arabic (the maintenance of other indigenous languages is not discussed). This study argues that English in Oman has had an additive rather than replacement effect; it has become for some sectors of the Omani population an additional language and has developed localised features as a result of language contact with, in particular, Arabic and South Asian English dialects, owing to its frequent use by the indigenous population and the expatriate community as a lingua franca. In contrast, a far smaller percentage of the Yemeni population is able to access English to the extent required for it to be considered an additional language. This discrepancy helps explain the differentiated use of English as a visible feature of the linguistic landscape in these two countries.

Background Occupying the southern stretch of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman and Yemen, viewed together, extend from east to west along the Arabian Sea. At over 26 million, Yemen’s population is around six times larger than that of Oman (close to 4 million), although the population of the respective capital cities is comparable (Muscat, around 1 million; Sana’a around 1.7 million) (EIU, 2011). Oman’s population is considerably more heterogeneous;

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


Figure 3.1 Hindi-Arabic bilingualism and reference to an Indian trading family (MC)

expatriates comprise around 44% of the inhabitants (EIU, 2013), the overwhelming majority of these from South Asia, in particular India (Kapiszewski, 2006; Pradhan, 2013). Both countries have strong historical ties to East Africa and South Asia (Boxberger, 2002; Machado, 2014). This historical connection is visible on signs in Muscat today. Figure 3.1 displays a text in both Arabic and Hindi, and contains a reference to a year according to both the Gregorian and the Nepalese Sambat calendars.1 In the second image, the store proprietor’s name (‘Madhawji Veljee’) is that of an old Gujarati merchant family which traded between East Africa (Tanzania and Mozambique), the southern Arabian Peninsula and Gujarat (Machado, 2014).2 Similarly, both countries share a colonial past. Yemen was the southern-most frontier of the Ottoman Empire from the 1500s until 1918. The geographic space was contested by Britain, which ruled the province of Aden from 1839 until 1967. Possessing a less tumultuous colonial past, Oman was not strictly colonised but was a British protectorate in the 1800s (Al-Naqeeb, 1990; Onley, 2005). However, in practice British rule in both Yemen and Oman was undertaken from the administrative centres of British India in Bombay or Calcutta and Indian officials of the British Raj (often termed ‘native agents’) were more frequently deployed to the area than British (Onley, 2007: 61; Metcalf, 2007: 42–45). The wide-ranging political and administrative duties performed (usually) by Indians as subjects of Britain during this period were accompanied by an extensive, frequently Indian-run, maritime trade between East Africa, the Southern Arabian Peninsula and India (Metcalf, 2007). In the late 20th century, the two countries’ developmental paths diverged. Oman has experienced rapid socioeconomic development since the incumbent Sultan Qaboos claimed the throne in 1970. The achievements in recent decades, entailing large-scale infrastructure projects, universal education and healthcare, adult literacy campaigns and foreign investment, have resulted in a skilled workforce and increased longevity. The consequent relative wealth of much of the indigenous population coupled with social security transfers to less privileged sectors has contributed to the demand for foreign workers nationwide.3 Principally from South Asia, the presence of these workers in both skilled and unskilled sectors of the workforce has boosted the use of


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English as a lingua franca between different ethnic or linguistic communities. Previous studies have highlighted how features from South Asian English dialects have been imported to the Peninsula (Boyle, 2011; Buckingham, 2015a). Omani society has a relatively high degree of English-Arabic bilingualism, particularly in larger littoral urban centres such as Muscat or Sohar. English is taught as a foreign language in all Omani schools from primary school onwards and is typically used as a medium of instruction at most Omani tertiary institutions (excepting degree programmes such as Arabic, religion and law). Lectures are frequently delivered by non-Arabic speaking expatriate academic staff, thus limiting opportunities for bilingual course delivery or code-switching. During this period of the Omani ‘renaissance’, or nahdah (this term is frequently used to refer to the period of rule of Sultan Qaboos), neighbouring Yemen has suffered civil war, tribal conflict and the expansion of insurgency groups on its territory. Previously divided into two separate territories, Yemen only united to form one country in 1990. With high unemployment, no social security net, high inflation and social unrest, poverty afflicts over a third of the population.4 Unlike Oman, Yemen is not a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council and possesses only very modest petroleum reserves. For decades, socioeconomic instability has compelled Yemenis to seek work in other Peninsula States, in particular in Saudi Arabia (Ohkruhlik & Conge, 1997). Continuing to be a labour ‘exporting’ country in the 21st century and reliant on remittances and aid, Yemen constitutes an exception on the Arabian Peninsula. Foreign migrant workers in Yemen are few in number, and they tend to originate from East Africa rather than South Asia (a large majority of domestic workers in Yemen hail from Ethiopia and Somalia), and considerable numbers of East African refugees fleeing conflict and civil war have entered Yemen in recent years, most of whom reside in Yemen illegally (de Regt, 2010). In anticipation of higher wages, East Africans in Yemen frequently aim to cross into Saudi Arabia to seek work, and may be more motivated to learn Arabic than English. Thus, in contrast to Oman, the Yemeni demographic and socioeconomic context is not conducive to the widespread local use of English as a lingua franca. Despite this, Oman may be considered the country most similar to Yemen on the Peninsula in terms of geography, climate, and its history and social organisation (Burrows, 2010: 272). Arabic is the medium of instruction in all Yemeni educational institutions and is the dominant language in public institutions and private enterprises. While English is taught as a foreign language, most Yemenis only have limited access to school education and adult L1 literacy in Yemen is ranked as ‘low’ (UNESCO, 2013).Yemenis who complete state schooling have some knowledge of ‘school English’, whilst those from wealthier families may have attended English classes in private language institutes. English-medium

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


lectures are sometimes offered in degree programmes such as medicine and engineering, although considerable use of code-switching between English and Arabic may be used to support students’ comprehension of the lecture content (Al-Huri, 2012: 55). An exception to the rather limited extent of English-Arabic bilingualism in Yemen exists, according to Al Huri (2012: 55), among older generations of Yemenis in the southern city (and surrounds) of Aden, a British protectorate for almost 130 years (from 1839 to 1967). Al-Huri (2012: 72) claims that the educated Yemeni elite in Aden used English as a second or additional language for work-related activities due to the position of English as the language of political administration under British rule during this period. Overall, however, the use of English in Yemen is limited and, in contrast to Oman, the language does not have the status of an ‘additional’ or ‘second’ language.

Sign writing practices In both Yemen and Oman, approval is required from the municipal authorities to attach a commercial sign to one’s enterprise. Whereas language choice and the content and design of official public signage and the signage of multinational companies usually reflects language policy formulated at a regional or national administrative level, decisions regarding language use on the signage of small and medium-sized private enterprises are usually taken at the local level. All signs in Oman are prepared bilingually in Arabic and English, according to custom rather than official policy. Monolingual Arabic commercial signs in this context are very infrequent. The two versions are not necessarily identical in propositional content, however, and differences in the level of detail and the choice of words may be found. Municipal approval is required for the text in Arabic, while the English version is usually translated by a local private provider of translation services. In Yemen, no tradition of bilingual signs exists and the inclusion of English is made at the shop owner’s discretion. Numerous semi-formal interviews between the second author and shop owners in Sana’a revealed that, perhaps predictably, considerations such as the desirability of targeting specific consumer groups, strategic marketing of particular products and the store’s location, play a pivotal role in decisions regarding language choice. Figures typically involved in the text production process are the proprietor, the store manager, the sign-writer (termed ‘artist’ in Oman), and a local translation service provider. While in Oman, proprietors are required by law to be Omani, the store manager may often be an expatriate worker (frequently South Asian). Likewise, although the local sign-writing workshop and translation service may be staffed by Omanis, expatriate workers (predominantly of South Asian origin) frequently perform these tasks. Thus, a variety of local figures may contribute to text production on advertising signs. In Yemen, while various individuals may be involved in the text


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production, these are likely to be Yemenis, as expatriate workers are not employed in these sectors.

Methods Data for this study were collected by the authors from commercial zones in Sana’a between 2007 and 2010 and in Muscat between 2011 and 2012, culminating in the compilation of two corpora comprising the four commercial centres in the Muscat administrative district (393 signs), and four commercial districts within Sana’a (698 signs). While the Muscat corpus (henceforth ‘MC’) is part of a larger corpus (1606 signs) encompassing most urban centres in Oman, the unstable political environment and security concerns in Yemen prevented the second author from extending the Sana’a corpus (henceforth ‘SC’) to include additional urban centres. The SC presented here was, however, a subset of a larger corpus comprising 1500 signs, the remainder consisting of monolingual signs in Arabic. As the two corpora were collected at different times for different purposes, they cannot be considered parallel corpora. The SC contains all signs which use English in the four commercial districts. As almost all signs in Oman are bilingual, the mere appearance of English was not sufficient to warrant inclusion in the Oman corpus; rather, the objective during the compilation of this corpus was to include examples of signs from all commercial sectors at each location (see Buckingham, 2015b). In the case of both corpora, the selection of the commercial centres in Muscat and Sana’a was motivated by the need to include data from both older and more modern commercial districts, and districts in which different types of commercial activities might be found. Thus, in Sana’a the four streets are located in different points of the city: Taiz Street (in the south), Haddah Street and Hael Street (in the city centre), and the Sana’a University neighbourhood (in the north). The commercial orientation of these streets also differed. Taiz Street features many hotels and its proximity to the historical centre attracts visitors; Haddah Street is located in an upper class area which houses foreign diplomatic representations; it is well known for its fashion boutiques and numerous barber shops, although a wide variety of commercial establishments may be found here. The remaining three areas would be classified as middle-class districts. Jewellery shops are plentiful in Hael Street, and numerous public telephone centres, internet and photocopy providers cater for the transient student population around the Sana’a University neighbourhood. The MC included the two old commercial districts of the city, Mutrah and Ruwi. Mutrah is well known for its bazaar and the myriad small retailers selling household goods, textiles and clothing and bric-a-brac. This quarter has traditionally been home to an ethnically and linguistically diverse population, many of whom from families involved the centuries-old

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


merchant trade between Muscat and East Africa, South Asia and Iran (Peterson, 2004a, 2004b, 2007; Pradhan, 2013). While Ruwi similarly has a thriving retail sector, it also houses tradesmen, barbers and food purveyors, many catering to the very visible South Asian expatriate workers in this district (Peterson, 2007: 28). These districts contrast with Seeb which, despite being an old settlement, is today viewed as a modern, relatively affluent suburb on the outskirts of Muscat. Somewhat removed from Muscat’s metropolis, Quriyat and Amarat, represent middle-class communities, home to numerous tradesmen, retailers, and food purveyors. Many residents from these localities commute daily to Muscat to work. Amarat is known to be home to a relatively high number of people hailing (directly or indirectly through parentage) from Zanzibar, 5 a former Omani territory lost in 19646 (Valeri, 2007: 488). Additional detail regarding data collection procedures can be found in Al-Athwary (2012) and Buckingham (2015b). All written data in English in the two digital corpora were transcribed onto an Excel file together with notes relating to use of language and images used, a classification of the commercial sector. This allowed the authors to sift through a large amount of information to seek patterns by shuffling the data according to different criteria. The following themes emerged from this analysis: language choice (the visibility of English, Arabic and other languages), language in contact (the influence of community languages on structural and lexical features of English), language hybrid forms (blended forms, the transliteration of English into Arabic), the use of cultural references, and shop naming practices.

Results This section will begin by a brief description of the visual design of signs and the salience of different languages on signs in each city. It will then describe store naming practices and the inclusion of foreign cultural references in English. Finally, we will discuss characteristics of language use on signs; this final section will focus on elements which appear to be unique examples of non-standard usage, and elements which appear to be accepted formulations within this cultural context. The distinction between acceptable localised variants and errors occurring during the text production process was informed by criteria discussed in Bamgbose (1998) and Van Rooy (2011). According to these authors, the extent to which a linguistic feature may be judged to be an acceptable variation in world English contexts depends on factors such as systematicity, demographic and geographic diffusion. Other criteria such as authoritative use and codification would be difficult to incorporate into this study, as the data set is limited to one text type which, due to the limited degree of control over the text production procedure, cannot be viewed as either representing authoritative use or a form of codification. The


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original orthography is used in all examples cited in this section; the letters in parentheses (‘MC’ or ‘SC’) following each example stipulate the origin of sign (Muscat or Sana’a); finally, where a number in parentheses is given, this refers to the frequency of an example in the respective corpus. Almost all signs in both corpora featured both Arabic and English, although the degree to which each was used and the content expressed in each language differed greatly in each city. The Sana’a collection contains two examples of signs with languages other than English and Arabic: one sign announces the store’s services (internet and billiards) in Chinese and Russian Cyrillic scripts (see Figure 3.2), and on a second the French word ‘Monamour’ announces the store’s name. The MC contained three HindiEnglish/Arabic bilingual signs (see Example 1).

The Muscat corpus As previously mentioned, the two versions of Oman’s bilingual signs may differ in the quantity of detail included; however, no particular pattern can be identified in the corpus regarding omission and inclusion of information. Further, no one language is given greater prominence through font size and colour; these vary with each example. Omanis signs, in general, display a relatively predictable layout with regard to language choice and content. The proprietor’s name appears along the top (sometimes occasionally only in Arabic, but often in both languages or scripts), sometimes together with the name of the enterprise. If the shop has no name, the proprietor’s name serves as the name of the enterprise. This is followed by an announcement of the services or products, usually first in Arabic and then in English. Along the bottom of the sign, the sign registration number and location are given in Arabic (and sometimes also in English). With regard to script size or style, considerable care may be taken with the composition and calligraphy of the Arabic version on older handwritten signs, reflecting the tradition of the Arabic script as an art form. In the case of modern signs, which frequently employ computer graphics, bright colour combinations and photographic images, such attention to traditional calligraphy is absent.

The Sana’a corpus Overall, the SC reveals the more reduced role of English in Sana’a’s commercial sector. The majority of signs in the city are not bilingual but solely in Arabic. The use of English is used not primarily to announce the goods or services but rather to achieve a certain marketing effect by mixing the two languages. Importantly, English often appears in the Arabic transliteration; this appears particularly common when the name of the establishment is given in English (i.e. the English name may be written in the Arabic script or may appear in both scripts). ‘Spider net’ in Figure 3.2 illustrates this. The use of transliteration may be a compromise between the desire of the proprietor

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


Figure 3.2 Foreign COO references (SC)

to include English on the sign (possibly to associate the store with modernity and international orientation) and the imperative of legibility. As few Yemeni customers would be able to decipher and absorb content written in the Latin script, advertising wholly in English (language and script) would inevitably compromise the desired perlocutionary effect. The announcement of the goods and services is usually provided wholly or primarily in Arabic (language and script); this may be supplemented, however, with the inclusion of brand names (often using the official icon of the company) in English along the side or the bottom of the sign (the SC contains around 60 examples of explicit brand promotion). Thus, while Arabic is used to announce the products, English in the Latin script is adopted for explicit brand promotion. The inclusion of such brand promotion on signs in Oman was very uncommon and the MC does not contain any example of this feature. A further difference between the two corpora involves the use of photographic images of people for promotional purposes. Several examples occur in both corpora of photographs of both men and women, but only the SC contains advertising depicting an uncovered woman (i.e. without wearing the traditional garment covering the head [sheila] and body [abaya]) (see Figure 3.3). These signs were photographed in Haddah Street, and the proprietor likely aimed to attract prospective customers from the socioeconomic class frequenting this district, which buys Western-styled clothes and may travel abroad. Importantly, in both corpora, the men and women depicted are not recognisable as Omanis or Yemenis, but, in the eyes of locals, are unmistakably foreigners.

Shop naming practices in English Shop names are not obligatory and in both cities, often the shop name is in the form of the proprietor’s name or a list of goods or services (see Examples 21, 22). In the case of doctor’s clinics, frequently the doctor’s name appeared as the name of the clinic. A semantic connection may be apparent between the shop name and the commercial orientation of the enterprise. This is clear, for instance, in the


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Figure 3.3 Depictions of people (SC)

case of travel agencies (‘Space travel’ or’ Wings’) and computer-ware stores (e.g. ‘Hard soft solution’ or ‘Hackers’). In other cases, no obvious connection between the commercial sector and the name can be made; for instance, ‘reliance marketing and services’ (textiles), ‘Prompt’ (jewellery store), ‘Wings of bliss’ (advertising company) or ‘United projects’ (grocer). Preferences for certain words emerge, which suggests the importance of particular phenomena within this cultural context. Thus, certain colours recur (white, green, blue, golden e.g. ‘Green hand’); adjectives semantically related to ‘future’ or ‘modernity’ are common, natural phenomena, particularly celestial references (moon, clouds, light, sunrise, sky, crescent, star, mountains), evaluative adjectives (nice, beautiful, wonderful, glorious), references to nobility (prince, palace, king, crown), flora and fauna of the region (eagle, jasmine, pearl). In the MC, words expressing national unity commonly appear in the establishments’ name; for instance, ‘united’ (13), ‘national’ (8). The custom to refer to oneself as ‘the son or daughter of’ (followed by the father’s name) appears in English in the MC: ‘the heirs of Abdullah’; ‘adam’s sons jewellery’. The comparatively frequent occurrence of signs for public telephone booths (58), referred to locally as ‘Telecom’, in the SC but their absence in the MC deserves comment. Public telephone booths are infrequent in contemporary Oman, presumably due to widespread possession of mobile phones. A similar trend is emerging in Sana’a, where the number of public telephone booths has diminished since the early 2000s (discernible through the reduction in telephone both signage).

Shop names and foreign cultural references References to foreign countries or cultures (e.g. to a city, country, region, ethnicity or nationality or river) may also feature as part of the establishment’s

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


name. Such references are a well-established marketing strategy of associating a product with a foreign culture or nationality, even when it was not originate from this location. Known as the ‘Country of Origin’ (COO) effect, the tactic is used to imbue the marketed product or service with connotations of confidence and desirability (Verlegh & Steenkamp, 1999). COO references in the SC are numerous and diverse (see Table 3.1). While references to the Arab cultural sphere of the Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA countries) were abundant, references to European countries were also frequent. In addition to words, images can also be used to associate a product with a country. In the SC, images from foreign media were not uncommon (see Figure 3.2). In one example, the form in which the name of the store was presented (‘Friends’) was a faultless imitation of the advertising logo for this long-running US TV serial, although most Yemenis would probably not make this association. The same strategy was used in the case of ‘MBC Barber’; in this case, the design of the MBC logo would be immediately recognisable to most Yemenis as referring to the well-known Saudi Arabian television station. Finally, cultural references may allude to a product or cultural phenomenon originating in a foreign country. For instance, ‘Yementon Best Pure Tea quality number 1’, is an example of clipping ‘Lipton’ (widely available in Yemen) and blending it with ‘Yemen’. In comparison, COO references in the MC are few: Peninsula (4), Oman (3), cities in Oman (6), Turkey (1), Chinese (1), African (1) and Samarkand (1). With regard to the entire Oman corpus, Turkey was the only foreign cultural reference that appeared on multiple occasions across different commercial sectors (barber, restaurants and building supplies) (Buckingham, 2015b). Despite the COO reference, the store may not actually provide goods or services originating in the country alluded to in the advertising strategy. Thus, the reference to Spiderman in Figure 3.2 did not indicate the provision of telecommunications services from the US. In a few cases, however, the COO reference did indicate that the store stocked goods ostensibly from this country, thereby signalling market demand for a product with a specific provenance. Thus, in the SC, Japan was used as a COO marker for the sale of textiles. In the larger Oman corpus, Turkey may be used as a COO when advertising barber services, perhaps motivated by the popularity of male actors from well-known Turkish soap operas (Balli et al., 2013). In the case of currency exchange offices in Yemen, an image of a foreign currency note may appear; examples in the SC display the US (3) and the Saudi Arabian (3) bank notes, an indication of the saliency of these two currencies in Yemen. Finally, COO may also be in the form of a prominent aspect of a well-known advertising slogan or image that customers will recognise. The logo of the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera television channel is used; although the written text of the logo does not say ‘Al-Jazeera’, this symbol is immediately recognisable to Yemeni customers. Two further examples of


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Table 3.1 Country of origin references in English (SC) Category



Paris (3), French (2), Euro, Manchester, British (2), Barcelona (2), Greece (2), Czech, German, Italy, Rome, Siena Yemen (12), Hadramot [region in Yemen], Adan [city in Yemen], the Emirates (2), Al-Alamain [city in Egypt], the Nile (2), Cleopatra, Arabic, Lebanese, Al-Arabia, the Peninsula, Dubai (2), Al-Madena [Medina], the Maghreb (2) [Morocco], Damascus, Middle East (2), East, Arabian, Riyadh, Kuwait, Turkish, Qatar, Beirut American (4), Miami, United States, New York, Canadian Indian, Japanese, Samarkand [city in Uzbekistan] Disney world characters [US] (2), the US dollar [US], Spiderman [US] (2), Friends [US], Internet explorer logo [US]; Lebanese cedar tree [Lebanon], Taj Mahal [India], Twin Towers [Malaysia], MBC [Saudi Arabia], the Saudi Arabian Riyal [Saudi Arabia], Al-Jazeera [Qatar]


North America Asia Images

*The COO geographic reference is given as it appears on the sign; the information in brackets is for explanatory purposes. In instances where multiple examples were found, the number of cases appears in parentheses (the absence of a number).

this are the computer graphic shop ‘Perfection colour separation’ and the ‘Yemen mobile’ store, which use the distinctive yellow Al-Jazeera logo to write in Arabic ‘perfection’ and name of the store owner respectively. In addition to foreign cultural references in English, the SC contains extensive use of cultural and folkloric references in Arabic; these include references to literature, religion, historical battles, historical figures and places. As discussed in Al-Athwary (2012), the frequency of such references is indicative of the importance of local culture and traditions in Yemeni society.

Advertising slogans and brand promotion In addition to the shop name, an advertising slogan may appear in English on signs. This occurred in the SC, but only one example appeared in the MC (Tyre puncture & auto electric shop – Best fit for best action) (see Table 3.2). Again, this may be due to the greater amount of detail in English to describe wares on signs in Oman that does not leave space for slogans, although the shop name may be slogan-like (see Figure 3.4). Additionally, the MC does not contain advertising from multinational companies. As slogans from multinational companies are not a local creation but are part of the company’s international branding strategy, these are marked ‘intl’ in Table 3.2, while those appearing on the signs of Yemeni businesses (and which are thus locally construed) are marketed ‘Y’. It is quite possible that, in the

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


Table 3.2 Slogans in English according to commercial sector (SC) Category


Transport Electronics

Express and freight services around the globe (intl) Everyone’s invited (intl); Connecting people (intl); Let’s make things better (intl); Experts in Telecom Technology (Y); See it all first See it all! (Y) All your needs under one roof (Y) Best pure tea Quality No 1 (Y); We are not the best We are different (Y); The taste you love (Y) Change all foreigners Currency (Y), Send & Receive Money Worldwide (Y); The fastest way to send money around the world (intl) Helping the World to Hear/Digital (Y) Your complete travel planner (Y) The best for music (Y)

Stationery Food Currency exchange

Health clinic Travel Entertainment

formulation of their own slogans, local enterprises were influenced by examples from international companies. For instance, the local slogan ‘Helping the world to hear’ is reminiscent of the Nokia slogan ‘Connecting people’, both located on the same street in Sana’a. Several examples of multinational companies were included in the SC for the purpose of demonstrating how advertising strategies designed in the head office of an international company can potentially influence local advertising. A further difference between the uses of English on signage in these two cities consists of the tendency in Sana’a to use the product’s brand name (e.g. ‘Bosch’ or ‘Husqvarna’) (often together with the official logo); this explicit brand promotion frequently constitutes the only foreign language content (or the only content in Latin script) on the sign. The proprietor may have considered that while a brandname in the Latin script would be recognisable to prospective customers, the same might not hold for descriptive information in English. The absence of brand promotion as an advertising strategy

Figure 3.4 Slogan ‘We are not the best […]’ (SC) and shop name ‘Take & Win’ (MC)


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Figure 3.5 Proliferation of detail (MC)

in the MC is perhaps indicative of the overall higher level of English competency in Oman; rather than relying on brand recognition, proprietors tend towards listing (often in considerable detail) goods or services offered by the store (see Figure 3.5).

Characteristics of English use on commercial signage Certain linguistic features of the English appear which appear on signs in the two corpora would be recognised as differing from standardised English dialects. Some recur systematically, suggesting that these words or phrases are considered the appropriate formulation within this cultural context. As the use of English is more extensive in the MC, examples of such localised, or nativised, forms are more numerous. Both corpora contain unique instances of non-standard usage which can be classified as errors; these include errors in orthography, word form and word choice. As errors are not the focus of this study, these will only be mentioned briefly. The spelling-sound correspondence appears particularly challenging in the case of diphthongs (e.g. phon [phone], hause [house], suets/suits [suites], rual estate [real estate], talour/tilor [tailor]), consonant clusters (e.g. agriculral [agricultural], electorenic [electronic]), weak syllables with /ə/ (e.g. dentel [dental], genral [general]). Errors in word form include the following: Yemenian [Yemeni], furnitured [furnished], and examples of incorrect word choice include: texture [textile], Trans [across] the moon, money transform [transfer], bakery & rosted [grill].

Localised usages Other formulations (syntactic and lexical) reflect a systematised local use of English, some examples of which appear in both corpora. These, we

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


suggest, represent systematic usage of English in either or both cities and are likely viewed as acceptable variants in street-level commercial advertising in these cultural contexts. In this section we will first discuss structural features followed by lexical variants.

Structural features Perhaps the most salient syntactic feature is the tendency to use a phrase to announce the goods and services supplied. In the case of the SC, this is typically a prepositional phrase beginning with ‘for’ (123); this is usually preceded by the proprietor’s name or the name of the store. This structure appears to be transferred from Arabic and is commonplace on monolingual Arabic commercial signs. This structure is considerably less common in the MC (11); in place of this prepositional phrase, goods are usually introduced with the noun phrase ‘sale of’ (65), ‘retail of’ (43) or ‘wholesale of’ (13) (see Examples 4 and 14). The influence of Arabic can also be found in the word order of noun phrases. Examples of this include the word order of nouns in a compound noun (AL-WALE STORES FURNITURE [furniture stores]), the position of adjective modification (AL-NAIL BLUE PHARMACY [Blue Al-Nail/Nile Pharmacy]), and the use of the genitive structure with inanimate nouns. These features have also been identified in the studies based on a larger corpus in each country (Al-Athwary, 2012; Buckingham, 2015b), and the use of the genitive has been also identified in Boyle’s (2011) examination of the use of English in the English-language press in the UAE. With regard to adjectival post-modification, instances of this were found in Muscat and also in the wider Oman corpus in the meat retail commercial sector, where the specification of the condition of the product is culturally important (e.g. sale of fresh meat frozen & fish production). A relatively common feature in the SC involves placing the name of the establishment at the end, where this would normally appear at the beginning in standardised dialects. For instance: Hotel University [University Hotel], PHARMACY AL-NAJAT [Al-Najat Pharmacy], Center Basmat Aden [Basmat Aden Centre], Super Market NEW MART [New Mart Super Market], RESTAURANT EAGLE GOLD [Eagle Gold Restaurant]. Motivation for this could come from two possible sources: Arabic word order (postmodification of the nominal nucleus is normal) or the right-to-left direction of writing (and reading). Thus, local Yemenis may well read such signs from right to left by force of habit. Finally, the possessive form may be used a compound noun or, alternatively, the first noun may be in plural. As it is not clear whether the sign writer intended the plural or the possessive form, these have been grouped together in Examples 1 to 4. (1) Cars & trucks repairing (MC). (2) Auto repairing & vehicles washing (MC).


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(3) Product’s Center of Sahaaddin Gropes [groups] (SC). (4) Sale & maintenance of satellite receivers retail phone & mobile phones accessories (MC). In both corpora, the noun used in plural form may be used for collective or mass nouns such as equipments, works, furnitures, jewellerys/jewellries, leathers, make-ups, embroiderys/embroideries. Similarly, the plural form for the name of the commercial sector often appears where the singular form would be expected in standard dialects e.g. laundries/laundrys, restaurants, travels, workshops, warehouses, stores. This tendency perhaps indicates that a variety of goods or activities are offered by the establishment. Both corpora display a pronounced tendency towards using the gerund form. Due to the more extensive and varied use of English in the MC, the use of gerund is more numerous and diverse (see Table 3.3). In the SC, only a narrow selection of gerund verbs occur: trading (38); marketing (2), qualifying (3), manufacturing (1). Owing to the more detailed nature of the English content on signs in Oman, multiple verbs (including gerunds) may appear on a single sign. This occurs across all commercial sectors, although the most numerous listing of gerunds occurs on signs advertising personal grooming services (see Examples 5 to 8). (5) (6) (7) (8)

Cutting & tailoring abaya (MC). Repairing & shoes tailoring (MC). Car, trucks repairing, auto washing & greaseing (MC). Hair trimming & cutting setting etc well shaving & beard trimming activities for men (MC).

Table 3.3 Frequency of gerund verbs (MC) trading (33)

selling (4)

polishing (2)

catering (1)

repairing (33)

washing (3)

subdividing (2)

making (1)

fitting (11)

filling (3)

greasing (2)

covering (1)

cutting (11)

operating (3)

packing (2)

supplying (1)

trimming (10)

stitching (3)

printing (2)

earthmoving (1)

ironing (9)

washing (3)

furnishing (2)

chilling (1)

hair dressing (7)

covering (3)

buying (2)

freezing (1)

shaving (7)

renting (3)

typing (2)

printing (1)

loading (5)

refilling (3)

smithing (1)

photocopying (1)

unloading (5)

marketing (3)

using (1)

contracting (1)

recharging (4)

trucking (3)

making (1)

fixing (1)

sewing (4)

decorating (2)

styling (1)

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


Lexical features In both corpora, loan words from Arabic are incorporated into the English version; predictably, these words usually express cultural phenomena for which a word in English is lacking; these include: aood (incense), haj and umrah (forms of pilgrimage), traditional women’s garments (abaya [gown], sheila or khimaar [head scarf], praq [veil]), musar (traditional Omani male head covering), and halwa (sweet). In one case, an Arabic word, mokhbazah, is used in place of the English ‘bakery’, presumably because it made better commercial sense to use the transliteration of the Arabic word than an English word likely to be less widely understood amongst the indigenous population (see Examples 9 to 11). (9) FOR HIGH CLASS PERFUMES & AOOD (SC). (10) Modern Restaurant & Mokhbazah (SC). (11) TRAVEL/HAJ & UMRAH DIVISION (SC). Alternatively, the sign writer may attempt to avoid the inclusion of an Arabic loan word by providing an approximate English equivalent. This usually results in the selected word becoming associated with a specific meaning within this context. Thus, ‘gown’ is used in place of ‘abaya’, and ‘Omani cap’ may be used in place of ‘musar’; ‘Omani sweet’ denotes ‘halwa’. In other instances, a circumlocution is used. Finally, the loan word and the English equivalent may be used together. In Examples 12 to 16, the Arabic equivalent has been added in brackets. Bint albilad/for Ladies traditional dresses (SC) [abaya]. Sayedati al-mhajaba/for Gowns (SC) [abaya]. Sale of Omani Musar, caps & gents tailoring (MC) [kummah]. Agency for Travel & Tourism Pilgrimage & minor pilgrimage (SC) [haj and umrah]. (16) Tailoring of women’s aba (gown) retail of women aba & scarf (MC) [abaya and sheila]. (12) (13) (14) (15)

Sign writers in both cities make use of abbreviations to express predictable content in either the store name or the description of goods and services; at times a string of abbreviations may be used (see Figure 3.6). While most abbreviations conform to standardised usages, some abbreviations appear to have evolved within this local context. Common ‘standard’ abbreviations within the commercial sign genre include: co. (company), LTD. (limited), corp. (corporation), trad. (trading), Bros. (brothers), Assoc. (association). Abbreviations with a localised usage are relatively widespread. The following have been found on multiple occasions in the two corpora: equip./ equips/eq./eqpt. (equipment), Adv. (advertising), Exb. (exhibition), Off


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Figure 3.6 Abbreviations: ‘TRAD. & CONT. ASSO. (MC)

(office), Tec (technical), cont. (contractor), Maint. (maintenance), Bldg (building), Div. (division), Gen. (general), asso/assoc. (associates), ent. (establishment). As the meaning of some abbreviations was not transparent, the Arabic version of the sign was consulted. As can be seen in Examples 17 to 25, a series of abbreviations may be used. (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25)


Semantic shift Some words have acquired particular meanings within this context which differ from usage in standardised dialects. As the words are used consistently to express this meaning in different locations (i.e. by different shops in different streets, or in different cities), we may deduce that these usages appear to be acceptable within this context. Semantic extension may be found in the case of some terms. This extension may reflect the influence of the substrate language (Arabic) or South Asian English dialects. In Sana’a, the word ‘centre’ is very frequent (58 examples) and it may be used to denote any commercial enterprise (see Examples 26 to 28). This reflects the influence of the Arabic word ‘markiz’ which would be used in similar contexts. As the English may be limited to the shop name followed by ‘centre’, the Arabic version may still be required to understand the orientation of the enterprise. Terms such as ‘centre’ (or synonyms in this context such as ‘shop’, ‘store’ etc.) are not common in Muscat (or the wider Omani context). A second example of localised usage in the SC is the word ‘carpeting’ to refer to both the retail and laying of carpet (Example 29).

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen

(26) (27) (28) (29)


ASSOLIMANI BAGS CENTER (SC). BABY CENTER (SC). JAPANESE CENTER TEXTILEX [textiles] AND CURTAINS (SC). Azeez Qatam For Texture [textiles] Furniture & Carpeting (SC).

A semantic extension common in Muscat involves the use of ‘fitting’ to refer to the installation of accessories, materials or furnishings (11 examples) across various commercial sectors (see Figure 3.7). The verb appears only in the gerund form and may be preceded by other verbs, reflecting a tendency towards detail on commercial signs in Oman. (30) Interior decoration cutting, and fitting, curtains (MC). (31) Aluminium fitting workshop (MC). (32) Retail of construction materials, eletrical equipment & fitting (MC). Other examples of words which display semantic extension or narrowing are the following: mutton, readymade, foodstuff, saloon, stitching, exhibition, agency, marketing, greasing, novelties and luxuries (see Examples 33 to 41). The use of ‘mutton’ to denote both lamb and goat meat, and the use of ‘saloon’ to denote a ‘salon’ reflects common usage in South Asian dialects.7 A second example common to both locations is the use of the term ‘readymade’ to describe ready-to-wear clothes. The widespread use of this term is perhaps motivated by the still prevalent custom of purchasing tailor-made clothes. In the MC, ‘readymade’ collocates most frequently with ‘garments’, a term used in preference to ‘clothes’. ‘Agency’ or ‘clearance’ with the meaning of ‘brokerage service’ or ‘commercial representative’ was used in both cities (see Figure 3.8). ‘Marketing’ is used in both corpora to denote ‘distribution’. Specific to Sana’a was the use of the word ‘exhibition’ to denote a product showroom (Example 38). (33) Al-Fudil Star Electricity for General Trading & Agency (SC). (34) AL-KHALKI FOR ELECLRICAL TRADE & GENERAL AGENCIES (SC). (35) Batheeb For Agencies (SC).

Figure 3.7 Semantic shift: ‘fitting’ (MC) and ‘carpeting’ (SC)


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Figure 3.8 Semantic shift: ‘agency’ and ‘exhibition’ (SC)

(36) (37) (38) (39) (40) (41)

Loading & unloading goods, commercial agencies, representation (MC). AL-QEMMA CLEARANCE CENTER (SC). Czech Chandeliers Exhibition (SC). Fish marketing (MC). ABU ANWAR For Trading & Marketing (SC). Retail of readymade garments, shoes & leather production (MC).

The MC contains a more varied collection of local usages of particular words. A grocer is commonly known as a ‘foodstuff’ establishment throughout Oman; in the SC, ‘grocery’ is the commonly used term, and ‘foodstuffs’ appears only once. Car ‘greasing’ denotes engine lubrication. ‘Artificial’ and ‘imitation’ are common adjectives used on signs advertising jewellery and denote ‘dress’ or ‘costume’ jewellery. ‘Stitching’ is commonly used as a synonym for ‘sewing’; thus, in Muscat an establishment may purvey ‘stitching accessories’ or ‘sew shoes’ (see Example 43). A final example of semantic shift may be seen in the commonplace terms ‘novelties’ or ‘luxuries’, used to refer to small household items (the Arabic equivalent on the signs for both words is ‘kemaliyat’). Used extensively throughout Oman, no example of these terms were found in Sana’a. (42) (43) (44) (45)

Retail & sewing shoes (MC). Sale & repair of sewing machine & stitching accessories (MC). Wholesale of gifts & novelties (MC). Sale of luxuries, cigarettes & tobacco products (MC).

In the MC, five examples appear of ‘accounting’ or ‘computing machinery’ used to refer to ‘computers’ (e.g. ‘Maintenance of office accounting & computing machinery’). This appears to be a loan translation of the Arabic ‘al ha’sib ala’li’. These terms also occur in the larger Oman corpus. Likewise, restricted to the MC is the term ‘godown’ to refer to a basement warehouse (e.g. ‘foodstuff godown’). Still used today in South Asian and East African English dialects (according to results in the Global English corpus), this term dates from when the southern Arabian coastline was an important trade route for the East India Company and the term can be found in documents from the 1700s.8 Perhaps unsurprisingly due to its inland location, the term is not found in Sana’a; it remains to be verified, however, whether the term is used in the southern port of Aden, capital of the former British protectorate and an important historical trading post.

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


A tendency found in both corpora is the use of ‘clipped’ forms; in such cases, the adjectival modifier is used as the nucleus of a noun phrase upon the elision of the noun. This feature is found across a number of commercial sectors and is typically found with the following words: soft [software], sanitary [sanitary ware], opticals [optician], sitting [sitting room furniture], ready [readymade], households [household utensils or goods] (see Examples 46 to 54). BARAS/For Ceramics & Sanitary (SC). YEMEN SOFT (SC). East Optical (SC). IBN AL-HAITHAM OPTICAL & HEADING AID NETWORK (SC). Modern opticals (MC). Furniture upholstery, arabican sitting, european sitting, and cutting & fitting of curtain (MC). (52) READY WEAR (SC). (53) AL RAYAN READY CLOTHES CENTER (SC). (54) Sale of foodstuffs, households & cosmetics (MC).

(46) (47) (48) (49) (50) (51)

Common in Muscat is the use of a superordinate to classify the type of product or service advertised. This is not found in the SC. The following superordinates are common (see Examples 55 to 59): equipment(s) 24, material(s) (20), products (17), items (15), wares (10), activities (8), work(s) (8), goods (7), utensils (6), service(s) (5), articles (3), instruments (2). (55) Knitting & crochet works (MC). (56) Retail of miscellaneous household utensils, tobacco products, gifts & novelties (MC). (57) Computer equipments & office related items (MC). (58) Sale of perfumes, cosmetics, beautification soap, frankinsence & household wares (MC). (59) House hold instruments, luxuries & cosmetics (MC).

Discussion The language choice and selection of cultural references on commercial signs in Muscat and Sana’a reflect the different social function of English in these cities, while the manner in which English is used sheds light the relative position of the language vis-à-vis Arabic and migrant languages in the broader national context. In Muscat, English has a very functional, instrumental value. As a vibrant city port, Muscat has attracted foreign workers and traders for centuries. Proprietors’ names on contemporary signage still reflect the legacy of vigorous trading networks stretching from the Arabian


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Sea to the Indian Ocean (Machado, 2014). The use of English is pragmatic and instrumental in this context. It represents the ‘catchpool’ language that serves the functional communicative needs of myriad nationalities transiting or residing in the city. The level of detail apparent on many signs evidences the value attributed to explicitness in this lingua franca context. A contrasting tendency towards implicitness was noted in the, often proliferating, use of abbreviations in both cities, and the use of clipped noun phrases. In Sana’a, the display function of English is salient. Relatively few passers-by are able to understand English beyond a basic level, thus the propositional content is less vital than the symbolic, emblematic value attached to the presence of English words on commercial signage. Contrasting with the often elaborate phrases in the MC, the use of English in the SC evidenced brevity, often reduced to individual words. ‘Inter-languaging’ or hybrid forms were also common such as code-mixing and the use of the Arabic script for English words or the Latin script for Arabic. The proliferation of brand advertising in English suggests that this was a convenient approach to inserting ‘instant English’ into a sign in a context of low-level English ability. A commonality between the two corpora was identified in the use of cultural references predominantly from the Eastern Mediterranean and wider Muslim world. Their use appeared to represent an affirmation of a shared cultural, intellectual and spiritual orientation, and they may also signal a personal (or family) connection to a foreign country. This seems particularly likely in Yemen, where the necessity for many to seek work abroad may prompt an outward-looking orientation. The multifarious nature of foreign cultural references in Sana’a was notable. Only the SC contained numerous references (images, logos and words) to North American media. Although Yemen is commonly considered a culturally conservative country, the SC alone contained images of uncovered women. Limited to the shopping district targeting wealthier customers (Haddah Street), such signs speak to the upper social echelons which, through travel, cable television and internet, may access an array of alternative consumer identities that do not form part of the reality of most Yemenis. The portrayal of such images at the street level (i.e. not in exclusive shopping malls) in Sana’a and their absence in the MC is intriguing. It is perhaps indicative of the greater socioeconomic divide in Yemeni society. This type of commodity promotion represents a universal advertising strategy of seeking to imbue a product (or service) with qualities of uniqueness, novelty, or modernity that speak to (an imagined) discerning consumer (Agha, 2011). Providing the opportunity for a niche social sector of Sana’a to enact their elite or select group belonging or express social mobility and international connectivity aspirations through discerning retail choices appears to offer retailers in this street commercial advantages. This semiotic strategy entails certain entrepreneurial risk insofar as it may fail in securing the intended uptake (Agha, 2011: 26); that is, recognising the indexicality of either the

Commerc ial Signs in Oman and Yemen


‘Friends’ or the ‘Al-Jazeera’ logo depends on the prospective clients’ media awareness and viewing preferences. A study of public language use in the commercial linguistic landscape of cities such as Muscat and Sana’a reveals both historic and contemporary demographic and socioeconomic traits of these urban centres. This study represents no more than a snapshot of the respective cityscapes in the early 21st century, however. Yemen is afflicted by ongoing sociopolitical turmoil as tribal-based groups contest power and the scale of foreign direct intervention has increased; concomitantly, fluctuations in the health of Sultan Qaboos suggest that Oman may be compelled to embrace a renewal of political leadership in the foreseeable future. As a replication study might reveal, sociopolitical changes over the coming decades are likely to be reflected in the cities’ linguistic landscapes in response to changes in language policies and the ethnic composition of migrant flows.

Notes (1) We are grateful to Aziz Khan for pointing this out. (2) A further example of a store proprietor of recognisable Gujarati origin in the Muscat corpus is ‘Dawarkadas-Kalyanji’. (3) Due to the high number of foreign nationals in the workforce, the Omanisation policy restricts the employment of expatriates in certain positions and employers are exhorted to ‘employ the Omani workers to the maximum possible extent’ (Ministry of Manpower, 2012: 7). While incentives to work in the public sector are high, it continues to prove difficult to replace expatriate workers with Omanis in the private sector, and the reliance on expatriate workers appears unlikely to abate (Al-Hamadi et al., 2007). (4) According to World Bank figures from 2004, around 35% of the population lives in poverty (World Bank, 2014). Yemen ranks 154 out of 186 nations in the UN Human Development Index (Oman ranks 56) (UNDP, 2014). (5) As Omanis of Zanzibari heritage are not classified as such in the census, no official data is available on their percentage in the community (Al-Rasheed, 2005). (6) The centre of the Omani sultanate was relocated from Oman to Zanzibar in 1840. (7) Historically, ‘saloon’ was used to refer to a ‘salon’ as data the Corpus of Historical American English (Davies, 2010) will attest (for instance, ‘Really it was a high-class saloon when the barber talked like that at you’). This usage is still found in South Asian English dialects, as can be seen in examples from the Global Web-Based English Corpus, e.g. ‘I work hard at my roadside barber saloon and earn Rs. 15,000/= monthly’ (Davies, 2013). (8) See the entry for ‘godown’ in the Oxford English Dictionary (http://www.oed. com/).

References Agha, A. (2011) Commodity registers. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21 (1), 22–53. Al-Athwary, A.A.H. (2012) Exploring the structure and functions of Sana’a’s linguistic landscape. Journal of Social Studies 34, 9–45. Al-Hamadi, A.B., Budhwar, P.S. and Shipton, H. (2007) Management of human resources in Oman. The International Journal of Human Resource Management 18 (1), 100–113.


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Al-Huri, I.H. (2012) The impact of diglossia in teaching/learning the Arabic course in Sana’a secondary schools. Unpublished Master’s dissertation. Aboubekr Belkaid University, Algeria. Al-Naqeeb, K.H. (1990) Society and State in the Gulf and Arab Peninsula: A Different Perspective. London: Routledge. Al-Rasheed, M. (2005) Transnational connections and national identity. In P. Dresch and J.P. Piscatori (eds) Monarchies and Nations: Globalization and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf (pp. 96–113). London: I.B. Tauris. Balli, F., Balli H.O. and Cebeci, K. (2013) Impacts of exported Turkish soap operas and visa-free entry on inbound tourism to Turkey. Tourism Management 37, 186–192. Bamgbose, A. (1998) Torn between the norms: Innovations in world Englishes. World Englishes 17 (1), 1–14. Boxberger, L. (2002) On the Edge of Empire: Hadhramawt, Emigration, and the Indian Ocean, 1880s–1930s. Albany: State University of Albany Press. Boyle, R. (2011) Patterns of change in English as a lingua franca in the UAE. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 21 (2), 143–161. Buckingham, L. (2015a) Commercial signage and the linguistic landscape of Oman. World Englishes 33 (3), 411–435. Buckingham, L. (2015b) ‘Fresh variants and formulations frozen’: Structural features of commercial signs in Oman. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 25 (3), 386–413. Burrows, R.D. (2010) Historical Dictionary of Yemen. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. Cenoz, J. and Gorter, D. (2006) Linguistic landscape and minority languages. International Journal of Multilingualism 3 (1), 67–80. Davies, M. (2010) The Corpus of Historical American English: 400 Million Words, 1810–2009. See (accessed March 2014). Davies, M. (2013) Corpus of Global Web-Based English: 1.9 Billion Words from Speakers in 20 Countries. See (accessed March 2014). De Regt, M. (2010) Ways to come, ways to leave: Gender, mobility, and il/legality among Ethiopian domestic workers in Yemen. Gender and Society 24 (2), 237–260. EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) (2011) Yemen: A Country Study. London: Economic Intelligence Unit. EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) (2013) Oman: A Country Study. London: Economic Intelligence Unit. Kapiszewski, A. (2006) Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries. United Nations Expert Group Meeting on International Migration and Development in the Arab Region, May 15–17, Beirut, Lebanon. Landry, R. and Bourhis, R. (1997) Linguistic landscape and ethnolinguistic vitality: An empirical study. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 16 (1), 23–49. Ling, L.M. (2013) The linguistic landscape of Hong Kong after the change of sovereignty. International Journal of Multilingualism 10 (3), 251–272. Machado, P. (2014) Ocean of Trade. South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean 1770–1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Metcalf, T.R. (2007) Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1860–1920. Berkley: University of California Press. Ministry of Manpower (2012) Labour Law. Sultanate of Oman. Okruhlik, G. and Conge, P. (1997) National autonomy, labor migration and political crisis: Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Middle East Journal 51 (4), 554–565. Onley, J. (2005) Britain’s Informal Empire in the Gulf, 1820–1971. Journal of Social Affairs 22 (87), 29–45. Onley, J. (2007) Arabian Frontier of the British Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century Gulf. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Peterson, J.E. (2004a) Oman’s diverse society: Northern Oman. Middle East Journal 58, 32–51.

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Peterson, J.E. (2004b) Oman’s diverse society: Southern Oman. Middle East Journal 58, 254–269. Peterson, J.E. (2007) Historical Muscat. Leiden: Brill. Pradhan, S. (2013) Oman-India Relations: Exploring the long-term migration dynamics. In S. Wippel (ed.) Regionalizing Oman: Political, Economic and Social Dynamics (pp. 107–127). Dordrecht: Springer. Shiohata, M. (2012) Language use along the urban street in Senegal: Perspectives from proprietors of commercial signs. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 33 (3), 269–285. Valeri, M. (2007) Nation-building and communities in Oman since 1970: The Swahilispeaking Omani in search of identity. African Affairs 106 (424), 479–496. Van Rooy, B. (2011) A principled distinction between error and conventionalized innovation in African Englishes. In M. Hundt and J. Mukherjee (eds) Exploring Secondlanguage Varieties of English and Learner Englishes: Bridging a Paradigm Gap (pp. 189–207). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Verlegh, P.W.J. and Steenkamp, J.B.E.M. (1999) A review and meta-analysis of countryof-origin research. Journal of Economic Psychology 20 (5), 521–546. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Institute for Statistics (2013) Adult literacy rate. Data Centre. (accessed March 2014). UNDP (United Nations Development Program) (2014) International human development indicators. (accessed March 2014). World Bank (2014) Data Yemen, Rep. (accessed March 2014).

Part 2 The English Language and Arab Peninsula Identity


Emirati Cultural Identity in the Age of ‘Englishisation’: Voices from an Abu Dhabi University Sarah Hopkyns

Introduction Media attention Alarm bells cannot help but ring in the mind of the reader when looking through a series of recent particularly powerful and emotive newspaper headlines on the dominance of English in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its effects on local language, culture and identity (Figure 4.1). Three main themes emerge from the articles: the seductive nature of English, declining levels of Arabic and the need to bolster local cultural identity. These issues, which are regularly discussed amongst UAE Federal National Council (FNC) members, relate especially to English and Arabic in education. One example among many is FNC member Dr Sheikha Al Ari (Umm Al Quwain), who identifies poor literacy in Arabic the nation’s ‘new disability’ after recounting her experience of overseeing local schools. In these schools she witnessed a number of Grade 3 students who were unable to tell one Arabic book from another and did not know which was the first page and which was the last. She describes this situation as ‘something horrendous’ (Figure 4.1: 5). Experiences such as these, combined with similarly themed public and scholarly discourse in the region (Ahmed, 2011; Al-Issa & Dahan, 2011; Badry, 2011; Raddawi & Meslem, 2015; Said, 2011), indicate that the relationship between Arabic, local cultural identity and global English is strained, at best. Depicted by journalists through a binary east – west paradigm, English tends to be portrayed as the aggressor and Arabic as the victim in need of saving. Rightly or wrongly, this is the 87


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1 Gulf News

English proficiency comes at a cost

February 27th, 2011

2 The National English language ‘seducing’ UAE pupils

December 8th, 2014

3 Gulf News

December 17th, 2013

Cultural identity in danger in the GCC

4 The National Arabic must be the main language in UAE education, Federal National Council hears

November 23rd, 2014

5 The National Poor literacy in Arabic is ‘the new disability’ in June 12th, 2013 the UAE, FNC told 6 Gulf News

Education must be revamped to foster cultural identity, FNC says

7 The National Arabic at risk of becoming a foreign language

October 28th, 2009 March 1st, 2015

Figure 4.1 Recent UAE newspaper headlines

chosen angle expressed in public discourse, in particular local newspaper reporting.

Global English: More than just a language Globalisation, with English and technology as its ‘two inseparable meditational tools’ (Tsui & Tollefson, 2007: 1), now has a profound impact on politics, science, technology, entertainment and socioeconomics worldwide. As English now occupies an important position in the education systems in the Gulf Cooperate Council (GCC) states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), it has become a, ‘high stakes gatekeeper of educational and social success’ (Al-Mahrooqi & Denman, 2015: 3) and, as ‘nothing succeeds like prestige’ (Thumboo, 2003: 237), it is likely to continue playing this role in years to come. Although the swell of English that has bombarded the world in recent times has brought a great sense of progress, modernisation, and opportunities, there are also concerns over the effects this continuing ‘English blitz’ has on local languages and cultures. To some, globalisation, and the spread of English that accompanies it, is seen as ‘a system of mono-cultural or even mono-lingual dominance’ (Harrison et al., 2007: 20). Globalisation has been linked to ‘McDonaldisation’ or ‘makdana’ in Arabic (Hammond, 2007: 33), which is ‘the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world’ (Ritzer, 1993: 1, cited in Qiang & Wolff, 2005: 55). Similarly, and more specifically, the spread of English has been called ‘McCommunication’ (Block, 2002: 117) or ‘Englishisation’ (Hardt & Negri: 2000) due to its perceived homogenising nature. However, while some fear globalisation is an extension of British and American imperialism, others argue that ‘hybridisation’ (Pieterse, 1995) or ‘glocalisation’ (Robertson, 1995), in which local versions of imported

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


language and cultural artefacts are created, overpowers ‘Englishisation’ in many societies. In this sense, ‘a synergetic relationship between the global and the local’ (Block & Cameron, 2002: 3) exists rather than the dominance of the former over the latter. Giddens (1990, 2000) sees globalisation as an opportunity to engage with post-traditional order and forge new identities, rather than an impetus for returning to dreams of the past. The ‘Englishisation verses hybridisation’ debate in relation to the effects of global English can be found worldwide in countries such as in India (Hudawi, 2013), China (Pan & Seargeant, 2012), Japan (Lehner, 2011), Malaysia (Kim, 2003; Mohd-Asraf, 2005), Turkey (Atay & Ece, 2009), Saudi Arabia (Alabbad & Gitsaki, 2011; Alkaff, 2013; Hagler, 2014) and the UAE (Badry, 2011; Findlow, 2006; O’Neill, 2014; Randall & Samimi, 2010) to name just a few. The effects of global English on local cultural identity is especially interesting and relevant to investigate in the Arabian Peninsula context, in particular the UAE, due to a combination of several distinct factors. These include the UAE’s complex history with English-speaking nations, the prominence of the expatriate community, the fact that it is a region undergoing rapid change and the recent dramatic spread of English in the sphere of education and social life. The study, which takes place at a large public university in Abu Dhabi, aims to firstly explore what English and Arabic represent to Emirati university students and expatriate university English teachers. I then investigate Emirati university students’ attitudes towards English and how English affects various layers of Emirati cultural identity will then be investigated, before looking at Emirati university students’ preferences with regard to the cultural content of English lessons and teacher nationality.

Background: English in the Context of the UAE Fast-paced change, alarming demographics and complex history with English-speaking nations The changes that have taken place in the UAE within the last five decades are, as Al-Fahim (1995: 15) states, ‘difficult to believe even for those who have seen them with their own eyes’. Dramatic changes in wealth, demographics, infrastructure and lifestyle are a result of industrialisation, urbanisation, modernisation and perhaps most strikingly, globalisation. As Winslow et al. (2002: 572) note, within just one generation, ‘Adults who were Bedouins, tending goats and farming dates, have children driving Land Cruisers and studying in America’. After the discovery of oil in the region and the expansion of the oil industry in the late 1950s, followed by the departure of the British in 1968 (Martin,


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2003: 50), economic and social conditions changed dramatically. These newly acquired petrodollars were pumped into the economy, infrastructure and society, leading to astonishing changes in social indicators and the urban landscape. As the emirate of Abu Dhabi alone is now home to one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world in terms of total assets, estimated at $627 billion in 2012 (Burton, 2012: 22), there are no signs of this financial development slowing. Now labelled the ‘land of superlatives’ (Burton, 2012: 4), the UAE’s climate of fast-paced change can most obviously be seen in the creation of multiple urban megaprojects ‘structured as global Disneylands surrounded by sands engorged with oil and gas’ (Harris, 2013: 96). For this ‘building frenzy’ (Harris, 2013: 89) and infrastructure transformation to occur, a considerable numbers of expatriate workers arrive on short-term contacts to work in the fields of construction, retail, medicine, teaching and business. These expatriates now outnumber the native population to the point where only approximately 13% of the UAE’s residents are Emiratis, a figure projected to decline further to only 10% in 2020 (Harris, 2013: 87). Due to the short-term nature of most work visas, impermanence and mobility characterise the expatriate population. In consequence, the Emirati population lives among constant demographic change. This demographic instability and imbalance (Martin, 2003: 54) is regularly discussed in the media and by the local populace. In addition to feelings of being outnumbered in their own land, the UAE’s complex history with English-speaking nations also contributes to how English is viewed in the region. Previously a member of the Trucial States, the UAE was part of an informal British protectorate until the early 1970s. This was a relationship, which although once viewed as mutually beneficial had turned into ‘unwanted dominance’ (Al-Fahim, 1995: 27). Arab nationalism increased after the United Nations’ creation of the state of Israel in 1948, resulting in loss of land rights for 700,000 Palestinian Arabs (Darraj & Puller, 2009: 32), which was viewed as very much supported by Englishspeaking superpower the United States. Continued anger over this decision is evidenced by the placement of the Palestinian flag over Israel on world maps at the university at which the study takes place (Figure 4.2) as well as on maps for sale in local stores. More recently, the post 9/11 media ‘war of words’ served to sharpen the debate on ‘the clash of civilizations’ (Mohd-Asraf, 2005: 103; Raddaoui & Derbel, 2013: 70; Rehman, 2007: 198) between the West and the Arab world, with old stereotypes being revived (Rehman, 2007: 212).

The omnipresence of English in multiple domains in the UAE As a large number of the UAE’s expatriate workers come from partly Anglophone countries such as India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines (Troudi, 2007: 4) and majority English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


Figure 4.2 Palestinian fl ag covering Israel on a world map in an Abu Dhabi university

and United States, English has become a very practical tool as a lingua franca at ‘all levels of society’ (Randall & Samimi, 2010: 43). Socially, English is essential for daily economic transactions such as booking hotel accommodation or shopping in commercial centers. At home, English-speaking housemaids and nannies, who are hired by 94% of Emirati families (Dubai Statistics Centre, cited in Ahmed, 2012: 1), immerse the children in the English language. In education, whereas English had been taught as only one subject among others in Abu Dhabi public schools, since the introduction of the ‘New School Model’ (NSM) in 2010, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) has made language acquisition in both Arabic and English one of its key learning goals. This significant change, which involved the inclusion of English-medium education in all kindergarten to Grade 3 classes in government schools in 2010, all Grade 4 classes in 2011 and all Grade 5 classes in 2012, was introduced with the aim of helping students to become bi-literate in Arabic and English upon entering higher education (ADEC, 2014). This combination of factors, in addition to the global presence of English, appears to have contributed to a sense of cultural fragility in the region (see Figure 4.3). As Akbari (2013: 10) explains, within applied linguistics, every context has a different ‘reality’ and for the Peninsula region political issues such as identity are a priority.

Resistance to English Perceptions of cultural fragility have led the UAE, and other GCC countries, to undertake measures to preserve local identity (Al-Khouri, 2012: 5). For example, 2008 was named ‘the year of national identity’ in the UAE, and the government made Arabic the official language of all federal authorities and establishments in the same year (Al Baik, 2008, cited in Badry, 2011: 91). The UAE government’s ‘Emiratisation’ initiative, which encourages Emiratis to enter the workforce with the aim of reducing its reliance on so many


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Global English Increased focus on English in educaon (New School Model)

Demographics (approximately 87% expatriates)

Complex history with Englishspeaking naons

Emira cultural identy

Climate of fastpaced change

Figure 4.3 Factors contributing to fragility of cultural identity in the UAE

foreign workers (Kirk, 2010: 11), is another prominent sign of counteraction. In addition to this, one of the strongest forms of resistance in the region, which Belhiah and Elhami (2015: 4) describe as a ‘watershed moment in the history of higher education in the GCC’, was the decision of the Supreme Education Council in Qatar in 2012 to make Arabic the language of instruction at its most prestigious university, Qatar University. This momentous decision has opened up dialogue on this possibility in other GCC nations. On a smaller scale, the promotion of Arabic over English can be seen when walking along the corridors at the university in which the study takes place. Figure 4.4, shows one of many posters promoting the use of Arabic (the mother language) among Emiratis. Finally, moves have also been made to strengthen the Arabic language through awards as well as promoting the Arabic book industry. For example, in May 2014 the ‘Mohammed bin Rashid Arabic Language Award’ was launched to encourage ‘exceptional contributions in serving the Arabic language’ (Al Allaq, 2014: 120) and the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and

Figure 4.4 Poster in a local university corridor

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


Heritage has recently launched several projects to uplift the Arabic Language such as the ‘Kalima’ Project (meaning ‘word’ project) which aims to translate hundreds of foreign books into Arabic to overcome the ‘translation draught in the Arab world’ (

Culture and Identity in the Age of Globalisation Due to the complex, multifaceted and co-constructed nature of culture and identity in the age of globalisation, when we talk of ‘Western culture’ or ‘Emirati culture’ in this study, we must do so with the understanding that there are variations and fluidity within these categories. Whereas culture has traditionally been attached to a place, a nation or ‘the whole way of life of a people’ (Young, 1996), much controversy now surrounds such definitions due to the fact that the world is becoming increasingly transcultural. Moving away from an essentialist view of culture, Holliday (2005: 23) explains, ‘culture is not a geographical place which can be visited and to which someone can belong, but a social force which is evident wherever it emerges as being significant’. In this sense, cultural identity is constantly changing and leaking at the boundaries. It is not static or neatly packaged, and it is connected to several smaller overlapping groups rather than one large ‘catch all’ group, such as nationality (Hopkyns, 2014: 4). Culture can, therefore, be defined as a way of life or outlook adopted by a community, making it a form of ‘collective subjectivity’ (Alasuutari, 1995: 25). The subjectivity stressed in this definition reflects current work in the field of intercultural communication, which ‘rejects essentialism and cultural overgeneralization and acknowledges cultural diversity’ (Holliday, 2011: 7) viewing ‘human beings as social enactors of culture’ (Dervin & Liddicoat, 2013: 6). Similarly, identity, which can be defined as ‘the ongoing sense the self has of who it is, as conditioned through its ongoing interactions with others’ (Mathews, 2000: 16) is fluid, co-constructed, pluralistic and dynamic over time and space (Block, 2007; Diallo, 2014; Hua, 2014; Kramsch, 1998; Norton, 2000; Pierce, 1995; Suleiman, 2003). As Mercer (2011: 11) states, one of the most important characteristics of identity or ‘self-concept’ is its multidimensional nature.

The Study Background to the study The study aims to gain perspectives on the effects of global English on Emirati cultural identity by exploring five main research questions.


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RQ1: What do the languages English and Arabic represent to Emirati university students and expatriate university English teachers? RQ2: What are Emirati university students’ attitudes towards English? RQ3: How does English affect Emirati cultural identity? RQ4: What are Emirati university students’ preferences with regard to the cultural content of English lessons? RQ5: What are Emirati university students’ preferences with regard to teacher nationality? The study, which is part of a larger ongoing project, took place at a large, prestigious public university in Abu Dhabi (UAE). Founded in 1998, the university comprises six colleges (with a second campus in Dubai) and runs an intensive English language programme which most students complete upon entrance. Two groups of participants, Emirati students studying in the university’s intensive English programme (both male and female) and expatriate university English teachers, were involved.

Participants – the university students and expatriate English teachers The first group of participants included 50 Emirati university students (25 male, 25 female) aged 18 to 24 studying English in the highest level (IELTS band 5–6) of the university’s intensive English programme. Students who enter the programme follow a 20-hour-a-week schedule for a minimum of one semester and a maximum of two years depending, on their level of English upon entering. The second group of participants included 15 expatriate English teachers teaching in the university’s intensive English programme. The teachers, who are aged between early 30s to mid-50s and come from a range of countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico, have worked on the Arabian Peninsula for between two years to 15 years. All the teachers involved in the study also have experience teaching in other countries such as Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Vietnam and Gabon amongst others. The student sample for the questionnaires comprised two classes with twenty participants. This constituted a cluster sampling as the groups were already in existence and could be said to contain a cross-section of university students who plan to major in a range of subjects. The student sample for the focus group included 10 students (one group of five males and one group of five females) from other classes. Following the snowball technique, teachers of these classes were asked to suggest students they thought would contribute well in a focus group setting. For the teacher sample, 15 teachers (10 questionnaire respondents and five focus group members) were chosen by

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


the researcher in order to provide a wide range of perspectives including different nationalities, ages, sex etc.

Data collection and analysis As the research questions seek to explore in-depth opinions and experiences, two qualitative data collection methods were used. (1) Open-response questionnaires with 40 students (20 female and 20 male) students and 10 teachers. (2) Three hour-long focus groups with five female students, five male students and five teachers. The open-response questionnaires were chosen due to the anonymity this tool provided. This meant that students and teachers might be more likely to disclose true opinions without any fear of being judged, which would counter ‘group think’ (participants following the opinion of others), which is a potential flaw in focus group data. Open-response questions were also chosen as richer data tend to emerge when participants perceive themselves to be treated as ‘real people rather than theoretical abstractions’ (Ushioda, 2009: 220). The questionnaires, which were in English and Arabic, took approximately 20 minutes to complete and were given to the students in their classrooms with the permission of their teachers. The teachers were given a week to complete their questionnaires. Both the student and teacher questionnaires included basic biographical information as well as openresponse questions (see Appendices). The second data collection tool, the focus group, was chosen as it allowed for different perspectives in an informal discussion and is, therefore, ideal for ‘exploring people’s experiences, opinions, wishes and concerns’ (Kitzinger & Barbour, 1999: 5). Focus groups also challenge the power dynamics often found in standard interviews by giving the participants greater control and turning the interviewer into more of a facilitator or moderator. This power is achieved by participants shaping the flow of the discussion and co-constructing knowledge as a group. As Thomas (2008: 78), points out, ‘focus group discussions emphasise participation, supportive environments, discussion, depth and interaction between all members’. In a supportive group environment, a level of candour and spontaneity from members tends to be evoked that is not achieved in one-to-one interviews (Winslow et al., 2002: 566). The student groups were single-sex groups due to the culture and the religion of the UAE which require strict segregation of the sexes (Winslow et al., 2002: 572). The teacher and female student focus groups took place in the researcher’s office, which provided a quiet and comfortable setting. For the male student focus group, a meeting room was reserved on the male side of the university.


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In the reporting of data, pseudonyms are used and the abbreviations ‘FG’ or ‘Q’ after these names indicate whether the participants were focus group members or questionnaire respondents. The data from the questionnaires and focus groups were analysed thematically, which involved searching for themes and noting patterns within the data (Rapley, 2011: 274).

Findings and Analysis The findings are organised into four sections. The first and second sections explore students’ and teachers’ perceptions on the way English and Arabic are represented (RQ1) and also look specifically at their attitudes towards global English (RQ2). The third section then examines the perceived effect of global English on various layers of Emirati cultural identity (RQ3). Finally, university students’ preferences with regard to the cultural content of English lessons are explored (RQ4), as well as the issue of teacher nationality from the perspective of university students and the teachers themselves (RQ5).

English and Arabic – what they represent Before looking at the students’ views of English and Arabic, it was important to explore the extent to which students use English in their lives. All participants named Arabic as their first language and English as their second. As can be seen from Table 4.1, the most common areas of English use are technology and entertainment. In contrast, at home and with friends English is used by only 27% of students. The fact that in all but two of the categories, over 50% of students use English, testifies to the prevalence of the language in the region.

Table 4.1 The university students’ English use English use



All students

Internet Emailing and texting Movies For travelling Music Outside of the classroom at university At home With friends

100% 90% 90% 95% 70% 65% 40% 15%

95% 85% 95% 90% 80% 65% 15% 40%

95.5% 87.5% 92.5% 92.5% 75% 65% 27.5% 27.5%

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


Table 4.2 The words students associate with English and Arabic

1 2 3 4 5



Education (75%) Entertainment (57.5%) Communication (50%) Global (42.5%) Job (20%)

Islam/Muslim/religion (100%) First/Mine (95%) Tradition/history (67.5%) Culture (37.5%) Family (32.5%)

The students were then asked to reflect upon what the languages English and Arabic represented. Participants were asked to name five words they associated with the languages. Table 4.2 shows the five most frequently associated words for English and Arabic. When looking at a visual representation of the words mentioned by the students (Figure 4.5), it is particularly clear how the languages represent two very different areas of life. English is connected with the wider world, education and communication, while Arabic is connected with local culture, tradition and religion. This supports Findlow’s claim that distinct worldviews exist with relation to the two languages. For Arabic, these views are connected with ‘cultural authenticity, localism, tradition, emotions and religion’ and for English ‘modernity, internationalism, business, material status and secularism’ are strong (Findlow, 2006: 25). The teachers were also asked to name five words they associated with the languages English and Arabic. Although viewing the languages from a different perspective, the most common words were remarkably similar to those the students had chosen. The strongest word association for English was global/international (90%) and for Arabic it was religion/Quran/ Islam (100%).

Attitudes towards English The students were asked to comment specifically on their feelings about English as a global language. As can be seen in Figure 4.6, all the male students had positive attitudes towards English. For the female students, 70% had positive attitudes, 20% had mixed attitudes and 10% had negative attitudes. Positive responses corresponded with the use of words such as ‘good’, ‘perfect’, ‘I like it’, ‘it’s beneficial’, etc. Negative responses were indicated by words such as ‘bad’, ‘It’s a problem’, ‘I don’t like’, ‘It damages’, etc. Mixed responses included expressions such as ‘partly’, ‘It is good and bad’, ‘In some ways’ etc. As can be seen in Example 1, those with positive attitudes pointed out the usefulness of English, the necessity to learn it and the all-encompassing nature of the language.


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Figure 4.5 Word clouds displaying students’ word associations with English (above) and Arabic (below)

Example 1 It is considered as an International language. In general, English is everything (Saeed: Q) English is very important to our lives because it is our language to talk and study too. Moreover, it comes a global language in every country but not all the countries. We use it in everything (Fatima: Q)

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Male students

Female students Posive



Figure 4.6 Male and female students’ attitudes towards global English

Those with mixed attitudes could see the usefulness of English but also expressed concerns about its ‘dark side’, especially with regard to Arabic loss. Specifically, as can be seen in Example 2, distinct feelings of resentment were voiced.

Example 2 I think it’s good because if you travelled you will be communicating with people using the English language. Also it’s bad because children are starting to lose interest in Arabic language and most of them can’t talk Arabic. (Mariam: Q) I like it and don’t like it in the same way. I like it because I love learning another language but don’t like it because sometimes it is annoying because everyone wants to speak his/her first language (Amal: Q) I feel little bit jealous because I want my first language (Arabic) to be a global language. (Meera: Q) The fact that the majority of students (85% overall) saw English in a positive light is supported by previous studies on the Arabian Peninsula (Alkaff, 2013; Findlow, 2006; Hagler, 2014; Hopkyns, 2014, 2015; Morrow & Castleton, 2011; Randall & Samimi, 2010). For example, Findlow’s threeyear study examined the connection between linguistic-cultural dualism and potential loss of linguistic-cultural diversity. The findings indicated that although there may be underlying ideological conflict between wanting to maintain tradition verses opportunities associated with English, the atmosphere (modernist, global, a strong economy, no visible material need for resistance) meant English was above all ‘enabling’ (Findlow, 2006: 33).


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The results from the study also support previous findings from an earlier phase of this study conducted in 2014 with 40 female Emirati university students and 12 female Emirati primary school teachers in which 54% and 75% of participants respectively were found to have positive attitudes towards English (Hopkyns, 2014: 7). Interestingly, it was the inclusion of male students’ perspectives in the current phase of the study which made the biggest difference to the overall percentage of positive attitudes. This stands in contrast to Hagler’s study (2014) assessing students’ attitudes towards Western culture in King Saud University, Saudi Arabia where slightly more females were found to have positive attitudes (72%) than males (62%). Teachers’ perceptions of students’ attitudes towards English echoed the students comments in that the majority felt English was seen as enabling and necessary, with some recognising students’ feelings of resentment with regard to having to study and use a language which was not their own, as can be seen in Example 3.

Example 3 I think some students feel that English is imposed on them. I can tell that some of them feel that it is unfair as they think they should be taught in Arabic. (Christina, Mexico: Q) I think they resent it. As an English teacher, I see their results kind of reflect that, their language learning, they haven’t got the motivation because they don’t really want to. They are digging their heals in really, saying ‘why do we have to do this, it’s not really my culture’. (Grace, UK: FG)

Perceived effects of global English on individual lives, culture and identities The third section of the questionnaire and focus group schedule looked at the effects of global English on different layers of cultural identity. The students were asked to comment on whether English had changed their individual lives, Emirati culture and their identities (defined by the researcher as ‘the way they think/who they are’). As Figure 4.7 demonstrates, the amount of perceived change varied considerably according to the area. The most affected area was individual lives for which 80% of students commented on changes or slight changes due to English. Emirati culture was the second most commented on area with 57.5% of the students commenting on changes. For identity, the students’ responses were truly mixed with 50% feeling their identities had changed or slightly changed and 50% feeling they had not. Some of the changes commented on were positive in








Percentage of students





Figure 4.7 Students’ perceptions of the changes that English has made to their lives, Emirati culture and their identities

Your life




Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’ 101


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terms of increased confidence, being more open-minded, having more opportunities and gaining new knowledge. Other changes were seen as negative or subtractive, such as changes in ways of dressing, ways of behaving and reduced use of Arabic. Acting like foreigners or Americans and Arabic loss were the two most common ways in which changes to various layers of cultural identity were seen as subtractive. Common comments can be seen in Example 4.

Example 4 Yes, it’s changed the way I dress, the choice of food and how I choose my friends. (Mohammed: Q) Yes. It has changed our culture. Actually, it changed everything like our community, chatting. It changed our lives. All we do is learn English. (Ameena: Q) Yes it does. It affects on the way we think and talk. It affects on us as students and all we think is how to write it and say in English. I think now Emirati people think like foreign people. (Sara: Q) As well as feeling personally affected, concerns were voiced over the effects of English on Emirati children at present and the next generation. The fear that Arabic may disappear was also expressed. Faisal’s comment during the male focus group session highlights such concerns, as can be seen in Example 5.

Example 5 I think English has affected the little ones’ identities. For the small ones, like in second or third grade, they are being taught English at school, watching English cartoons. Some families they may have even accepted the way, to not allow any Arabic in the house so the kid can grow up with English and after that he can learn Arabic. So, it will affect them in a big way, it denies them a big part of their identity. (Faisal: FG) Those who felt English had not changed their sense of identity, on the other hand, stressed the fact that, for them, English added rather than subtracted from their cultural identity. It was viewed as a useful tool rather than a threat. The teachers were also asked to comment on whether they felt their students had a strong sense of cultural identity. For some, the answer was a firm ‘yes’, especially in terms of religion as can been seen by Stuart’s response in Example 6. Others had a mixed response seeing the cultural identity of

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


their students as complex and uncertain as was explained by Matthew in Example 7.

Example 6 Their religion is the main example (of strong cultural identity). It’s an unbreakable rod that runs through society and family life. (Stuart, UK: FG)

Example 7 For such a young, fast changing country, I think the students see their culture changing around them. They have grandparents who seemingly could come from a completely different culture, and I think they see themselves as a new generation. I can only image it is difficult to identify with something so nebulous, even though at the core of family life there are strong cultural imperatives – honour, fidelity, familial respect, and the like.(Matthew, Australia: Q)

Preferred cultural content of English lessons and teacher nationality The final section of the questionnaire and focus group aimed to explore perspectives on the desired cultural content of English lessons and the significance of teacher nationality. The students were asked whether they were interested in learning about Western culture as part of an English course. The majority (77%) said ‘yes’, 20% said ‘no’ and 3% did not feel strongly either way, as can be seen in Figure 4.8. Those who wanted to learn about Western culture as part of an English course gave fairly general reasons such as ‘all knowledge is good’ as well as wanting to know how ‘others’ act. This, according to Al Allaq (2014: 116), No response 3%

No 20%

Yes 77%

Figure 4.8 Interest in learning about Western culture as part of an English course


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could be explained by the fact that, ‘According to Islam, learning foreign languages is encouraged since this learning will provide the learner with insights as to how the other party thinks and behaves’. Reasons for those who said ‘no’ ranged from lack of interest to a fear that learning about Western culture would threaten Emirati culture as can be seen in Example 8.

Example 8 No, because it’s English, not history or geography. (Malik: Q) We are here to learn the language not culture. It is something extra on the side. It is not necessary. (Omar: FG) Not really, because it might mixed our culture because some girls/women or even boys changed their actions like British/American culture that doesn’t fit our religion and culture. (Ibtisam: Q) The final question in the questionnaire and focus groups explored the significance of teacher nationality. When the students were asked if they had preferences regarding the nationality of their English teachers, multiple nationalities were provided as options, including BANA (British, Australian and North American), their own nationality, other Arabic-speaking nationalities and other European and Asian nations. There was additional space for students to include other choices. As can be seen in Table 4.3, there was a strong preference for BANA teachers, especially from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. This was closely followed by a preference for Emirati teachers. In the focus group reasons given for preferring BANA, or ‘native-speaker’ (NS) teachers included the notion that they have ‘exact’ or ‘right’ English. Table 4.3 Student’s preferences for the nationality of English teachers Percentage of students wanting a teacher of this nationality Country



All students

USA UK Canada UAE Australia Germany India China Egypt Other

19 11 13 10 10 2 0 0 0 0

19 18 14 12 12 7 1 1 1 1

38 (95%) 29 (72.5%) 27 (67.5%) 22 (55%) 22 (55%) 9 (22.5%) 1 (2.5%) 1 (2.5%) 1 (2.5%) 1 (2.5%)

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


When asked if they would like to be taught English by an Emirati teacher, some felt this was desirable in the future and others maintained a preference for NS teachers, as can be seen from Shamma and Falah’s comments in Example 9.

Example 9 After five or ten years maybe many girls will graduate from the universities and the government wants to let them to teach the new generation. I think this is a good way to give Emiratis a chance to teach another generation. (Shamma: FG) It’s going to be great (having an Emirati English teacher) because he understands us. They have the same mindset with us but the problem is it is not his first language, so even though he has very good English, maybe he will still make some mistakes. A teacher from the UK or USA knows better than him. So if I’m going to learn English, I prefer that I have a native. (Falah: FG) It is clear from the findings that the ‘native-speaker fallacy’, which is the belief that NSs intrinsically make better language teachers than ‘non-native speakers’ (NNSs), is firmly entrenched in the students’ minds. This is perhaps perpetuated by the hiring choices of universities in the UAE, where a preference is given to monolingual native speakers of English (Belhiah & Elhami, 2015: 21). When the teachers were asked whether they felt their nationality was an advantage or a disadvantage in the classroom, the BANA teachers (all but one of the teachers) were fully aware of the student’s preferences. Feeling ‘different’ from the students was the only disadvantage commented on, as can be seen in Example 10.

Example 10 Yes, it’s an advantage. As a stereotypical “Westerner” I feel that my students accept my knowledge of English more readily than someone who on the surface doesn’t fit into their perception of what a westerner should look like. (James, Canada: Q) I’m glad I’m a native English speaker. That gives me confidence, and some students may prefer it. I do, however, think they look at this blond, pale native English speaker and feel deep down, “She is other. She doesn’t really understand us.” But I don’t consider this too deeply (it’s not a pleasant thought) and, on a practical level, we manage to work well together to improve English. Luckily, all the teachers (in the Intensive English Program) are foreigners. (Olivia, USA: Q) The comments from the teachers indicated that not only is being a NS an advantage but also ‘looking like a NS’. Although advantages were given for Arabic-speaking teachers such as being better able to empathise with


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students’ learning needs, the NS fallacy still seems to have a greater weight in the eyes of the students, especially.

Summary of the findings The findings from this qualitative study at a prestigious UAE university reveal that Arabic and English were seen by both students and teachers to represent two very different worlds, with Arabic being connected to home life and religion, and English being connected to education and the wider world. Although attitudes towards English were generally positive, especially among the male students, the majority of teachers felt students were extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated to learn English. The study showed the majority of students did have a desire to learn about Western culture as part of an English course from NS teachers and this was a preference the NS teachers were very much aware of. Despite the obvious demand for English due to its gatekeeper role, the study revealed that English is perceived by the majority of students to affect various layers of cultural identity, both positively and negatively, especially in terms of lifestyle choices and use of Arabic. The issue of resentment and concern for the future of Arabic was raised throughout the study, especially with regard to the next generation. Despite the clear patterns shown in the data, it should be acknowledged that due to the relatively small-scale of the study, widespread generalisations regarding Emirati university students’ and expatriate university English teachers’ views cannot be made.

Conclusion Since the formation of the nation in 1971, striking a balance between maintaining traditions and embracing change has been an ongoing challenge for the UAE. Experiencing ‘acute self-consciousness’ (Findlow, 2005: 287) in its early years and being torn between looking inward ‘in contemplation of the term “indigenous”’ (Findlow, 2005: 287), and outward in terms of dramatic expansion with foreign influence, it is easy to see how mixed feelings over the pace of development and amount of English persist. To address key issues arising from the study, three main suggestions can be made. In order for Arabic to remain valued and dynamic in the future, it is vitally important to challenge the contrasting ways English and Arabic are currently viewed. It is clear that English is not, and cannot be, ‘just a language’ due to its overwhelming presence in multiple spheres of the students’ lives. English and its accompanying ‘cultural tsunami’, as Hatherley-Greene (2014: 2) powerfully describes it, dominate multiple domains. For example, sipping a coffee in a Caffè Nero or Costa Coffee in one of Abu Dhabi’s many malls, positioned with a view of the shops, at least 99% of the words one sees are in English. This

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


sends a strong message that Arabic is neither needed nor important in the public domain. Increasing the presence of Arabic in public places would certainly combat this feeling. Hand in hand with this comes the need for the promotion of Arabic among the UAE’s expatriate majority population, which would further serve to combat feelings of linguistic and cultural fragility. As Al-Issa and Dahan (2011: 18) explain, at present, ‘The many foreigners who come to the UAE to work, do so based on the knowledge that when they work here the language they will use will be English. Very few, if any, take the time to learn the language of the country: Arabic’. It is also important to challenge the perception by some, as seen in the study, that English is subtractive. As English shows no sign of retreating in the UAE due to its gatekeeper status, Belhiah and Elhami (2015: 21) stress the importance of Emiratis seeing it as ‘an ally to Arabic’ rather than a competitor. Instead of viewing English as an aggressor, as was seen in the many newspaper headlines at the start of this chapter, scholars such as Pennycook (1994, 2010) and Canagarajah (1999) see English as ‘too complicated to be considered benign or evil’ (Block, 2004: 76). In this sense, English is viewed as a ‘Hydra-like language’ having many heads, representing diverse cultures and linguistic identities (Kachru, 2006: 446). To utilise this characteristic of English, Holliday (2014: 1) suggests students use their existing cultural experience to ‘stamp their identities on English’ rather than carrying the ‘common anxiety that English represents a culture which is incompatible with their own’. There are, indeed, concrete and visible signs of this happening in the region, despite the binary positions of English and Arabic promoted by local journalists. In Saudi Arabia, textbook writers consciously promote Islamic identities as well as emerging localised ‘Saudi English’ (Mahboob, 2013: 26). This can also be seen in the UAE through hybridised forms of English and Arabic that can be heard being used inside and outside the classroom. For example, it is unusual not to hear Arabic filler words and the ‘Allah Lexicon’ (Morrow & Castleton, 2011: 307) punctuating conversations in English. Arabic words such as yani (I mean), Insh’Allah (God willing) and wallah (I promise) are very much a feature of local English conversations as well as more substantial code-switching. In technology too, Arabizi is often used for texting where English letters and numbers are used to represent Arabic sounds. Lines between the languages are beginning to blur. Distinct linguistic identities are starting to form. In order to strengthen ownership of English, this should be encouraged, rather than promoting the adherence to NS models. Finally, giving students a choice as to whether they complete their degree in English or Arabic would further enhance feelings of ownership. A move towards bilingualism in higher education was found to be desirable in Belhiah and Elhami’s study (2015: 17), in which 62% of the university students stated a preference for English and Arabic instruction, and only 27% preferred English medium instruction. This was emphasised in Deena Boraie’s (2015) plenary speech at the 21st TESOL Arabia Conference, entitled


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Shifting Sands of Teaching and Learning English when she stressed the need to move away from the traditional ‘English only: Arabic forbidden’ classroom policy and towards one of choice. It is clear that the sands are indeed shifting. It, therefore, continues to be important to hear stakeholders’ perspectives on the role of English in Peninsula education, with the aim of making informed and necessary changes.

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Appendix 1: Student questionnaire Note: This questionnaire is a modified version of a longer questionnaire used as part of a larger study. Due to space restrictions, the format has been modified. English as a Global Language and Cultural Identity – Student Questionnaire ‫ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻛﻠﻐﺔ ﻋﺎﻟﻤﯿﺔ واﻟﮭﻮﯾﺔ اﻟﻮطﻨﯿﺔ‬-‫اﺳﺘﺒﯿﺎن اﻟﻄﺎﻟﺐ‬

Part 1 – Biographic information ‫ ﻣﻌﻠﻮﻣﺎت ﺣﻮل اﻟﺴﯿﺮة اﻟﺸﺨﺼﯿﺔ‬:‫اﻟﻘﺴﻢ اﻷول‬ (1) Age: 18–20 21–24 ‫اﻟﻌﻤﺮ‬ (2) Sex: Male Female ‫اﻟﺠﻨﺲ‬





Par t 2: The English L anguage and Arab Peninsul a Ident it y

(3) Nationality: ‫اﻟﺠﻨﺴﯿﺔ‬ (4) Course Level and section: ‫اﻟﻤﺴﺘﻮى اﻟﺪراﺳﻲ واﻟﺸﻌﺒﺔ‬ (5) First Language: ‫اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻷم‬ (6) Do you speak any other languages? If so, what are they? ‫ھﻞ ﺗﺘﺤﺪث أي ﻟﻐﺔ أﺧﺮى ؟ ﻓﻀ ﻼً ﺣﺪد اﻟﻠﻐﺎت‬ (7) When did you start studying at Zayed University? ‫ﻣﺘﻰ ﺑﺪأت اﻟﺪراﺳﺔ ﻓﻲ ﺟﺎﻣﻌﺔ زاﯾﺪ ؟‬ (8) How many years have you been studying English? ‫ﻣﻨﺬ ﻣﺘﻰ وأﻧﺖ ﺗﺪرس اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ؟ ﻛﻢ ﻋﺎم ؟‬ (9) What is your planned major? ‫ﻣﺎ ھﻮ اﻟﺘﺨﺼﺺ اﻟﺬي ﺗﻮد دراﺳﺘﮫ ؟‬ (10) When do you use English? ‫ﻣﺘﻰ ﺗﺴﺘﺨﺪم اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ؟‬ 4 /x

Outside class time at University ‫ﺧﺎرج اﻟﺼﻒ ﻓﻲ اﻟﺠﺎﻣﻌﺔ‬ With friends ‫ﻣﻊ اﻷﺻﺪﻗﺎء‬ At home ‫ﻓﻲ اﻟﻤﻨﺰل‬ For travelling ‫ﻋﻨﺪ اﻟﺴﻔﺮ‬

4 /x

Internet ‫اﻻﻧﺘﺮﻧﺖ‬ Music ‫ﻣﻮﺳﯿﻘﻰ‬ Movies ‫أﻓﻼم‬ e-mail/texting ‫إرﺳﺎل اﻟﺮﺳﺎﺋﻞ اﻟﻨﺼﯿﺔ و اﻻﻟﻜﺘﺮوﻧﯿﺔ‬

Other (please state) (‫)ﻏﯿﺮھﺎ ﻓﻀ ﻼً ﺣﺪد‬

Part 2 – Feelings about English ‫ اﻟﺸﻌﻮر ﺣﯿﺎل اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬: ‫اﻟﻘﺴﻢ اﻟﺜﺎﻧﻲ‬ (1) What are five words you connect with English and Arabic? ‫ﻣﺎھﻲ اﻟﺨﻤﺲ ﻛﻠﻤﺎت اﻟﻲ ﺗﺼﻒ ﺑﮭﺎ أو ﺗﺮﺑﻄﮭﺎ ﺑﺎﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬



Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


(2) How do you feel about English being a global language? ‫ﻛﯿﻒ ﺗﺸﻌﺮ ﺣﯿﺎل اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻛﻮﻧﮭﺎ ﻟﻐﺔ ﻋﺎﻟﻤﯿﺔ‬

Part 3 – The effects of English of layers of cultural identity ‫ آﺛﺎر اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬:‫اﻟﻘﺴﻢ اﻟﺜﺎﻟﺚ‬ (1) Has English changed your life? If so, how? ‫ھﻞ ﻏﯿﺮت اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﺣﯿﺎﺗﻚ ؟ ﻛﯿﻒ ؟‬ (2) Has English changed Emirati culture? If so, how? ‫ھﻞ ﻏﯿﺮت اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ اﻟﮭﻮﯾﺔ اﻹﻣﺎراﺗﯿﺔ ؟ ﻛﯿﻒ ؟‬ (3) Does English affect the way you think? Why/why not? Please give examples. ‫ھﻞ ﺗﺆﺛﺮ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻋﻠﻰ طﺮﯾﻘﺔ ﺗﻔﻜﯿﺮك ؟ ﻟﻤﺎذا؟ ﻟﻢ ﻻ؟ ﻓﻀﻼً اﻛﺘﺐ أﻣﺜﻠﺔ‬

Part 4 – The future of English ‫ ﻣﺴﺘﻘﺒﻞ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬:‫اﻟﻘﺴﻢ اﻟ ﺮاﺑﻊ‬ (1) Where would you like your English teacher to be from? ‫ﻣﻦ أي دوﻟﺔ ﺗﻮد أن ﯾﻜﻮن ﻣﺪرﺳﺔ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ؟‬ 4

United States ‫أﻣﺮﯾﻜﺎ‬ United Kingdom ‫اﻟﻮﻻﯾﺎت اﻟﻤﺘﺤﺪة‬ Canada ‫ﻛﻨﺪا‬ Australia ‫اﺳﺘﺮاﻟﯿﺎ‬ India ‫اﻟﮭﻨﺪ‬


Germany ‫أﻟﻤﺎﻧﯿﺎ‬ UAE ‫اﻹﻣﺎرات اﻟﻌﺮﺑﯿﺔ اﻟﻤﺘﺤﺪة‬ China ‫اﻟﺼﯿﻦ‬ Egypt ‫ﻣﺼﺮ‬ Other: ‫__________________ ﻏﯿﺮھﺎ‬

(2) Are you interested in learning about Western (British/American) culture as part of an English course? Why/Why not? ‫ھﻞ أﻧﺖ ﻣﮭﺘﻢ ﺑﺪراﺳﺔ اﻟﺜﻘﺎﻓﺔ اﻟﻐﺮﺑﯿﺔ ) اﻟﺒﺮﯾﻄﺎﻧﯿﺔ أو اﻷﻣﺮﯾﻜﯿﺔ ( ﻛﺠﺰء ﻣﻦ دراﺳﺘﻚ ﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬ ‫؟ ﻟﻤﺎذا ؟ ﻟﻢ ﻻ؟‬ Thank you. Your participation in this questionnaire is much appreciated. ‫ﺷﻜ ﺮاً ﻋﻠﻰ ﻣﺸﺎرﻛﺘﻜﻢ ﻓﻲ ھﺬا اﻻﺳﺘﺒﯿﺎن‬

Appendix 2: Teacher questionnaire English as a Global Language and Cultural Identity – Faculty Questionnaire


Par t 2: The English L anguage and Arab Peninsul a Ident it y

Part 1 – Biographic information (1) Age: 21–30 31–40 41–50 51–60 61+ (2) Sex:



(3) Nationality:____________________

(4) First Language: ________________

(5) Second Language:_______________

(6) Do you speak any other languages? If so, which ones? ____________

(7) When did you start teaching at this university? ______________

(8) Which level are you currently teaching? _______________

(9) How many years have you been teaching English? ____________

(10) Have you taught English in other countries? Which ones? ______________

Part 2 – Feelings about English and Arabic 1) What are five main words do you associate with English and Arabic?



2) How do you feel about English as a global language?

Part 3 – The effects of English (1) What are your perceptions of students’ attitudes to English? (2) Do you feel your students have a strong cultural identity? Please give examples.

Part 4 – The future of English (1) Do you think Emirati students should be taught English centred around local topics? Why/why not? (2) Do you feel your nationality has been an advantage or a disadvantage when teaching Emirati students?

Thank you. Your participation in this questionnaire is much appreciated.

Emirat i Cultural Ident it y in the Age of ‘Englishisat ion’


Appendix 3: Student and teacher focus group questions Focus Group Questions Theme

Questions for students

Questions for teachers


What English and Arabic represent ‫ﻣﺎذا ﺗﻤﺜﻞ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ‬ ‫اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ واﻟﻌﺮﺑﯿﺔ‬


Attitudes towards English ‫ﻣﻮاﻗﻒ ﺣﻮل‬ ‫اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬

1) What words do you connect with ‘Arabic’, and why? ‫ وﻟﻤﺎذا؟‬، ‫ﻣﺎھﻲ اﻟﻜﻠﻤﺎت اﻟﺘﻲ ﺗﺮﺑﻂ ﺑﮭﺎ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻟﻌﺮﺑﯿﺔ‬ 2) What words do you connect to ‘English’, and why? ‫ وﻟﻤﺎذا؟‬، ‫ﻣﺎھﻲ اﻟﻜﻠﻤﺎت اﻟﻲ ﺗﺮﺑﻂ ﺑﮭﺎ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬ 1) Why are you learning English? ‫ﻟﻤﺎذا ﺗﺪرس اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ؟‬ 2) How do you feel about learning English? ‫ﻛﯿﻒ ﺗﺸﻌﺮ ﺣﯿﺎل ﺗﻌﻠﻢ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ؟‬


Impact of English on lives ‫ﺗﺄﺛﯿﺮ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ‬ ‫اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻋﻠﻰ‬ ‫اﻟﺤﯿﺎة‬


Culture and identity in the UAE ‫اﻟﺜﻘﺎﻓﺔ واﻟﮭﻮﯾﺔ ﻓﻲ‬ ‫دوﻟﺔ اﻹﻣﺎرات‬

1) What words do you associate with ‘English’, and why? 2) What words do you associate with ‘Arabic’, and why? 1) Do you think English is important in the UAE? Why/Why not? 2) What do you notice about your students’ attitudes towards learning English? 1) How does English affect everyday life in the UAE? 2) How familiar do your students seem with Western (e.g. British/ American etc.) culture? 1) Do you feel UAE culture has been affected by English? If so, how? 2) Do you feel your students have a strong cultural identity? Can you give examples?


How English should be taught in the future ‫ﻛﯿﻒ ﯾﺠﺐ أن‬ ‫ﺗُﺪرس اﻟﻠﻐﺔ‬ ‫اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻓﻲ‬ ‫اﻟﻤﺴﺘﻘﺒﻞ‬

1) How does English affect life in the UAE? Please give examples. ‫ﻛﯿﻒ ﺗﺆﺛﺮ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻋﻠﻰ اﻟﺤﯿﺎة ﻓﻲ دوﻟﺔ‬ .‫اﻹﻣﺎرات ؟ ﻓﻀﻼً اﻋﻂ أﻣﺜﻠﺔ‬ 2) Has English changed your life in any way? How? ‫ھﻞ ﻏﯿﺮت اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﺣﯿﺎﺗﻚ ؟ ﻛﯿﻒ ؟‬ 1) Has UAE culture changed because of English being the global language? If so, how? ‫ھﻞ ﺗﻐﯿﺮ اﻟﻤﺠﺘﻤﻊ اﻹﻣﺎراﺗﻲ ﺑﺴﺒﺐ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ؟‬ ‫ﻛﯿﻒ؟‬ 2) Has learning English had any effect on your identity? If so, how? ‫ھﻞ أﺛﺮت اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﺑﺄي ﺷﻜﻞ ﻋﻠﻰ ھﻮﯾﺘﻚ أو‬ ‫طﺮﯾﻘﺔ ﺗﻔﻜﯿﺮك ؟ ﻛﯿﻒ؟‬ 1) Is the nationality of your teacher important? ‫ھﻞ ﺗﻌﺘﺒﺮ ﺟﻨﺴﯿﺔ ﻣﻌﻠﻤﻚ ﻣﮭﻤﺔ ؟‬ 2) Are you interested in learning about English native-speaker culture? ‫ھﻞ أﻧﺖ ﻣﮭﺘﻢ ﺑﺪراﺳﺔ ﺛﻘﺎﻓﺔ ﻣﺘﺤﺪﺛﻲ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬ ‫اﻷﺻﻠﯿﻲ‬ 3) Would you prefer to study about local issues when learning English? Why/why not? ‫ھﻞ ﺗﻔﻀﻞ دراﺳﺔ اﻟﻘﻀﺎﯾﺎ اﻟﻤﺤﻠﯿﺔ أﺛﻨﺎء دراﺳﺘﻚ ﻟﻠﻐﺔ‬ ‫اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ؟ ﻟﻤﺎذا ؟ ﻟﻢ ﻻ؟‬

1) Do you think it is a good idea to teach students English centred around the local context? Why/ why not? 2) Do you feel your nationality has benefited you as an English teacher in the UAE? Why/why not?


A Phenomenological Study of Identity Construction in the Education Sector of Qatar Amir Abou-El-Kheir

Introduction Qatar was once a small set of villages at the beginning of the 20th century. The main economic activities comprised pearl diving, camel breeding and fishing. Islamic principles and tribal traditions governed the country (Brewer et al., 2006: 2). In the 19th century, British interests controlled the Persian Gulf, Qatar, along with other Arab Peninsula states became protectorates, gaining independence in 1971. One of the consequences of the oil boom of the 1970s was rapid population growth. Within a few decades the population had doubled, reaching around 744,00 by time of the 2004 census. At this time, 60% of the population consisted of expatriates from India, Pakistan, Iran and other countries (Brewer et al., 2006). The demographic trend that started in the 1970s continues to the present day,1 resulting in an extraordinary situation in which the Qatari population constitutes only a small minority, dwarfed by the burgeoning numbers of expatriates. This demographic particularity manifests itself in different social and cultural aspects. This chapter deals with the language situation as well as with the educational consequences in Qatar. As far as language is concerned, Qatar has become a country where English is used as a lingua franca for most communicative events. Due to the unusual demographic imbalance English has become a universal tool of communication between parties whose first language is most often not English. The education reform in Qatar at the turn of the century facilitated the dominance of English by favouring this language as the primary medium of instruction in educational contexts. This chapter examines the complexities of Qatar’s unique situation by investigating the interconnections between identity, language use and education through a series of interviews with one Qatari participant. 116

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Development of Education in Qatar As Brewer and colleagues (2006) explain, no formal education system existed prior to the discovery of oil in Qatar. Children memorised passages from the Koran and acquired literacy in informal schools from teachers who organised classes in homes or mosques. These were literate men or women who used Islamic principles as a framework for their teaching. With the ‘oil boom’, an official education system became possible. The first modern school was opened in 1949. In 1951, the school was offered government funding, which led to increase in both enrolments and teaching staff. Subjects taught in class ranged from history and English to Islamic studies. Schools for boys were opened first while education for girls started in 1956. The Ministry of Education was also established in 1956 following an Arab, specifically Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian education model. Textbooks, curricula and teachers were brought from these countries (Gonzalez et al., 2008). The first higher education institution, the College of Education, was opened in 1973, right after independence. The same institution was transformed into Qatar University in 1977 (Attiyah & Khalifa, 2009), which comprised four colleges: Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Shari’a and Islamic Studies. The university added two additional colleges in the 1980s: the College of Engineering and the College of Administration and Economics. Since the 1980s, Qatar has struggled with concerns regarding academic performance in relation to a labour market dominated by expatriates. These concerns led Qatar to undertake large-scale educational reforms in the 21st century. Qatar found an educational model in the privileged American education system (Mazawi, 2008) that reinforced the connection between globalisation and westernisation in Qatar. Part of the significant education restructurings involves Education City, an educational district, which was opened in 2001 by a non-profit (but government funded) organisation, Qatar Foundation. Today, Education City encompasses world class international institutions, first-rate research centres as well exceptional recreational facilities. The development of Education City is in part the result of the globalisation of academia. This has been a source of debate in Qatar, which has revolved around themes such as the utilitarian versus the liberal approach of universities. For instance, Rostron (2009: 2) examined the intercultural aspects of liberal arts education in Education City and concluded that the clash of cultures, ideologies and values in Qatar prompted some observers ‘to interpret liberal education as a threat of westernization’. Similar sentiments were expressed about the expansion of English as a medium of instruction (EMI), where EMI is perceived as a threat not only to the native language but also to religious values and traditions (Belhiah & Elhami, 2015).


Par t 2: The English L anguage and Arab Peninsul a Ident it y

Language and the Shaping of Identity The impact of the English language upon the local culture comes from the fact that identity and language are interconnected as language is a powerful tool in shaping the identity of a culture. Joseph (2004: 40) states that ‘an understanding of language without consideration of identity can never hope to be complete’. Language shapes Qatari identity; it has important nationbuilding consequences in which education also plays a major role. The formation of national identity as well as the transmission of cultural values are at stake in educational contexts. Edwards (2009) and Joseph (2004) both claim that language, religion and culture are cornerstones of national identity, and this is the case for Qatar as well. As Akkari (2004: 144) declares regarding religion and language in the Arab world: ‘First, Islam as the main religion and Arabic as the language are key factors in the identity formation of the region’. Suleiman’s (2003) work explains the importance of language for national identity in the region. Suleiman’s argument is that in all forms of Arab nationalisms, language rather than nationality defines the borders of Arab identity. Suleiman also finds tension present in both nationalism and language choice, as discussions on these topics tend to look to the past to seek models to ‘valorise’ and ‘authenticate’ views expressed. Nevertheless, a complex relationship exists between identity and the English language on the one hand, and identity and the Arabic language on the other hand within the globalised context of Qatar. Mohd-Asraf (2005: 116) argues, for instance, that ‘[i]t is possible to learn, and in fact, to be highly proficient in English and still maintain one’s identity as a Muslim’. The Arabian Peninsula offers a uniquely intriguing context in which to examine this possibility. As Karmani (2005) states, the economic boom created by oil exportation motivates the ‘socioeconomic’ experiment of the Peninsula States to catalyse the area’s transition into the modern era. However, Karmani is also critical of the economic background that sustains the English teaching enterprise. He argues that English teaching on the Arabian Peninsula looks increasingly like the oil business, centred on Western English-speaking countries. According to Karmani, English proficiency offers limited benefits to the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, and modernization and globalization processes in the region diminish the role of Arabic. Troudi (2009) also expresses a pessimistic view about the effects of the dominance of English on Arab culture and the Arabic language in the United Arab Emirates. The essay calls for a critical examination of the phenomenon of EMI, which appears to imply that Arabic cannot be the language of sciences but only of traditions. This implication results in the marginalisation of Arabic. All in all, Karmani’s (2005) as well as Troudi’s (2009) views are pessimistic, both associate the dominance of English with oppressive

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


neo-colonialism. They see the spread of English as possibly initiating a loss of the indigenous language and culture, especially where it replaces the native language as the medium of instruction. With reference to Said’s (1994) description of the ‘combative’ relation that holds together language and culture in forming identity through power relations, it is important to examine how people in the area experience these phenomena. According to the results of a study conducted by Findlow (2006) with regard to English in the Middle East, the participants of the study encounter difficulties because of diverse and contradictory social expectations. The general perception is that Arabic is the language of ‘authenticity’ and ‘nostalgia’, while English is modern, internationally and globally oriented. In a context in which the UAE youth have to negotiate the influence and cultural impact of both English and Arabic on their daily lives, Findlow (2006) posits that higher education has played a mediator role. In reaction to these possible threats, there has been a serious effort to address the shortage of Arabic as a language of instruction in recent years. For instance, Qatar University has mandated that the majority of courses in many faculties where English has been the medium of instruction would be terminated and replaced by courses taught in Arabic (Belhiah & Elhami, 2015). Various university education providers exist in Qatar’s capital, Doha. For instance, the national institution, Qatar University, and Education City, which houses many foreign university branches. An example of a Western institution with a branch in Qatar is the College of the North Atlantic, Qatar (CNA-Q), located near Qatar University. CNA-Q is a branch of a Canadian public college and is currently the premier technical college of Qatar. CNA-Q offers programmes in health sciences, business, engineering, information technology, security and technical preparatory studies. It follows the Canadian community college curriculum and the language of instruction is English. In order to support students’ adaptation, many of CNA-Q’s faculty are teachers of English as a foreign language. During campus visits to all of the sites above, some of the following observations were noted. One of the most important differences between the sites is that the campus of Qatar University seems old and dated compared to the state-of-the-art quality of CNA-Q and Education City. In addition, Qatar University seems to have an increased emphasis on Arabic. For example, the notices around the campus are either in both Arabic and English or exclusively in Arabic. Overall, there is a strong support for Qatari identity, as evidenced by social events, decorations and artwork in the facilities. On the other hand, most buildings at CNA-Q in Education City have notices almost exclusively in English. Most of the universities have souvenir shops that sell university memorabilia, from clothes to mugs, that communicate the identity as a brand. Another striking example of this effective


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communicatory function is that the campus broadcasts American football and basketball games from the home campuses in the United States. They broadcast live, which means that most games are at night in the time zone of Qatar. Students turn up to these broadcasts wearing the team colours and outfits to cheer for ‘their’ team. It has to be mentioned that this is in no way enthusiasm for sports themselves, since the Qatari professional football/ soccer and basketball league games in Doha are played in nearly empty stadiums. A coarse interpretation would be that Qatar University communicates a Qatari, Arab and Muslim identity in a way that tends to be associated with impressions of datedness, while CNA-Q and Education City, through various institutional identities, communicates a Westernised identity located in an Arab country. One of the consequences of academic globalisation is that national and international institutions have to coexist in countries around the world, sometimes in competitive educational markets. In this competition, communicating an institutional identity is important.

Research Strategy and Methodology The aim of this qualitative study is to examine the interrelationship between identity, language and education in Qatar. This study is based on a series of interviews with one participant who works as a teacher in the postsecondary education sector in Qatar. It represents a qualitative inquiry into the Qatari cultural environment in which English is dominant. The main research question refers to the connection between language, education and identity: What is the relationship between identity, language and education in the Qatari educational sector as experienced by a participant embedded in the context? The proposed study uses the Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith & Osborn, 2003; Smith et al., 2009) as a qualitative approach. According to Jonathan Smith et al. (2009), the originator of IPA, researchers should adopt very small sample sizes and single case studies. He stated that IPA’s major concern should be a detailed account of individual experience and only a small number of cases should be taken into consideration. In this move away from larger populations, this phenomenological approach is about ‘exploring experience in its own terms’ (Smith et al., 2009: 1). IPA relates personal experience to the wider social context through a constructionist position: the meaning of an experience is not something pre-given and objective, but it is constructed in particular social situations and by social forces (see further Crotty, 1998). On the one hand, IPA is committed to detailed analyses and, on the other, it necessitates a certain depth in analyses. Taking such an approach, the present study examines the personal experiences of one participant in detail.

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


Interpretive framework In adherence to the definitions formulated by Bryman (2008), the research has been conducted in an interpretivist-constructionist framework. In interpretivism, the focus is on the meanings of human behaviour, as told by the participant of the study and interpreted by the researcher. As Bryman (2008: 19) explains, constructionists argue that, ‘social phenomena and their meanings are continually being accomplished by social actors’. It is thus related to social constructionism, but constructionism as explained by Bryman is an ontological position in qualitative research. As Guba and Lincoln (2005: 204) state, constructionism is an antifoundationalist stance, which denies that there are objective, fixed and universal standards of truth. Instead, truth is a co-production ‘within a community or dialogically through negotiations’. By employing a phenomenological methodological approach, one may investigate individuals’ lived experiences (Creswell, 2007). This approach will be used in this study to explore how social processes operate with regards to the identity construction of Qatari people employed in the education sector from the perspective of one participant. Conceiving the role of the participant phenomenologically means that the study assumes that the participant is not merely a mental observer contained in a space-time region, but is engaged with the world. This prior engagement is seen to be manifest in the participant’s experiences of environment, circumstances and situation.

Data collection and analysis The participant of the study was purposefully chosen. She is among the few Qatari nationals who work as English teachers in higher education. For this reason, in order to protect her anonymity, the study cannot divulge more details about her person. Her perspective on the issues of identity, language and education is uniquely valuable, and her experiences are significant on a wider social level, as she is a forerunner of (female) Qatari professionals in education. To put this in context, it is important to recall that Qatar’s workforce is largely expatriate. Furthermore, Qatar is committed to a largescale educational reform and development programme to address the weaknesses that were diagnosed in the education system in the 1990s. As part of this development, Qatar not only establishes international educational institutions but recruits many foreign professionals as faculty. Besides the national institution, Qatar University, tertiary education is offered by branches of well-known Western universities such as Northwestern or Texas A&M. The faculty at these institutions is made up largely of non-Qataris, especially the field of teaching English as a foreign language is dominated by expatriates. Qataris tend to take mostly government jobs. Data collection was performed through the use of semi-structured interviews. The interviews took place between November and


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mid-December 2014, and consisted of six one-hour long in-depth sessions in English. Five of these were conducted in the participant’s office at her workplace, and the last one was done by phone. All interviews were recorded and then transcribed. By using interviews as a data collection method, the researcher has access to the participant’s constructed reality as well as to their own personal experiences (Fontana & Frey, 2000; Minichiello et al., 1995). In-depth interviews allow the researcher to understand the participant’s perspectives of her experience and situation, making use of repeated face-to-face encounters (Taylor & Bogdan, 1984). The semistructured interview is used for covering specific topic areas. During the interview, the interviewer can change the exact wording of the questions as may seem appropriate (Bryman, 2008; Hessler, 1992). In this way, the researcher can respond immediately to inherent issues raised by the participant, and the participant, in turn, has the chance to discuss issues important to them. The interview data are organised according to thematic categories identified during the coding procedure. The present study explores thematic categories that are compared and contrasted through all the interviews to find expressions of experiences that serve as foundations for codes. The codes form the basis of the analysis because they both contain and refer to the themes of the interviews, and their analysis establishes logical and interpretive connections between themes and reorders them in a coherent manner (Langdridge, 2007; Madsen, 2009; Peters, 2010; Spinelli, 2005).

Findings and Discussion The themes and subthemes that emerge from the coding procedure are grouped according to their importance assigned by the participant in the interviews. The thematic categories are discussed separately while the significant statements are quoted and analysed in this section. The first topic is ‘Islam and principles’ on which the participant expressed her opinions. The smaller thematic units that underpin this main category are ‘religion’ as well as ‘traditions’. The second major category is ‘Family, career and role of a mother’. The minor units of the second main category are ‘identity’ and ‘attachment’. The third main category that was identified is ‘Bias towards Qataris’ in relation to the notion of identity and nation. The fourth main category is ‘Being at one with Qatar and its vision’. This underlines the supportive role of the country. Then it follows themes related to education, the status of Arabic versus English, teaching, motivation and support, culture as well as ‘fences’ and challenges. All the interviews provide ample data with regard to the research interests of the chapter, and serve as a foundation for outlining the main themes of this section (see Table 5.1).

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


Table 5.1 Thematic codes and subthemes No.

Thematic codes



1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Islam and principles Family, career and role of a mother Bias towards Qataris Being at one with Qatar and its vision Education as a virtue, and changes and education Arabic and English in harmony

Religion Identity Identity Identity Education

Traditions Attachment Nation Country, family Improvement


Teaching, being an educator Motivation and support Improvement, changing and staying the same Fences and challenges

Education Identity Culture

Language similarities, differences Improvement Culture, religion, family Changes


Overcoming obstacles

6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Islam and principles First, religion is of utmost importance in shaping identity. In the experience of the participant, one of the main components of identity is religion. Islam is not merely an abstract tradition or school of thought, but something that is actively present as a way of life. From the participant’s perspective on Islam, religion is perceived as guidance and as defining values associated with human interaction. In the words of the participant: Islam gives us the principles that we have to follow. Like we have the values, okay? Being faithful, trustful. All these values. So we use these values in our work. If I work with people, I know that I have to be faithful; you know I have to be honest. I have to…not to cheat, so I can reach the best positions. (Interview 1) In her opinion, Islam is not in conflict with modernisation as women need not conform blindly to traditional social roles. Women take active part in everyday life and have the same rights as men do. She summarises her views on women rights in Islam saying: Islam never … fights education or never asks the lady just to sit in the house, cook, clean and look after kids you know. Islam is you know in Islam ladies and men are equal. They have the same rights, they have the … they have to share everything. Like in the time of Prophet Mohammed, the ladies went to war with Prophet Mohammed and the men. They were fighting and they [ladies] were motivating them, they were cooking, they were looking after the injury … the injured you know


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soldiers like so the ladies has a good part, she played a good part even in the time of Prophet Mohammed and now. So Islam always motivated the lady to do something, to take part in everything in life, not just to sit in the house and have nothing to do. (Interview 1) In the experience of the participant, religion constitutes a motivating force. The issue of motivation is crucial for her throughout her interviews. Her career path is closely connected to her identity, and religion followed and helped her along her path. She generalises this experience: ‘So Islam always motivated the lady to do something, to take part in everything in life, not just to sit in the house and have nothing to do’. Moreover, she feels safe under the guidance of religion. Religion, as she describes, is not only motivational but organisational, as it helps in structuring one’s life: ‘So Islam organizes everything for you in your life, what you have to do, what is a must, what isn’t a must’. She also believes that each human being is endowed with free will to choose the course of his or her life, so she adds, ‘and among all these things [the teachings of Islam], you can also do whatever you want’.

Family, career and role of a mother Family, in addition to religion, serves as the most important and interconnected cornerstone of identity. As the participant sees it, family is the foundation of life. The experience of the participant is that family is represents the first and most essential model of community and belonging, and her life depends heavily on how she negotiates her individuality and identities within the given Islamic and familial framework. Her family is briefly described as follows: Actually I have three families. My own family, my mother, father, brothers. And I have my second family, which is my husband and my kids. And I have my bigger family, which is my country. (Interview 1) In this, she broadens the common notion of family to include her nation. In her way of life, the immediate familial circle is expanded to cover her country, which indicates the intimate ties she feels to Qatar. As she explains her relationship to her children is revealing: I take care of my kids, I’m raising my kids, so I’m building a new generation with principles, behavior, education, everything. When I raise my kids, I raise them with … on an Islamic basis and under the … under the culture of Qatar, the traditions of Qatar. I will teach them how to be good Qatari citizens, okay? When I talk about … raising my kids, of course I will teach them how to be good citizens in their country. (Interview 5)

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


Raising her children is an experience similar to her teaching duties, at least according to the participant’s explanation. It is important for her to raise her children not just individually and personally, but also because her family is embedded into the wider social context. Considering how intimate her connection to her country is, it is understandable how contributing to Qatar’s development is very significant. Her children are not merely her children, they are the future of Qatar. They will continue a legacy, so to speak. The fact that this new generation will be raised with Islamic values interweaved with Qatari traditions is of utmost importance to her. She is also a loving daughter caring for her mother who always helped her ‘perform her duties’. She speaks about her mother passionately: When my mother got sick and she had like you know a stroke, and she’s now like … you know, paralyzed, she can’t do anything, that time I discovered that I’m really an adult and … have lots of responsibilities over my shoulders. I can’t stay away without my mother, especially as she also helped me do all this stuff and encouraged me. I am the youngest, and everyone [her siblings] was married. I’m the one who stayed with my mother, and of course, my father when he died I was like five years old, so what I know in my world is my mother. She’s my world. (Interview 2)

Bias towards Qataris In her experience, the skills and abilities of Qataris are often questioned; it happened to her in her job application process at her current workplace. Even though she graduated from Qatar University with a BEd, had teaching experience, and was completing her Master’s degree, she feels like she still had to jump through hoops. She construes her experiences as a story of overcoming obstacles, and replying to a question about reasons, she says: Why? Because maybe … it’s like you know maybe I’m like a stranger to them, and they don’t know actually I think that the … biggest problem was that they don’t know the education in Qatar, and … they don’t know. Even [if] I graduated from the College of Education they question if I am really qualified because they don’t know what the education in Qatar is really like … will the system deliver a good, qualified teacher to teach. So that’s why they even ask me to bring my, the syllabus of all the courses that I studied in Qatar University and the description of the syllabus. (Interview 2) In her view then, the main issue is the lack of knowledge and, as a consequence possibly, the lack of trust in the quality of education in Qatar. This lack of trust may be due to the students’ low level of acquired skills when graduating from high school and entering post-secondary education. Additionally, overall


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there is an unfavourable perception of the level of education at Qatar University. A related but separate social problem, as the participant points out, splits Qataris and non-Qataris. There are companies that do not employ Qataris even though they are suited for that job. She explains: The problem is that not all the companies and colleges, and you know institutes, follow that rule. So they will say ‘yeah, we have Qatarisation’, but actually in fact, there’s no Qatarisation. (Interview 1) In their 2013 article, Mahboub and Golden discuss a similar difficulty that exists in hiring practices and advertisement postings in the Middle East. Their investigation found that even though there are efforts to eliminate hiring practices based on nationality and ‘nativeness’, discriminatory practices still exist in the English language teaching profession (Mahboub & Golden, 2013). Relatedly, Barnawi and Ha (2015) acknowledge that ‘Saudi teachers without Western qualifications have been labelled a subordinate group of language educators across the country’ (2015: 5). This may be a reason the participant felt she had to ‘jump through hoops’ in comparison to some of her fellow Western or Western educated colleagues, some of whom in her opinion, are less qualified than she.

Being at one with Qatar and its vision In addition to her religious and familial ties, the participant considers herself both Qatari and Arab, indicating that her identity is influenced strongly by significant national and cultural characteristics. The participant in the interview is proud of being both an Arab and a woman who cherishes family principles: Actually, number one, I’m very proud to be Arabic lady… Arabic people, they have principles. Maybe the way I grew up, the principles, the values, the … family relationship, the communication between people and other feelings…respecting each other. These principles are really very important, especially family communication. (Interview 1) As emphasised before, she experiences her country as a type of family, and it is just as important for her identity. Qatar is her ‘extended family’. One of the most important influences Qatar exerts is by support. The participant expresses that in a sense Qatar is highly important because it financially allows her to live her life as she wants to: Now if you asked me after I realized the three of them [her three families], no, I think the most important is my country, which is the third one [she discusses] because I can do anything like…you know my country can support me with the money that I need. (Interview 1)

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


She also underlines the role of the country and the importance of its support in terms of her professional engagement, as a teacher and an educator. Even though the participant thinks that in some areas of Qatar, Qatarisation does not work as intended, Qatarisation might have worked in her case: No, being a Qatari teacher, it helped me because you know we have the Qatarisation system now all over Qatar. So maybe this helped me to be hired. (Interview 3)

Education as a virtue, changes and education The participant’s familial background construes education as an important indicator of status and being well-educated as a virtue. At one point, she says: I am from an Egyptian mother and a Qatari father [short laugh]… My mother…she’s a…well-educated lady. She has her bachelor degree in Business Management, and my father was police officer. (Interview 2) However, the participant tells a personal story about a transition between education systems. In Qatar in the 1990s, the only primary and secondary school system was the governmental one, which strongly adhered to traditional pedagogy. By the end of the decade, reforms were under way, and an independent school system was formed. The independent system was less traditional, modernised, with an emphasis on English and international education. The participant herself had begun her education in a private school, but her family decided that she should have an education that puts more weight on Islamic values and traditions and the Arabic language. After the modern, private school she attended, it seems that the government school environment was quite a shock: Yeah, I remembered one [lowers voice] one accident that happened to me. It was the first year that I moved from an English school to the government school. And we had art in the art class and because I don’t like the school and I hated everything about the school, so I forget my paints … and … the punishment was, the teacher on my hand with a big wooden stick, [hit me] ten times, so that I won’t forget the paints again. (Interview 2)

Arabic and English in harmony In the participant’s account, English is indeed dominant in some contexts of her life. ‘Easiness’ is definitely a factor, and there are a number of situations when and where English is an easier choice of self-expression than Arabic.


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Maybe sometimes I like to express what I want in English other than Arabic. In writing, yes, I noticed myself that everything I want to do, I just start to write that in English. Maybe because I spent more hours, working in English, writing in English, so it’s easier for me to communicate in English. Even at home, when I communicate with people working in my home, like nannies or drivers, I communicate with them in English. (Interview 5) Despite such cases, the participant still points out that English and Arabic languages coexist and there is no conflict between them. The two languages cooperate and are equally important. ‘No, both of them are very important, and they are not in competition but they work together. They are together’, as she says. As for language shaping identity, Arabic is seen by the participant as being related more to her on a personal level, while she talks about English more in terms of usefulness; however, sometimes she does talk about her identity in pragmatic terms, which would signal that the usefulness of English is very important for her identity as well.

Teaching, being an educator Improvement is one of her key expressions through her interviews. In Qatar, most schools from secondary education onwards have English proficiency requirements, and at tertiary level, some Qataris fail to be accepted into higher education because of these. However, for the participant, the requirements are not perceived negatively because they are part of a ‘forced improvement’, a pedagogical improvement of Qatari population by the government, with which she agrees. It is of major importance to her because the English language and her role as an English teacher are important on a wider social level. She feels that by teaching English, she is teaching her students to be international citizens and by that she contributes to large-scale social development English improves them [students]… Improves them a lot … They improve to speak and to communicate in English, so they can go abroad; they can communicate with other people with different languages. They can do that. (Interview 3) She also stressed the importance of maintaining a good relationship with her students. She believes that her role as an educator is about more than just lecturing and giving materials. Her teaching has a sort of parental role, parenting and teaching are intertwined in her experience, and so her love for advising also emerges in the passage below. This contributes to her selfimage, and identity. Even with my students, some of my students, they still talk to me and…I have maybe three or four students who when I started teaching English in

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


2002, they were in grade six, and they called me…like let’s say three four months ago, they graduated from Qatar University. I always talk to students and…you know like…it’s not a habit of mine to enter the class, explain the lesson, give them the homework and then go. I always offer help, and if there’s something special, I ask them like ‘if you want to talk, you can come to my office, and we can talk and solve the problem.’ (Interview 3) However, despite significant improvements in education, the participant considers that there are occasional problems with the skills and abilities of the teachers, presumably Arab and Qatari teachers. They are said to be not as professional as Westerners according to her viewpoint. So … yeah, there’s…a lot of improvement and…everything is good, but sometimes the teacher themselves don’t have the good, like they may have the degree but they don’t have the skills to deal with the kids… (Interview 2) This statement may help to better understand her previous statement that she believes that there is a bias towards Qataris, and that she faced many obstacles before being hired. Here she admits that they (Arabs and Qataris), despite being educated, may not have the necessary skills to be effective teachers. In a way, she does seem to share certain assumptions about Qataris and Arabs, which may indicate seem to indicate that her perspective is Westernised to a degree.

Motivation and support One of the most important themes that arise out of the participant’s interviews is how she feels motivated and supported by her religion, her country and her family as well. As previously signalled she is intimately tied to her nation, and she experiences similar connections to family, which is a crucial fact when it comes to questions of motivation and support. And I have my bigger family, which is my country. So I will talk about each so you know like each one of them. My mother, my father and my brothers, they supported me to…continue in my studying and…they put in my mind that the most important thing that you get your university degree. Nothing is more important in life than having your university degree. So…everything was like, they provided me with everything I need. If I needed help in studying, they provided me with help. Of course also motivation, money, instructors. You know, everything. Just to you know finish university and get my university degree. (Interview 1) With this motivating and supporting backdrop, one of the main benefits of her educational and career path is self-confidence. She is confident about her


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opportunities for ongoing development. Self-improvement is associated with being at the forefront of development, and learning new things, and she feels like that her becoming an English teacher is part of her process of development. Being a motivated student translated into her becoming a motivated teacher. Education gave me more self-confidence… Open your mind to lots of things, new things. Motivated you to learn, to search, to improve yourself because you are a teacher, you need to improve your skills, your…ways of teaching, so you can be good and you know you can be like a star in the education field. You can’t be that if you don’t improve yourself, like for all the latest ways in teaching, education, everything. (Interview 2) Having role models has also inspired her progress. She highlights Her Highness Sheikha Mouza as someone that, in addition to her mother, she looks up to and who serves as a role model of achievement for her and for many other Qatari females. To recall, in her experience, Arab females are not confined to traditional, passive roles, but they have an active part to play in society. She’s [Sheikha Mouza] the one who really defends the lady and protects her and stands you know behind them, encouraging them… And she’s the one who like you know motivated all the ladies. She’s the ideal, like we want to be like her, whatever she did, whatever she reached. So it’s like … if she did that so why won’t you do it the same way? (Interview 1)

Improvement, changing and staying the same Improvement is not only a key term in her personal life, but she believes it to be a visible characteristic of Qatari society: Culture is changed now in Qatar. It’s not like before. Everything changed actually in the Middle-East, so everything’s you know has improved and the culture now is supporting women in Qatar, gives her more rights and chances to improve herself and to be something. So I think the culture helped me as a lady to continue my studies and you know just to reach a very good position in the society. (Interview 1) Due to benefitting from certain cultural changes, the participant is mainly concerned with the effects of such changes on Qatari females, but she is very optimistic about the wider social outlook of Qatar.

Fences and challenges Cultural changes mean that traditions are modified; however, the participant emphasises continuity. Improvement and modernisation, according to her

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experiences, do not lead to an erosion of traditions. Moreover, traditions are not seen as obstacles to her self-development but as guiding principles, similarly to religious values. Also, traditions strengthen both family ties and community. My traditions have never been a rock [hindrance] in my life to do something. Traditions are nice to follow…in because you will still have like… rules, you will feel you are governed by something…you can’t break the rules. It’s like one of our rules, we have to follow, like family communication, family relationships are very important. So traditions are nice and I like them. Nothing in our traditions I feel it’s like a rock [hindrance] in my life. (Interview 1) She also discussed the importance of how English proficiency has helped her overcome ‘fences and challenges’ in her life and how speaking English gave her more confidence because she is able to communicate with many people, which she equates with being an international citizen. Knowing English has helped her become more successful.

Concluding Discussion The aim of this chapter was to investigate identity, language use and education in Qatar. With a constructivist, phenomenological approach, the study employed a qualitative analysis of interview data from one participant working in the education sector in Qatar to investigate the participant’s lived experiences in relation to language, education and identity. Tacitly following the theory of Berger and Luckmann (1966), this chapter argues that education is one of the significant social arenas in which the selfformation of the participants takes place. Education and educational experiences are highly valued and constitutive of the participant’s identity. Focusing on languages, English is the main language of instruction in Qatar, Norton’s (2000) study concludes that language learning should be conceptualised as investment into the learners’ social identities. The participant of this study sees education in general similarly related to her identity. This chapter focuses on this dimension of identity and describes how the participant relates her identity to her educational background and experiences. The interpretation of the self-understandings that the participant expressed shows that conceptualising identity as negotiated belonging is a useful analytic tool. From the discussion above it seems that there are multiple spheres of belongings that the participant negotiates differently, which consequently gives flexibility and variability to her identity. For instance, belonging to a family is of utmost importance to the participant and belonging to an educational institution is also significant for her professional life. The way the participant understands herself indicates that her identities are


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composed of how she negotiates these different belongings. Similarly, the ability to negotiate language choice in different social settings is an important part of the participant’s identity. Sökefeld’s (2001) theory of the dual hermeneutics behind identity helps in the interpretation: for the participant, the frameworks of the different social arenas (family, religion, education, language) contribute to a seeming fixity of these social contexts. For instance, the participant encounters the traditions of Islam as somewhat fixed, but also encountering it as a fixed framework gives opportunity for individuals to negotiate their positions within the boundaries of the tradition. As far as such an interpretation is plausible, both the hard approaches (fixed identity) and the soft approaches (fluid identity) offer ways to understand the data. The findings of the study have given occasion to query the more pessimistic arguments of Karmani (2005) and Troudi (2009). To recall, both authors seem to argue that the dominance of the English language and the effects of globalisation have an impact of erosion of local culture and language. The experiences of the participant do not seem to confirm this. The participant of the present study acknowledges the dominance of English, however, she sees the coexistence of Arabic and English in Qatar as potentially harmonious. This is also in line with findings of a similar qualitative study (Abou-El-Kheir, 2014) of Qatari seniors studying in English at both Qatar University and Qatar Foundation universities. The participants in that study, although mindful of the binary relation between Arabic and English in the education system, consider English a complement and not a threat to Arabic. This also goes against Said’s (1994) emphasis on the ‘combative’ aspect in the relationship of cultures and languages. According to the participant, there is no such power struggle, but a necessary and useful coexistence in Qatar’s education system when it comes to Arabic and English. On the other hand, the study offers further support to Findlow’s (2006) conclusions. Even though one may posit that Arabic and English have a harmonious relationship, the meetings of cultures and languages still give rise to complex social situations in which Qataris have to negotiate their identities. The dominance of English in many social situations, and particularly in education, does sometimes relegate Arabic to the position of being the language of nostalgia. The participant does experience this, but she does not see it as problematic. She, as well as the participants in Troudi and Jendli (2011) and Abou-El-Kheir (2014) prefer studying in English, not because they believe that Arabic is not a language of academia, but because for them it is (or was) easier for them to study in English and that the instruction received in English was superior. While the participant believes that Arabic could and should be used more in academic settings, an issue Sheikha Mouza has been a strong advocate for (Belhiah & Elhami, 2015), she does not believe the current dominance of English erodes local culture and language since Arabic, according to her, is

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inseparably linked to familial and religious identity; cornerstones of Qatari identity. Her observations are supported by Al-Issa and Dahan (2011), who, despite arguing for a reassessment of language policy vis–à–vis the lack of Arabic in education, do not claim Arabic language use is in decline. Arguably, the overly pessimistic viewpoints tend to simplify the complexities of postcolonial, globalised societies like Qatar. Although the findings from this study have limited applicability due to the small-scale study design, themes discussed in this chapter may inform future research on the relationship between language and teachers’ identity construction on the Arabian Peninsula.

Appendix: Interview guide Grand-tour and Planned Prompts Opening-Biographical Questions Who are you? What do you consider the most important about yourself? Planned prompts: Ask about the participant’s view of Qatari culture, Islam and religion. Ask about family life and the importance of languages. Are there events or periods in your life that helped shape who you are today? Planned prompts: Ask about the participant’s childhood, the transition into adulthood, goals and the time in education. Questions about Education How do you feel about your workplace? Planned prompts: Ask about the participant’s views on language requirements, the importance of language proficiency. Ask about relationship with colleagues and other experiences in the educational field. Why did you study [subject of study]? Planned prompts: Ask about the participant’s experiences as a student, the subject of study, the decision leading to it and the language of studying it. Ask about fulfilment and success. What was your goal by studying? Planned prompts: Ask the participant what she hopes to achieve, what are her plans after finishing and what she considers to be most important gains. How were your grades? Planned prompts: Ask participant about the difficulty of achievement, the methods of evaluation, the effort spent and the reasons for it.


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Questions about Identity Please tell me more about who you are. Planned prompts: Ask the participant about the meanings of being Qatari and being Arab. Ask about values and worldview. What is important to you? Planned prompts: Ask the participant about the reasons for her values, how they have become important and why. What are your values? Planned prompts: Ask about reasons behind choices and the roles in her life. What kind of person do you see yourself as? Planned prompts: Ask about various social roles, how the participant experiences these roles, how they relate to each other and her history. Questions about Language As a native speaker of Arabic, how do you see the relationships between English and Arabic here in Qatar? Planned prompts: Ask about workplace, family and daily life. Why did you study and speak English? Planned prompts: Ask about the situation in Qatar, her personal experiences, her experiences at the workplace and the importance of English. How would you describe the language situation at your workplace? Planned prompts: Ask various questions about the relationship between English and Arabic and how the participant sees it. What are the most important things for you about Arabic? About English? Planned prompts: Ask about the participant’s experiences and feelings towards the languages and her views on the future. Are languages important in your life? Why? Planned prompts: Ask about the roles of Arabic and English respectively, about learning English and about personal effects of learning.

Note (1) According to the 2010 Census, the population was just under 1.7 million. But this figure does not reflect that some 91% of the population is expatriate. Expatriates constitute the majority of the workforce. Only 8.8% of the total population is made up of Qataris 10 years of age or older (Qatar Census, 2011).

A Phenomenological Study of Ident it y Construc t ion


References Abou-El-Kheir, A. (2014) A Phenomenological Study of Qatar Student Experiences of Identities, Languages and Academic Achievement. Doctoral Thesis, King’s College London. See ethesis.pdf (accessed November 2014). Akkari, A. (2004) Education in the Middle East and North Africa: The current situation and future challenges. International Education Journal 5 (2), 144–153. Al-Issa, A. and Dahan, L.S. (2011) Introduction. In A. Al-Issa and L.S. Dahan (eds) Global English and Arabic: Issues of Language, Culture, and Identity. Oxford: Peter Lang. Attiyah, A.A. and Khalifa, B. (2009) Small steps lead to quality assurance and enhancement in Qatar University. Quality in Higher Education 15 (1), 29−38. Barnawi, O.Z. and Le Ha, P. (2015) From western TESOL classrooms to home practice: A case study with two ‘privileged’ Saudi teachers. Critical Studies in Education 56 (2), 259−276. Belhiah, H. and Elhami, M. (2015) English as a medium of instruction in the Gulf: When students and teachers speak. Language Policy 14, 3–23. Berger, P.L. and Luckmann, T. (1966) The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Penguin Books. Brewer, D.J., Goldman, C.A., Augustine, C.H., Zellman, G.L., Ryan, G., Stasz, C. and Constant, L. (2006) Working paper: An introduction to Qatar’s primary and secondary education reform. RAND Education, WR-399-SEC. See qatar/pubs.html (accessed November 2014). Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods (3rd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cresswell, J.W. (2007) Qualitative Enquiry and Research Design. Choosing among Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Crotty, M. (1998) The Foundations of Social Research. St Leonards NSW: Allen and Unwin. Edwards, J. (2009) Language and Identity: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Findlow, S. (2006) Higher education and linguistic dualism in the Arab Gulf. British Journal of Sociology of Education 27 (1), 19−36. Fontana, A. and Frey, J. (2000) The interview: From structured questions to negotiated text. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (eds) Handbook of Qualitative Research (2nd edn) (pp. 645−672). Thousand Oaks: Sage. Guba, E.G. and Lincoln, Y.S. (2005) Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods (pp. 191−217). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Gonzalez, G., Karoly, L.A., Constant, L., Salem, H. and Goldman, C.A. (2008) Facing Human Capital Challenges of the 21st Century. Education and Labor Market Initiatives in Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. See (accessed November 2014). Hessler, R. (1992) Social Research Methods. St Paul Minnesota: West Publishing Company. Joseph, J.E. (2004) Language and Identity: National, Ethnic and Religious. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Karmani, S. (2005) English, ‘terror,’ & Islam. Applied Linguistics 26, 262–267. Langdridge, D. (2007) Phenomenological Psychology: Theory, Research and Method. Harlow: The Open University Press. Madsen, S.R. (2009) Transformational learning experiences of female UAE college students. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues 2 (1), 20−31. Mahboob, A. and Golden, R. (2013) Looking for native speakers of English: Discrimination in English language teaching job advertisements. Voices in Asia 1, 72–81. Mazawi, A.E. (2008) Policy politics of higher education in the Gulf Cooperation Council member states: Intersections of globality, regionalism and locality. In C. Davidson


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and P. Mackenzie Smith (eds) Higher Education in the Gulf States: Shaping Economies, Politics and Culture (pp. 59−72). London: The London Middle East Institute. Minichiello, V., Aroni, R., Timewell, E. and Alexander, L. (1995) In-Depth Interviewing (2nd edn). Melbourne: Longman. Mohd-Asraf, R. (2005) English and Islam: A clash of civilizations? Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 4 (2), 103−118. Norton, B. (2000) Identity and Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity and Educational Change. Harlow & New York, NY: Longman. Peters, M.L. (2010) A Phenomenological Study of the Experiences of Helping Professionals with Learning Disabilities. Doctoral Thesis. See (accessed November 2014). Qatar Census (2011) Final Results of Census 2010. See Populations.aspx (accessed November 2014). Rostron, M. (2009) Liberal arts education in Qatar: Intercultural perspectives. Intercultural Education 20 (3), 219−229. doi:10.1080/14675980903138517 Said, E.W. (1994) Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books. Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. and Larkin, M. (2009) Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory Method and Research. London: Sage. Smith, J.A. and Osborn, M. (2003) Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J.A. Smith (ed.) Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods. London: Sage. Sökefeld, M. (2001) Reconsidering identity. Anthropos 92 (2), 527−544. Spinelli, E. (2005) The Interpreted World. An Introduction to Phenomenological Psychology (2nd edn) London: Sage Publications. Suleiman, Y. (2003) The Arabic Language and National Identity: A Study in Ideology. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press. Taylor, S. and Bogdan, R. (1984) Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods: The Search for Meanings (2nd edn). New York: John Wiley and Sons. Troudi, S. (2009) The effects of English as a medium of instruction on Arabic as a language of science and academia. In P. Wachob (ed.) Power in the EFL Classroom. Critical Pedagogy in the Middle East (pp. 199−216). Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Troudi, S. and Jendli, A. (2011) Emirati students’ experiences of English as a medium of instruction. In A. Al-Issa and L. Dahan (eds) Global English and Arabic: Issues of Language, Culture, and Identity (pp. 23−48). Oxford: Peter Lang.

Part 3 Forging Societal Bilingualism Through English Medium Instruction


From ‘Late–Late’ to ‘Early–Early’ Immersion: Discontinuities and Dilemmas in Medium of Instruction Policies and Practices Kay Gallagher

Introduction This chapter examines issues with regards to the language of teaching in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Medium of instruction practices and policies are examined from pedagogical perspectives, with particular reference to the capital city and emirate of Abu Dhabi, where the recent radical reformation of the state school system has included a shift in the medium of instruction from the traditional use of ‘Arabic-only’ to teach all school subjects, to include the use of ‘English-also’ as a medium of instruction from kindergarten onwards, particularly in the teaching of science and mathematics. Arabic has traditionally been the exclusive medium of instruction and communication within the UAE’s state school system, while English was formerly taught only as a foreign language, as just one subject among many. In the late 1980s, English as a subject commenced in Grade 4 by 1992, its introduction had been moved downwards to Grade 1. In the UAE, English has long enjoyed a somewhat privileged status as a school subject, as evidenced for example by the fact that it was the first curricular area where an international textbook instead of a locally written textbook was permitted by the Ministry of Education, which controls and mandates the use of all school textbooks (Clarke & Gallagher, 2008). By contrast, when neighbouring Saudi Arabia tried to introduce English as a subject into the primary 139


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school curriculum a decade later in 2002, the move was strongly opposed, and indeed was abandoned for a time. An Agence France-Presse report from Jeddah at that time, carried by the UAE newspaper Gulf Today, stated that Saudi Arabia had shelved plans to introduce English language lessons to primary schoolchildren ‘amid fierce criticism of the proposal by the Kingdom’s powerful religious establishment’ (Gulf Today, 19 August 2002). ‘Teaching English to youngsters endangers Islamic identity and culture and accelerates Westernization of the society’, an anti-campaigner was reported to have said. The Saudi Ministry of Education had already trained some three hundred indigenous teachers, the report added, and was in the process of hiring nine hundred foreign English language teachers, before the project was halted. However, despite its already quite privileged status in the UAE, when the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) introduced its ‘new school model’ in 2010, a much greater role was accorded English. A dual medium of instruction policy for Abu Dhabi’s state schools was initiated, whereby ‘Instruction … take(s) place in both Arabic and English … The goal is for instruction to be provided 50% in Arabic and 50% in English’ (ADEC, 2012). Indeed, when first officially announced, amongst a host of radical reforms – including pedagogical, curricular, infrastructural and administrative innovations – this shift towards semi-English immersion was recognised as ‘a monumental step’ (ADEC, 2010) by the local education authority. Such a seismic shift opens up a discontinuity with past practice, as the school system was hitherto an exclusively Arabic-medium environment, and inevitably this fundamental change presents a new set of dilemmas for government run education in the UAE. Yet the move by the Abu Dhabi state school system to mirror the elite private school system in the UAE, which has always used English as its medium, has not been uncontested. The push-and-pull of voices arguing for and against the use of English in the education system continue apace, fuelled by a post-Arab Spring reassertion of Arab identity and calls for strengthening the Arabic language as the appropriate language of education. Teaching subjects through English is ‘a clear violation of the country’s constitution’, according to a newspaper report on a debate in the federal national council, which noted that the Constitution states that ‘the official language of the federation is Arabic’ (The National, 2013b). A government adviser is reported as saying that ‘I am asking that the FNC (Federal National Council) require UAE universities and schools to teach in Arabic, otherwise we will take to court any university that imposes English on our children’, according to the report (The National, 2013b). Despite such protestations, the new approach means that Arabic has had to give way, in part, to English in the school system, and this has served to highlight the complex interplay between these two powerful and prestigious languages, and has compounded fears that bilingual schooling will see Arabic becoming marginalised by English in the UAE. Midraj and Midraj (2011),

From ‘L ate–L ate’ to ‘Early–Early ’ Immersion


amongst others, note that as English has grown in importance in the UAE and has now become a medium of instruction in schools, there is a growing concern that Arabic may lose its preeminent status, despite being the official language of the country. Indeed some go as far as to suggest that there is now an existential threat to Arabic in the Peninsula: Badry and Willoughby (2016), for instance, express concern not just for the future development of Arabic in the Peninsula, but for its actual maintenance. Nevertheless, the prevailing pragmatic ‘discourse of opportunity’ (Tollefson & Tsui, 2004) that surrounds mastery of English in the UAE brings wide recognition that it is essential for participation in core local-global enterprises such as petroleum, leisure, business and finance and for international communication, and it is known that young Emirati teachers have a pragmatic and utilitarian view of English rather than perceiving it as a threat (Van den Hoven, 2014). For good or for ill, a command of English is essential for further study, research and scholarship, in line with the trend globally for increasing use of English as the medium of higher education. In the UAE today, tertiary education is conducted predominantly through the medium of English (Davidson, 2008; Lange, 2013). As one significant example of the current demand for English-medium higher education in the Peninsula, the Abu Dhabi branch campus of the prestigious Francophone Paris-Sorbonne University offers its Masters degrees in English, not French; and it introduced its first undergraduate degree in English instead of French in 2013. Given the position of English as the predominant global lingua franca and as the predominant medium of instruction in higher education in the UAE, it is imperative that the education system ensures that school leavers reach at least a threshold level of competency in order to begin to study successfully through the medium of English at university. One internationally proven way to achieve this is to teach some content subjects through a second language in school, in line with research from multiple educational sites which shows that one of the most effective ways to produce high levels of proficiency in a second language in an entire population is to teach school subjects through the medium of that language, particularly when there is a focus on language form as well as on meaning (Baker, 2011; Johnstone, 2007; Krashen, 1984; Lo Bianco, 2009). While language immersion through content teaching at the school stage has been repeatedly shown to be effective in developing ‘advanced levels of functional proficiency’ (Cenoz et al., 2014: 249) in an additional language, the efficacy of ‘late–late’ immersion at tertiary level is not yet known, for there has been relatively little research conducted as yet into the effects of content teaching through an additional language at tertiary level (Airey & Linder, 2008). In light of the foregoing, and in order to address issues surrounding language use in education in the UAE, this chapter will first examine some of the discontinuities that arise as students transition from school to higher


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education. The paper then discusses language immersion as an educational approach, before turning to examine discontinuities at the other end of the educational spectrum, when English is introduced as a medium of instruction in kindergarten. Debates surrounding the learning and teaching of the first language, Arabic, are briefly addressed. Subsequently as the role of teachers is undoubtedly crucial in determining the success of any language immersion programme, and as bilingual teachers are necessary for a successful new Arabic-English school system, the results of an investigation into the attitudes of a group of Arabic speaking Emirati schoolteachers towards medium of instruction practices are examined and their flexible linguistic identities are revealed. Finally, the chapter discusses a range of dilemmas wrought by the change in medium of instruction practices at the school level.

Medium of Instruction in Higher Education Three decades ago, when the country’s first university was established in Al Ain in 1977, it was created as an Arabic-medium institution (BurdenLeahy, 2009), set up with expertise from the Arab world; however, since then, higher education expertise has derived primarily from English-speaking North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, and English has become the medium of all higher education, including at the country’s original university in Al Ain (Fox, 2008; Fox & Wagie, 2006). The vast majority of Emirati state high school graduates who enter the federal tertiary sector, however, are Arabic speakers who have been ill prepared for learning through the medium of English at college. Prior to entering higher education, current cohorts of Emirati state school students studied English as a foreign language for just a few hours a week, as merely one subject among many in the school curriculum. Not only have they spent relatively little time studying the language at school, but the quality of the teaching of English in schools has long been severely criticised (Syed, 2003; Loughrey et al., 1999). Consequently, for Emirati state school leavers, only a small minority (fewer than 10% nationally) reached the threshold level of language proficiency necessary to be able to study subjects through English at tertiary level (Lewis, 2010; UAE Yearbook, 2010), and they then must spend up to two years in a preuniversity intensive English preparatory programme (essentially a remediation programme for the second language proficiency not acquired in school.) While English remains the predominant language of higher education, and until the first generation of bilingually schooled children exits the school system, the majority of state school leavers are not linguistically prepared for university. A similar situation has been reported from the neighbouring Peninsula state of Qatar (Pessoa et al., 2014). This can cause frustration and resentment in students who must inhabit what they see as somewhat of an educational limbo in the preparatory programmes between school and

From ‘L ate–L ate’ to ‘Early–Early ’ Immersion


college. From the langua-pedagogy perspective, it is very difficult to make up the shortfall in English proficiency in a mere year or two, given that it takes 5 to 7 years to develop proficiency in second language use for academic purposes, as opposed to the relatively short period of one or two years it takes to acquire basic language for everyday communicative use (Cummins, 1981). From an economic perspective, the Foundation programmes are seen as wasteful of higher education’s relatively scarce resources, soaking up funds that could be put to good use in developing a strong research agenda for higher education, for example (Fox, 2008), or to provide more postgraduate courses. Nevertheless, the Foundation programmes have developed a strong track record of student success within these constraints, and are recognised for their efficacy in bridging the school-college divide. There is some evidence that school exit standards in English are beginning to rise, if slowly, even before the first generation of bilingually educated children works its way through the school system: over 20% of entrants to the main state university in the city of Abu Dhabi in 2012, for example, bypassed the Foundation programme, and the percentage of students who are ‘direct entries’ to Bachelor-level is increasing annually, if only very gradually. The intention of the planners is to eliminate the need for a post-school English language Foundation programme by 2018, by which time the ‘new school model’ will have extended right through the school system, resulting, it is planned, in bilingual school leavers, as ‘language acquisition in both Arabic and English languages is a central goal of the learning outcomes in the New School Model’ (ADEC, 2012: 53). It is not only the federal state universities that are affected by the discontinuity between the language of school and college. Some of the many private international universities that have set up branch campuses in the UAE have faltered and in some cases failed, due in part to linguistic barriers. For example, in 2010 Michigan State University in Dubai closed its doors to undergraduate students after just two years in operation, primarily due to low student numbers and high fees, but also due to the challenges of studying through the medium of English, according to a newspaper report which identified English as ‘the biggest barrier for students studying at foreign universities in the UAE’ (Swan, 2010). Likewise, Wilkins (2010) notes in his analysis of higher education in the UAE that high numbers of students have unsatisfactory writing skills. Thus for many students it can be a case of ‘submersion’ rather than ‘immersion’, with students metaphorically drowning and dropping out of higher education, due in part to linguistic difficulties. This issue is not unique to the UAE, of course. Research by Airey (2010) in Sweden, for example, confirms that studying through the medium of English as an additional language ‘does indeed cause serious problems for some students’ (2010: 44), while Evans and Morrison (2011) conclude from their study of students in higher education in Hong Kong that the use of English may in fact initially impede comprehension.


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By contrast, with the continuing dominance of English in higher education in the UAE, in 2012 the national university in neighbouring Qatar reverted to Arabic-medium teaching, after 10 years of English-medium teaching. According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Lindsey, 2012), this move is contested by many, and is opposed by 40% of the student population. In the UAE, perhaps as a counterpoint to the recent change towards English at school level, there is an anticipated shift towards more Arabic in higher education in the future: there are calls for more subjects to be taught through the medium of Arabic, and for more courses in Arabic, within higher education (The National, 2014). Moreover, the need to strengthen Arabic in education and in society is pressing. There are deep concerns about the perceived marginalisation of Arabic, leading to an official reaffirmation of its preeminent role through the issuance of a charter for the language, as (1) the core of Islamic, Arab and Emirati identity (2) the essence of Emirati culture and traditions (3) a language of culture and communication and (4) a future language of innovation in science and technology (UAE Government, 2012).

Language Immersion Leaving aside for a moment the language issues that impinge on the tertiary sector, the educational practice of second language immersion – where students are taught in and learn through a second language – is premised on the belief that learning subjects such as mathematics or geography through another language at this level allows both language knowledge and content knowledge to develop effectively together. Indeed, at the school level, international evidence shows that immersion education can be one of the most successful ways of promoting both high levels of second language proficiency and high content knowledge (Baker, 2011; Johnstone 2007). Furthermore, recent research shows that the bilingual brain has cognitive advantages over the monolingual brain, giving an added impetus to the desirability of the acquisition of additional languages at school. Indeed, as Freeman notes ‘the cumulative evidence from research conducted over the last three decades at sites around the world demonstrates that cognitive, social, personal, and economic benefits accrue to the individual who has an opportunity to develop their bilingual repertoire’ (Freeman, 2007: 9). However, as Cummins’s (1979) threshold level hypothesis posits, a certain level of linguistic competence must be attained before the positive cognitive aspects of bilingualism come into effect.

‘Late–late’ immersion Approaches to school-based immersion education internationally include early immersion (5 to 6 yrs.), middle immersion (9 to 10 yrs.) and late immersion (11 to 14 yrs.), according to Baker’s (2011) typology. The educational

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practice of ‘late immersion’, such as practised in the Hong Kong school system, involves the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction at primary school, followed by a switch to English-medium education at secondary school. In the UAE, the practice has been mother tongue-only instruction right through until the end of secondary school, followed by an abrupt switch to English-only instruction at tertiary level, and therefore I have characterised the UAE’s approach as one of ‘late–late immersion’ (at least until the recent changes take effect in several years’ time). It is clear that the policy of ‘late–late immersion’ has proven problematic for many Emirati students. School leavers entering college without a prior threshold level of English language proficiency are often doomed to failure and withdrawal from tertiary study (Hatherley-Greene, 2012). Seen from the student perspective, the cultural and linguistic border crossing from school to college can be ‘an almost impossible feat’ (Hatherley-Greene, 2012: 1). For less academically able students, failure rates in English tests are alarmingly high: for example, almost half of all diploma-level students failed an international benchmark test of English proficiency at one of the country’s major tertiary institutions, according to Taylor (2008). Indeed, test takers from the UAE as well as the Peninsula states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar consistently score lowest in reading and writing out of forty countries in the international standardised test of English, IELTS; while speakers of Arabic as a first language consistently rank at the bottom of the league table of forty language groups in their performance in these tests of reading and writing (IELTS, 2012). Despite this, in the pre-university programmes, many students can make good progress towards the modest threshold level of proficiency set by the Ministry of Higher Education for Bachelor degree study in the federal tertiary institutions (IELTS Band 5.0). However, further gains in English language proficiency at university are limited after the Foundation year: internal institutional research conducted at one of the state tertiary institutions reveals that average proficiency improves only slightly over the course of four years of post-Foundation university study, because academic language development is not systematically addressed beyond the Foundation level.

‘Early–early’ immersion Moving down to the other end of the educational spectrum, the opposite situation to ‘late-late’ immersion I here characterise as ‘early–early’ immersion: that is, the practice of using English as a medium of instruction for some parts of the day from as early as kindergarten onwards. This is a key component of the ‘new school model’ espoused by Abu Dhabi Education Council. It is too soon to say if such a partial, very early immersion model will be successful or not. One early source of evidence is a research report by Khalifa (2011), published by the UK-based international education trust,


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CfBT1, and endorsed by Abu Dhabi Education Council. This report found that both students and parents strongly believe that bilingual immersion has led to higher student achievement and higher motivation, that stakeholders including principals, teachers and parents support bilingual immersion, and, crucially, finds that bilingual teaching supports proficiency in both languages, with no perceived loss of Arabic proficiency. However, countering this study’s findings somewhat, 82% of parents said they would prefer their children to learn mathematics and science in Arabic, not English, according to a survey of parents reported in 2011 (The National, 2013a). At this still early stage in the reform era, the outcomes of early–early immersion in the second language are as yet unknown. What is clear, however, is that the seismic shift from very late to very early immersion in English in the reformed education system is not the only linguistic challenge which young Peninsula learners must overcome. As speakers of ‘Khaleeji’ or Peninsula Arabic, they must first begin to acquire proficiency in standard written forms of Arabic during the early years of schooling (Abu-Libdeh, 1996; Al Sharhan, 2007). The diglossic nature of Arabic is the first challenge for young Arabic learners, yet insufficient attention has been given to this phenomenon in the education system (Al Sharhan, 2007). Furthermore, given the primacy of oral forms of communication over written forms in Emirati homes and society, young children are not generally well socialised into early literacy pre-school practices. In another linguistic context, Shirley Bryce-Heath (1983, 1996) has shown in the United States how early language socialisation in the home influences success at school, and how language communities may be educationally advantaged or disadvantaged by their early language socialisation. Moreover, most teachers do not share the Khaleeji dialect of their students: for example, 80% of teachers in male schools are expatriates from Egypt, Jordan and Syria (Ridge, 2010) and each nationality speaks a different dialect of Arabic. Therefore, with regard to their first language, Emirati children’s very first linguistic challenge at school is to make their meanings known to their teachers through mastery of the formal registers of school.

Arabic Literacy The evidence suggests that Emirati students’ proficiency in Arabic literacy is a cause for concern at this time. When school children in the UAE participated for the first time in PIRLS2 in 2011, a major international test of mother-tongue reading skills, their reading scores were significantly lower than the global average. (That said, UAE-based children scored highest in the Arab world, amongst the participating countries of Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.) The issue of low Arabic literacy attainment at school is gaining prominence. For example, it was reported in the media that

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national tests showed that 40,000 pupils at 285 public schools in neighbouring Dubai and the northern emirates were learning neither Arabic nor English to an acceptable standard (EduArabia, 2010), and parents surveyed expressed concerned about their children’s progress in Arabic at school, in both the public and private school sectors (Atwood, 2010). Low levels of Arabic literacy should arguably be of greater concern than low proficiency in English, not only because of the negative consequences of under-achievement in the first language per se, but also because, as Benson states, ‘building a strong foundation in the L1 (first language) helps L2 (second language) learning much more than early or long exposure to the L2’ (Benson, 2008: 4). Indeed, when considering the status of reading in the first language in the Peninsula, O’Sullivan suggests that ‘reading skills in Arabic for many students are at second language interlanguage levels’ (O’Sullivan, 2009: 45), a situation that is likely to be related to the negative attitudes towards reading in Arabic identified by Gobert (2009). Many Arabic language teaching experts, such as Al Rajhi, are pessimistic about the state of the teaching of Arabic at school: ‘The reality in Arabic education today appears bleak indeed, burdened by numerous problems that seem to have become petrified’ (2013: 381), he says. Al Rajhi identifies these problems to be a lack of language policy guidelines, a lack of funding, a lack of academic studies in Arabic language education and a lack of teacher training. ‘Programs for training Arabic teachers rate among the most underdeveloped in the contemporary world’, he believes (2013: 384). Indeed, Arabic teaching methods have for some time been recognised to be in need of ‘immediate overhauling’ (Taha-Thomure, 2008: 187). As the methods of teaching of other subjects such as mathematics and science are modernised under the reform agenda, the outdated methods used to teach Arabic become obvious to students, and thus represent another pedagogical discontinuity. There are clear challenges for the teaching of Arabic in the reformed school system, as ‘a shift occurs in a new direction – away from teacher-centeredness towards learner- and learning-centeredness’ (England, 2013: 424), revealing ‘a dire need … for more research in Arabic language teaching and learning’ (England, 2013: 430). As well as pedagogical reform, there is also much room for development in Arabic language curricula and in assessment practices. The Common European Framework of Reference for language learning (CEFR) which was developed a decade ago in multilingual Europe as a descriptive scheme for language learning, is now used in myriads of language contexts globally to analyse language learners’ needs, specify learning goals, guide the development of learning materials and activities and provide orientation for the assessment of learning outcomes (Little, 2006). However, this now global framework has not yet been applied to Arabic. Nor is there, as yet, any internationally recognised standardised test of achievement in the Arabic language.


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One beacon of light on the horizon is the recent Arabic for Life report (Government of Dubai, 2013), which holds some promise in redressing these ills. The report addresses key areas including curriculum development, creating a culture of reading, the preparation and professional development of teachers, the role of the media in supporting the teaching of Arabic and teaching Arabic to non-native speakers. Furthermore, a new interest in the Khaleeji (Peninsula) dialect is emerging, and a project is underway to develop a corpus of the dialect. Yet, one senses some lip service with regard to reforming the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy of Arabic in schools, and its development still lags behind the recent overhaul of other core subjects such as mathematics, science, and English. For example, a key Arabic language curricular initiative in the state school sector is the transition from textbook-based learning to application and standardbased instruction (ADEC, 2013); however this move comes long after the similar revamping of the English language curriculum more than a decade earlier, in 2005.

The role of teachers In whatever language it occurs, it is now firmly established in the research literature that good teachers are the most important factor in effective education (Barber & Mourshed, 2007; Mourshed et al., 2010). Thus the training of under-qualified teachers, as well as the up-skilling of qualified teachers, has been a paramount concern in the transformation of the school system in the UAE, as in adjacent Oman (Al-Hinai, 2007). At the beginning of the reform period, there were reportedly thousands of unqualified teachers in the school system in Abu Dhabi. Indeed, according to a World Bank (2008) report, approximately half of the teachers in the secondary school sector in the UAE are untrained. Yet the Arab knowledge renaissance called for earlier by the United Nation’s Arab Human Development Report: Building a knowledge society (2003) requires qualified teachers with contemporary teaching skills and knowledge. Furthermore, bilingual teachers have been identified as a core feature of successful language immersion education systems (Johnson & Swain, 1997; Lin & Man, 2009). However, most of the schoolteachers in the UAE state system are native speakers of Arabic and are not necessarily proficient in English. Conversely, the employment of thousands of English-speaking teachers from abroad who do not speak Arabic means that these teachers may be unable to communicate effectively in UAE schools with their students, other teachers or parents. Nevertheless, regardless of linguistic proficiency, the beliefs and attitudes of teachers are critical factors in the successful implementation of educational reform innovations, for they are the ‘gate keepers of classroom practice’ (Adamson & Morris, 2007: 180) in whose hands the success of reform initiatives ultimately lie (Fullan &

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Hargreaves, 1992; Zembylas, 2009), and the success of the move towards a bilingual medium of instruction ultimately depends on the attitudes of teachers. In this regard, when this author surveyed a group of Emirati schoolteachers at the beginning of the reform period, a dual language approach to their own learning in a further education course was found to be their preferred medium. The teachers (N = 72) were selected by the local education authority for a postgraduate diploma in education, taught bilingually in English with Arabic translation. As continuing learners in higher education themselves, a majority of the schoolteachers favoured a bilingual approach: over two thirds (68%) indicated that the dual language approach adopted by the diploma programme was what they preferred. Statements such as the following supported this majority view: • • • •

I like the idea of intermingling both languages. I like it that Arabic was not discarded. I like the programme because it has strengthened my English language. The mode adopted now is good: it strengthens our English language, and facilitates understanding via Arabic.

On the other hand, a minority of the teachers surveyed indicated that they would prefer their classes to be taught through the medium of Arabic only. They did not want to be taught in English. This sub-set made comments such as the following: •

For me, the Arabic language is important. It’s my mother tongue and I find it easier to express my feelings and thoughts through it.

However, another sub-group of participants said they would prefer to be taught in English only. This group wished to progress to study for a Master’s degree in Education, on the assumption that the medium of instruction at that level of study would be fully in English, with no Arabic support. One of these students, for example, stated •

Since we are preparing to join a Master’s Degree programme, I prefer that teaching is in English because all references and websites are in English.

These findings tend to support the need for a two- or three-steam solution in higher education, at least at the pre-Master’s level: a dual language stream, an Arabic-only stream, and an English-only stream. Students could either choose their preference, or be selected according to their linguistic profiles and their future study and career paths. Rather than perpetuating an eitheror polarity between Arabic and English in the UAE, it is perhaps more useful to recognise, as Hornberger (1989, 2003) reminds us, that language use exists


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on a continuum, and perhaps it is time to move beyond the limitations of a ‘two solitudes’ (MacLennan, 1945, 2003) approach in higher education, in order to find accommodation for both languages. One possible solution is to offer two streams in certain disciplines: an Arabic-medium stream for some students, and an English stream for others. Course requirements and curricula would remain the same, and students would graduate with the same degree, but with an added notation stating the medium of study. A second possibility is to offer certain disciplines in Arabic, and others in English, depending on students’ intended future pathway in the discipline, both academic and professional. A third way is to offer a mixed approach, utilising both linguistic resources, with some courses taught in Arabic, and some in English, or using both languages within a course, as proposed for higher education in international locations by Van der Walt (2013). Indeed, a dual medium curriculum for higher education in the UAE has also been advocated by others, including Belhiah and Elhami (2015), based on the results of a survey of one hundred teachers and several hundred students in higher education in the UAE which revealed a strong preference for a dual language approach. However, the concept of ‘bilingual disciplinary literacy’ suggested by Airey (2011) requires careful and nuanced decisions to be made based on academic as well as post-university use, and on whether receptive or productive language skills, or both, are needed. Insights into the linguistic identity of Emirati teachers in the early days of the school reform era were also revealed by the survey. For example, nine out of ten teachers surveyed believed that better knowledge of English would benefit them in their school careers. When asked to self-assess their English language proficiency, the teachers’ self-ratings were high: most believed that they could speak English comfortably (72%), read it comfortably (78%), write it comfortably (73%) and understand spoken English comfortably (70%). These self-evaluations appeared surprisingly high for Arabic-speaking teachers who hitherto had no need for English in their daily work, as they were still teaching through the medium of Arabic at the cusp of the reform period. In contrast to their high self-ratings, a different picture emerged when the schoolteachers’ course lecturers were asked to conduct a parallel rating of the schoolteachers’ proficiency in English. The lecturers believed that, on the whole, the school teachers did not speak English comfortably (84%), did not read English comfortably (84%) and did not write English comfortably (76%), while just 54% felt that the students understood spoken English comfortably. The schoolteachers’ apparently inflated self-assessment of English proficiency could be interpreted in many ways. It could reveal some flexibility in linguistic identity necessary for the new bilingual world of schooling in the UAE, or it could be viewed as a self-protective mechanism in order to be seen to fit into the reformers’ plans for dual language schools. It is known that teachers feel vulnerable in times of reform (Hargreaves, 2004; Van Veen &

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Lasky, 2005; Zembylas, 2009), and these teachers may have felt especially vulnerable as the linguistic identity of the school system was being re-engineered.

Dilemmas Turning back now to the linguistic discontinuities for learners within the education system that have been outlined in this chapter, the move to very early bilingual immersion sees new pedagogic and linguistic dilemmas emerge. In the remainder of the paper, core dilemmas associated with the new policy of early–early immersion in English are each examined in turn, with the main attention given to the key question of the optimum age to commence immersion education in a second language. The other related linguistic issues addressed below are equality of access, gender differences, time and effort required for biliteracy and the position of other languages in the curriculum. The key question of how soon to start teaching through the medium of an additional language is a crucial one. In terms of an appropriate policy for bilingual and biliteracy immersion, if it is too late to start at tertiary level, is it better to start very early in kindergarten, or early in primary school or late, in secondary school? In the view of experts such as Kirkpatrick (2009), who cites Cummins (1981) and Benson (2008) to support his thesis, ‘the use of a second language as a medium of instruction in the early years of primary school is not recommended by experts’ (Kirkpatrick, 2009: 3). However, he suggests that when the conditions for learning are optimal – that is, if there are qualified and proficient teachers, with access to excellent teaching resources – then early learning through a second language for children who have already require initial literacy in the first language can be beneficial. Similarly, Benson (2008) attacks the ‘maximum exposure myth’ on which early–early second language immersion is premised. She argues that it is more effective and more efficient to concentrate on building literacy in the first language, in the knowledge that literacy skills are later transferrable to additional languages. When the wide linguistic distance between Arabic and English as written languages is factored in, the resultant heavy cognitive load for young children in mastering two totally different language systems simultaneously becomes potentially problematic. The consensus in the research literature on the timing of the introduction of an additional medium of instruction seems to be that it is advisable to commence instruction in reading and writing in the child’s first language first (Baetens-Beardsmore, 2009), based on the premise that ‘there should be fluency and literacy in a first language before starting literacy in a second one’ (García, 2009: 345). This is supported by Cummins (2000) whose common underlying proficiency hypothesis (1979, 2000) posits that


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development in one language automatically enhances development in another, so that ‘academic language proficiency transfers across languages such that students who have developed literacy in their L1 will tend to make stronger progress in acquiring literacy in L2’ (Cummins, 2000: 173). In terms of learning to speak – as opposed to learning to read and write – an additional language, the research findings are unclear about the optimal time to begin: the evidence is ‘surprisingly equivocal’ (Saville-Troike, 2006: 82). The only conclusive advantage of early teaching of an additional language, according to reviews of the research, is that learners develop a more native-like accent in the second language (Hoosain & Salili, 2005; Lightbown & Spada, 2013). However, a native-speaker-like accent may not actually be desirable in this globalised era where English is viewed as a lingua franca to be appropriated by the peoples of the world to use in their own idiosyncratic ways, and a non-native-like accent may actually be viewed nowadays as more authentic and more desirable than a native-like accent. The question of sequential acquisition (that is, learning to read and write in the mother tongue first), or simultaneous acquisition (teaching young children to read and write in two languages concurrently) is one that is contested in the research literature. It is most often recommended that the additional language be taught orally at first, before progressing to reading and writing, thus mimicking the natural order of acquisition that occurs in the first language. On the other hand, convincing arguments for concurrent literacy development in two writing systems are also advanced by some researchers, such as Kenner (2004a, 2004b). Further research is needed to help find answers to this crucial question, especially research with regard to Arabic and English in the Peninsula.

Access to biliteracy In terms of the achievement of national educational outcomes for all, it is worth noting that only those students who are schooled within the Abu Dhabi emirate will have automatic access to bilingual state schooling at this time. They will thus become the country’s new bilingual elite, joining the ranks of those educated at private schools. The free provision of bilingual education in the state system in Abu Dhabi can be viewed as an evolution in democratisation, as it gives free and universal access to the additional linguistic, economic, cultural and social capital (Bourdieu, 1991) afforded by English as a lingua franca, in addition to the rich symbolic capital already afforded by Arabic. However, beyond the Abu Dhabi emirate, the universal provision of bilingual state school education in the rest of the UAE is not guaranteed, making for unequal provision nationally. Moreover, as bilingual immersion education in Arabic and English not only becomes free and universal in Abu Dhabi, it now also becomes compulsory. This means that all Emirati families whose children attend state schools in

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Abu Dhabi have no choice but for their children to learn through the medium of English, in addition to Arabic. For families who are not proficient in English, they may have no means of supporting their children’s development within the ‘family literacy eco-system’ (Kenner, 2005), not only in the English language, but also in the critical areas of numeracy and science which are now taught in English. Indeed, families seeking Arabic-only instruction for their children would need to try to find a private fee-paying Arabic-medium school, as there are no alternatives for Emirati families who want their children to learn only through their mother tongue, and not through English. This situation can be contrasted with other instances of bilingual immersion education elsewhere in the world: in the Canadian or Irish governmental school systems, for example, immersion is by choice, and is typically selected by middle and upper class parents, rather than being compulsory all socioeconomic groups. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, only those students who excel academically are pre-selected for bilingual education (Lin & Man, 2009).

Gender Another dilemma lies in the issue of gender-based language achievement levels. Male linguistic and academic achievement lags behind females in the UAE, and males are much more likely to experience failure at tertiary level. In fact, Hatherley-Greene (2012) reports a haemorrhage of two-thirds of the cohort of Foundation-year Emirati male students he studied at one of the country’s state-funded tertiary colleges, due to linguistic challenges in acquiring English proficiency, in addition to cognitive, cultural, social and emotional demands, as well as overall lack of educational preparedness for tertiary-level education. Bearing in mind that this dramatically high attrition rate occurs within a context where a mere 30% of students in statefunded tertiary education are male (Ridge & Farah, 2012), there are clearly severe gender-specific challenges to be addressed in this regard. The gap in language performance between female and male students globally has been well-known for some time. However, this gap is amongst the widest within the Arab world. The international Progress in Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which measures reading performance in children’s first language, and in which the UAE participated for the first time in 2011, reports that ‘Some of the largest differences … were found in some of the Arabic-speaking countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. At the sixth grade, girls had higher average reading achievement than boys …’ (PIRLS, 2011: 51).

Time, effort and other languages It requires a great deal of time and effort to produce a biliterate population. When two languages are linguistically distant, as is the case with


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Arabic and English, it takes even more time and greater effort to learn to be literate in both languages. Achieving this means in simple terms that students will have to study harder, and study for longer. Although the school day was lengthened in 2009, a longer school day is not yet readily accepted by some, and all but two members of the Federal National Council (interestingly, both reported to be former teachers) petitioned in June 2013 for the school day to be shortened again (Al Mazrouie, 2013). Furthermore, given the time and effort required to master standard Arabic as well as English, the question of opportunities for Emirati school children to learn other languages that are valuable in the contemporary world, such as Putonghua (Mandarin) or Korean, become problematic. Language electives are still unheard of in the state school system, and there are no university language departments offering degrees in major world languages such as Japanese, Urdu or Spanish in the UAE, yet expertise in world languages such as these will be needed as the country matures and lengthens its global reach.

Conclusion As outlined at the beginning of this chapter, the state school system in the UAE has been undergoing a period of intense transformation in recent years (Macpherson et al., 2007; Thorne, 2011). This transformation has been influenced in part by neo-liberal geo-political alliances and by the involvement of global policy institutions, which play an increasingly active role in education internationally (Mazawi, 2008), as well as by local aspirations towards a world-class education system. These reforms are set within wider economic and societal changes in the UAE that have been labelled ‘unprecedented in the history of civilisation in terms of scale or speed’ (Bashur, 2010: 253), and have, amongst other changes, heralded a new role for English as an additional medium of instruction in the state school system. The introduction of very early English immersion education for Arabic speaking children presents new challenges for young learners, teachers, and planners; just as the former approach of very late immersion presented challenges for young adult Emirati learners, teachers and planners, as has been shown earlier. Discomfited by this major shift, the somewhat parlous state of the teaching and learning of Arabic is seen to be in need of attention, by means of enhancing curriculum, instruction and resources in schools. As reported in this chapter, at a time when learners’ linguistic identities are being recalibrated by the education system, a survey of Emirati schoolteachers who participated in a development programme in the early days of the school reform movement showed their keenness to be identified as bilingual teachers, in order to fit the new school expectations. Yet the survey found that their self-identification as confident users of the two languages of

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instruction did not seem to match with their professors’ estimation of their proficiency in English. Although this chapter has focused primarily on the learning side of the pedagogical equation, it is understood that the linguistic profiles of teachers and of their teaching is of critical importance to the new school order. Clearly, medium of instruction policies and practices in the education system at all levels in the UAE need much detailed and nuanced research and evidence-based discussion. The observation that actual educational considerations – as opposed to social, political, or economic ones – are rarely paramount in decisions about medium of instruction internationally (Evans & Morrison, 2011) seems to apply as much in this rapidly developing context as it does elsewhere. However, it is essential that pedagogical considerations with regard to medium of instruction policies and practices, such as those outlined in this chapter, are kept to the fore.

Notes (1) In the introduction to the report, CfBT describes itself as a ‘charity providing education services for public benefit in the UK and internationally’. http://www. learning.pdf (2) PIRLS is an international study of the reading achievement of fourth graders, conducted in the child’s first language.

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Revisiting the Suitability of the IELTS Examination as a Gatekeeper for University Entrance in the UAE Hilda Freimuth

Introduction This chapter investigates the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the suitability of the examination as a university entrance gatekeeper at national universities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The chapter begins with a brief history of the examination and explores the examination’s original purpose. This is followed by a closer look at the growth in popularity of the examination over the past thirty years and its change in function, with a particular focus on its use in the UAE. The chapter then moves on to discuss the perspective of New Literacy Studies, in particular Street (1993) and Gee (1990), whose definitions of literacy link to culture and society. In light of this perspective, the notion of socio- cultural bias in standardised testing is explored before the findings of a study in the UAE on the cultural bias of the IELTS examination are explored. The chapter concludes with a look at the ‘typical’ UAE national student and the ‘typical’ academic study in which he or she is engaged, before addressing the suitability of the IELTS examination as a gatekeeper for national universities in the UAE.

History and Purpose of the IELTS Examination The IELTS examination, first referred to as the English Language Testing Service (ELTS) in the early 1980s, replaced the English Proficiency Test



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Battery (EPTB) which originated in the 1960s. At the time, the EPTB’s purpose was to screen international students for higher educational studies in the United Kingdom. The format of the test, however, was deemed too traditional for its time. New theoretical developments in language learning and teaching led to the development of a new testing system for the English language. This exam, however, was also revised not long after its inception and renamed the International English Language Testing System in 1989 to reflect its new international agenda (IELTS Organisation, 2014b). Further revisions were made to the test in 1995 after a six-year period of evaluation and in 2001, the speaking component was added for the first time. The computer-based version of the exam was launched in 2005. IELTS comes in two versions: the academic exam and the general training exam. The focus of this chapter is on the academic version. The initial purpose of this exam was to assess a candidate’s ability to use English for academic purposes in order to study at English-medium universities and colleges in English-speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. However, the global expansion of English-medium universities in non-English speaking countries such as Thailand (Prapphal, 2008) and China (Qian, 2008) has led to an increase in the use of IELTS to assess academic readiness for English study at universities abroad. The UAE falls under this umbrella as well with many, if not most, of the country’s colleges requiring an acceptable level of IELTS scores as an entrance requirement. The number of test-takers is thus considerable; Dubai alone has five public and 58 private institutions (QS, 2015). This change in the purpose for which IELTS is used is based on the assumption that ESL and EFL academic learning environments are identical for the purpose of this exam – a false premise this chapter will address in greater detail.

Growth of the IELTS Examination and Scope of Use Due to the colonial promotion of the English language (through political, military and economic influence), much of the world’s knowledge is now encoded in one main lingua franca – English (Phillipson, 2003). Countries around the world are finding that in order to compete globally, their citizens need to become proficient in the use of English in sectors such as business, education, research and technology (Crystal, 2003). English has permeated many, if not most, of the world’s trade and commerce industries, including the press, film, music, tourism and transportation industries. This influence has prompted many people in the world to learn the English language – turning the language into a commodity to be bought and sold on the world market (Crystal, 2003). According to English Australia (2012), the English language teaching industry as a whole has become a multi-million dollar

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industry. This is reflected not only in the number of English language training programmes around the world but also in the number of candidates sitting IELTS. In 1981, the number of people who took the IELTS exam was documented at 4000. Over the years, the number of test-takers has grown exponentially – with 1985 recording 10,000 candidates and the year 2013 registering a staggering 2 million test-takers (IELTS Organisation, 2014a). This rise in numbers may be attributed to increased pressures to demonstrate English language proficiency in a globalising capitalist world (Warschauer, 2000), but also to the establishment of international branches of prestigious (English-medium) universities worldwide. As a consequence of its national policy of internationalisation (Altbach et al., 2009), the UAE has emerged as a key tertiary education service provider and the country hosts the highest number of international branch universities in the world (Swan, 2013; Wilkins & Urbanović, 2014). Consequently, many IELTS test centres have seen a rise in the number of people sitting the exam annually, and the UAE is no exception. Most, if not all, of the private and public higher educational institutions offering English-medium instruction across the UAE require a minimal band score in either TOEFL or the IELTS for programme entry. This relatively new function of the IELTS exam – that of determining academic English ability for an English-medium programme of study in a non-native English speaking country – raises concerns of construct and content validity as it conflicts with its original purpose. As previously mentioned, the use of the IELTS for this new purpose is based on the assumption that the two academic learning environments are identical in nature. To recognise this as a ‘misconception’, it is important to gain a better understanding of the New Literacy Studies – a perspective of literacy that views the act of reading and writing as socially influenced, resulting in the notion that standardised tests (such as the IELTS) inadvertently harbour sociocultural bias. This bias renders the exam flawed and inappropriate for general use.

New Literacy Studies Up until the early 1980s, literacy was generally viewed from a traditional perspective, coined by Street (1984, 1993) as the ‘Autonomous Model’. This perspective of literacy views the act of reading and writing as absolute – either one is literate or not. Literacy, in this perspective, is dependent on the acquisition of and application of a given set of skills learned in formal schooling. Although this form of literacy is passed off as neutral, in reality it emerged from Western concepts of education responsible for defining what does and does not constitute literacy. The autonomous view of literacy is linear and one-dimensional, discounting all other forms of literacy found in different contexts.


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The alternative to this model is Street’s Ideological Model of Literacy, part of the New Literacy Studies. This model arose out of Street’s 1970s research in Iran and challenges the status quo, expanding literacy from the mere skill-based definition to a social practice (Street, 1984, 1993). This view of literacy is dependent on social context, not merely on a set of skills. Here, literacy is relative and negotiable. Gee (1990) adds to this definition further to include the concept of Discourse (with a capital D) – a type of identity kit that comes with instructions on how to BE (e.g. act, talk or write) in a given situation (1990: 142). Literacy, in Gee’s view, encompasses the playing of a ‘role’. When a student, for example, is asked to partake in higher academic studies, that student is being asked to play a certain ‘role’. The student needs to unpack what it means to ‘be an academic’ and must act, talk and write in a manner befitting an ‘academic’. This could be a difficult role for some students to assume as the act of reading, writing and talking is deeply influenced by one’s sociocultural background (Street, 1993). With literacy anchored in one’s culture and society, any acts of literacy are therefore a direct expression of a one’s social identity. A study conducted by Brice-Heath (1983) on two different communities confirms this claim. Brice-Heath found that the children in both communities (one where children were surrounded by print and one where children were not) were socialised to be ‘literate’: The ways of living, eating, sleeping, worshipping, using space, and filling time which surround these language learners would have to be accounted for as part of the milieu in which the processes of language learning took place. (1983: 3) The study found that the community in which the children were not exposed to traditional print (e.g. books, newspapers or magazines), experienced literacy in different ways. Reading experiences for these children related to practical tasks such as shopping and home life. It was clear from the study that the two forms of literacies found in these communities were a direct result of the social environment and the conditioning of the children. In both communities, the social realities of the children shaped their reading experiences and influenced the children’s sense of self. It is with this ‘identity’ or ‘Discourse’ as Gee (1990) calls it, that the children move on in the world. It is this ‘Discourse’ that students bring to other environments where unfamiliar Discourses – such as the earlier example of the academic Discourse – become challenging. The ideological perspective of literacy contends that the act of reading and writing are rooted in a particular worldview. The teaching of literacy in schools is guided by the ideas of the government – people in position of power (Street, 2003). As a result, the literacy learned in schools cannot be passed off as neutral as it is representative of the dominant group in society.

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It stands to reason that if literacy is socially constructed, then the testing of it must be as well. This theoretically translates into tests harbouring potential bias (Street, 1984, 1993). This especially holds true for international standardised tests that have a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. Street argues that standardised tests embed sociocultural contexts that privilege a given set of people. The cultural assumptions embedded into examinations by test-makers are generally representative of the dominant group but promoted by said group as ‘neutral’ (Street, 1993). Although Street (1993) does not go so far as to say this act is intentional, others – like Willis (2008) – firmly believe it is a wilful action on behalf of the dominant group in order to promote their own worldview. Regardless of intent, Fairclough (2001) believes that standardised examinations such as IELTS are in fact ‘unequal encounters of power’. He contends that standardised exams which serve as gatekeepers create an uneven power dynamic between test-makers and test-takers due to the embodiment of the dominant group’s sociocultural perspective in test items. With so many different sociocultural contexts in the world, it is unrealistic to claim that one standardised test is capable of testing literacy in all its complex dimensions. This is why the use of the use of IELTS for one sociocultural context (that of English-medium universities in the West) is unsuited for a different sociocultural context (that of English-medium universities in non-English speaking countries). This notion of a dominant group using its own sociocultural background to evaluate less dominant groups in society for educational purposes has historical precedence. Vygotsky recorded similar concerns in his early 20th century findings which revealed that the educational assessment of povertystricken Russian children was framed through the sociocultural lens of the evaluators (Tyler et al., 2003). The same holds true for the lens that frames IELTS: the designers of the exam and the test-writers – originating from the West – employ their own Western-dominated perception of literacy to create the exam. A number of studies on the cultural bias of the IELTS exam confirm this claim.

Studies of Bias in the IELTS Examination Investigation into bias on standardised examinations is not new, but only relatively few studies exist that focus on IELTS. One significant study conducted by Hawkey (2005), which surveyed 572 IELTS candidates from various cultural backgrounds, found that 27% of respondents voiced a perception of unfairness. Time pressure was first among their concerns in this category, however the unfamiliarity of topics found on the IELTS ranked second. Although the question ‘Is this test appropriate for all nationalities/cultures?’ yielded a positive response overall, with 73% of respondents answering


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affirmatively, Hawkey reported that of the remaining 27%, many respondents identified the ‘target culture bias on topics and materials’ as a reason for their negative response. Khan’s (2006) detailed investigation into the cultural bias of IELTS focused on the speaking component. She investigated the phenomenon from the perspective of 16 IELTS interviewers in Bangladesh. Findings revealed that interviewers chose speaking topics with great care to avoid the introduction of cultural bias. Examples of culturally problematic speaking prompts included the topics of ‘holidays and weekends’ (the two terms are one and the same for Bangladeshis) and ‘pets’ (animals are kept for agricultural purposes). Another unfamiliar speaking topic was that of ‘solitude’. It is rare for someone in Bangladesh to be alone. Khan’s 2006 findings indicate that the minimisation of bias on the speaking exam is largely reliant on the interviewer’s initiative. Green (2007) conducted a study on the effect of washback to determine which type of programme – EAP or IELTS – best served the students in terms of receiving higher writing scores. In his findings, Green underscores test-takers’ concerns with the ‘cultural accessibility’ of the topics found on task 2 as well as their concern with the rhetorical style favouring European test-takers. This concern of cultural accessibility in task 2 writing prompts was further investigated in the UAE by Freimuth (2014f). The study’s results – confirmed by both teachers and students in the study – identified 17% of task 2 prompts to be of cultural concern for Emirati students. Questionable prompts included topics on the freedom of expression of artists and opinions on punishments of crimes. According to Mickan et al. (2000), prompts where candidates need to draw heavily on their own sociocultural knowledge (as in these two examples) can negatively affect a candidate’s written performance. Although Freimuth (2014f) did not find the prompts to impact candidate scores for those holding bands 5 and 6, she did highlight a concern for lower level candidates. In a second study conducted in the UAE, Freimuth (2016) examined IELTS task 1 writing prompts for cultural bias. The study concluded, given the sociocultural and educational background of Emirati students, that the examinees had reason to experience bias due to a lack of critical thinking skills, topic knowledge, and graph literacy skills. A more comprehensive investigation of the IELTS exam took place in 2013 in the UAE (Freimuth, 2014a). This investigation explored the cultural bias on the reading component of the IELTS exam. Part one consisted of a cultural content analysis of 20 IELTS reading exams (60 reading passages). Part two examined the question types found on the reading exam, and part three explored student perceptions of bias through a number of focus groups. As previously noted in Freimuth (2013), a content analysis of the reading section revealed that a considerable amount of cultural knowledge was assumed. The study found that one IELTS reading exam contained an average

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of 14 diverse cultural references, with the categories of cultural objects and political/historical settings yielding the highest numbers. Examples of references included mentions of the Holy Grail, Agatha Christie and igloos. Specific idiomatic expressions included phrases such as ‘canary in a mine’ and ‘gone off the boil’. Historical settings and events referred to places and time frames unfamiliar to Emirati students – such as Britain in 1946. But IELTS is not alone in this phenomenon. An identical study conducted on the TOEFL exam (Freimuth, 2015) revealed an even greater number of cultural references. In fact, the average TOEFL reading exam, according to the study, entailed 29 cultural references, ahead of the 14 identified in IELTS. The results of the geographical analysis – a counting of the geographic areas referred to in the readings – underscored the exam’s Western bias with 65% of all locations pertaining to the category of the West, which included the countries of the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Ninety references were made in all to these Western locations. Compared to the five references in the Middle East, none pertaining to the UAE or a neighbouring country, this number is extremely high. References to Africa were similar in number to those of the Middle East, with the region of the Caribbean only receiving one mention. The analysis of questions exposed further cultural concerns as 50% of questions required some form of higher order thinking skills – a level of critical thought not commonly practised in the UAE national education system (Freimuth, 2014a). With students rarely engaged in critical thought related to reading, these types of questions are perceived to be unfamiliar and difficult. This puts Emirati students at a clear disadvantage on the exam in comparison to Western-educated test-takers. The focus group study (Freimuth, 2014b) revealed several common experiences among UAE national test-takers. Student complaints related to the difficulty of the act of reading itself, the difficulty of the questions, the length of the passages, the difficulty of the vocabulary, the time pressure and unfamiliar and uninteresting topics. The study found that these experiences emerged from a combination of influences in their lives: their school system (e.g. curricula, teacher pedagogy, training of teachers or assessment practices), home, religion and literacy practices. It was found that numerous sociocultural discourses such as ‘the unimportance of reading’, the ‘acceptance of the written word without question’ and the ‘rejection of the unIslamic’ had a strong impact on their test-taking experience as well. This study, along with the aforementioned others, highlights the influence of the test-taker’s sociocultural background on his/her test-taking experience. The use of IELTS, then, to determine university study in the UAE needs to be revisited. One major reason for this is the significant difference between the academic learning environments found in the West and the UAE – two sociocultural contexts that promote differing academic literacies.


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The Typical Emirati University Student Key to understanding the academic learning environment at national universities in the UAE is to understand the learning conditions that have shaped current Emirati students. One mitigating factor is that Emirati students generally place great importance on personal relationships and human interaction – to the degree that this also influences their desire to learn (Vrazalic et al., 2009). Considering that Emirati learners are raised in a predominantly oral culture, this finding is reasonable. This oral culture, however, is also partially responsible for student disinterest in reading (Swan & Ahmed, 2011). Surveys conducted at two different higher educational institutions in the UAE (see Freimuth, 2014d; Ridge & Farah, 2012) confirm student lack of interest in reading. In one study, 13% of the students surveyed indicated that they never read, with 61% saying they read once or twice a week – most for no more 40 minutes (Freimuth, 2014d). Similar findings at another university confirmed the absence of a reading culture as well (Ridge & Farah, 2012). This lack of reading culture is exacerbated by a high school system which focuses on rote-learning and memorisation instead of the promotion of critical thought – a skill readily promoted through extensive reading (Freimuth, 2014e). This inability to engage critically with material is openly acknowledged by Ridge (2011), Al Amiri (2012), and others in the region. In fact, PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment – indicated only 2.5% of the 15-year-olds tested in the UAE were able to apply complex reasoning skills with 55% of the students being able to ‘execute solutions that involve a small number of steps using simple rules’ only (2012: 41). Compared to Canada’s 18% in complex reasoning, this number is relatively low – signalling a clear difference in the education system between the two countries. Since the IELTS examination is written by test-writers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, the test items are framed from the literacy perspective of these countries. The texts and the questions found on the reading component of the exam therefore reflect the sociocultural perspective of these nations, which differs from the perspective of the UAE. Thus the use of the IELTS examination to assess an Emirati student’s ability to study in Canada, for example, would be appropriate. Using the IELTS exam to test students’ English ability to study at an English-medium institution in the UAE, however, is not ideal since the academic learning environments differ considerably.

The Academic Learning Environment in the UAE The average Emirati student is ill prepared for the academic literacy, world knowledge, and critical thought required at English-medium

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universities in the UAE. Ridge (2011) lays the blame for this largely on the government education system, which – according to Sonleitner and Khelifa (2005) – has socialised learners to be passive recipients of knowledge by encouraging rote-learning similar to that found in traditional Qur’anic teaching. In the early to mid-20th century, education in the Trucial States, the territories currently known as the UAE, was delivered by imams whose focus was to have young males memorise the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Hadiths (Al Farra, 2011). Students also practised Islamic rituals and studied calligraphy. This type of teaching was later replaced by the educational efforts from countries such as Egypt and Kuwait whose teachers and curricula served as the foundation of the current educational system in the UAE (Lootah, 2011). Upon unification of the Trucial States in 1971, the nation needed to adopt a foreign educational system as it had ‘no indigenous educational system’ (Kirk, 2010: 15) of its own on which to draw. The country settled on the Egyptian educational system, a decision that has significantly impacted the education of its national citizens to date. Proof of this choice is the high number of Egyptian teachers currently in the public school system (Kirk, 2010). Since the Egyptian model varies significantly from the Western model of education, there is a substantial lack of knowledge and skills in graduates entering university education in the UAE. To address these academic shortcomings for Western-based university study, bridge programmes have been put in place at all national universities. The year 2012, alone, saw 94% of all high school graduates placed into such programmes (Knowledge and Human Development Authority, 2012). PISA (2012) also confirms the knowledge and skills gap of high school students in math and reading in relation to other countries worldwide. Even with students graduating from bridge programmes, lecturers at UAE universities continue to feel students are unable to cope with Westernstyle academic learning environments (Sonleitner & Khelifa, 2005). Lecturers interviewed in this 2005 UAE study stated that they were shocked at the difference in student ability and language skills – a level which directly impacts the teaching and learning environment: One difference in teaching here compared to teaching [before] is that I have to make things simpler. Someone told us in our orientation that we might cover a third of what we would cover in [previous university]. And, I found that to be accurate. So far, about a third, I’m simplifying [information in textbook chapters] for them and putting it on PowerPoint presentation … I’m boiling things down, down, down. (Sonleitner & Khelifa, 2005: 9) Since many students are unable to cope with the high level of critical thought and language required in Westernised university education (Al Amiri, 2012; Ridge, 2011), they resort to memorising lecture notes – a skill


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taught to them in high school. This is evidenced in Sonleitner and Khelifa’s 2005 study: I don’t assume in either of my classes that students are … reading the material. Before, I used to assume that. It was expected … But, now, I structure classes based on that, that students have not … read the chapter or the material. (2005: 10) Khelifa (2009) notes ‘the current educational environment [at a national university in the UAE] departs significantly, both academically and culturally, from Western universities …’ (2009: 6). The fact that educational environments worldwide are diverse and not keeping up with the pace of globalisation was noted by Harvard economist David Bloom (2000) as well. Bloom attributes this lack of adjustment to ‘limited resources, low numbers of teachers, time pressures on educators, and entrenched work practices’ (2000: 73). Furthermore, Bloom, like Durkheim (2004), views education as a product of the sociocultural group it serves, in particular society’s religion, politics and industry. The fact that learning environments differ around the world, then, is understandable from this perspective. According to Khelifa (2009), the disparity between Western learning environments and those found in the UAE prompted many of the lecturers in his study to change their teaching methods, pace of teaching, grading practices and course content to better suit their learners. Lecturers noted that they covered far less material than in Western classrooms, with material often having to be repeated numerous times. Lecturers from universities in the West soon came to realise that ‘unlike education in the West, understanding and applying concepts was not the focus of their pre-college education …’ (Khelifa, 2009: 7), making the use of such Western techniques futile. In fact, Smith (2009) goes as far as to say that lecturers have a duty to adapt their teaching methods and assessment techniques to suit local contexts. Another area of concern highlighted by both Khelifa (2009) and Freimuth (2014c) is the high level of student apathy in academic learning environments in the UAE. Lecturers have found they need to put more effort into motivating students to learn in the UAE than in the West. This apathy is often the result of the power of social status in the community where members of notable families expect to receive academic qualifications ‘regardless of … ability or effort applied’ (Wilkins & Balakrishnan, 2012: 8). Many national students believe that their wealth and ‘wasta’ – a term used to describe their powerful social connections – play a larger role in the gaining of employment upon graduation than their studies (Jones, 2011). In Jones’ study, Emirati youth indicated that hard academic work was not the most important factor in achieving their future goals, a view which likely contributed to the level of student apathy that lecturers claim to experience.

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One might assume that the international branches of non-federal universities in the UAE – of which there are 40 according to Becker (2009) – offer the same academic learning environments as in their home countries, but this would be mistaken. According to Altbach (2010), the product offered at international branches is far from a true representation of the home product in terms of scope of curriculum, quality of teaching staff, physical facilities, and learning resources. Case in point, Aboul-Ela (2009) recorded 43% of all students at non-national universities in the UAE as enrolled in one of three programmes due to the limited curriculum on offer. In light of these significant differences in academic learning environments, it is common sense to question the use of a Western-designed examination to assess students’ academic English ability for university study in the UAE.

The Suitability of IELTS as a Gatekeeper If language is not a separate phenomenon existing outside the context of society but rather a fundamental part of it, then the testing of it needs to be linked to its social context and purposes. The IELTS examination was designed to test academic English ability for study in the West. Hence the many Western references, Western topics and Western ways of thinking embedded into the exam are appropriate for that particular social context. Remove this context, however, and replace it with a different one – albeit academic in nature – and the exam loses its credibility. As already discussed, the academic environment at national universities in the UAE does not match the academic environment of universities found in Canada, the US or England. The significant differences in students’ educational and sociocultural backgrounds cannot be ignored. Research has shown that these factors have a considerable impact on the content and delivery of material at the university level in the UAE. Relating this back to Gee (1990) and his notion of Discourse, a student attending university in the UAE unpacks what it means to be an academic (e.g. to act, talk, write or speak) differently than a student in the West. Consequently, the use of IELTS as an entrance examination for academic study in places other than the West is inappropriate at best and ineffectual at worst. With the need to determine students’ English abilities for academic study, however, comes the need for some form of assessment. Although there is currently a move to create a more localised standardised STEM test for national university entrance in the UAE, this project is still in its infancy and facing a number of challenges. This leaves the universities to either create an in-house equivalent to mirror the true academic environment in the UAE or choose from other available standardised tests such as TOEFL or the Cambridge English Proficiency Exam. The use of other standardised exams,


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however, leads to similar assessment inadequacies as they are largely designed by educators in the West as well. This leaves only two other exam options: a localised standardised test or localised in-house exams. The concern with the latter option is the non-uniformity of the tests. An entrance exam at one university could be much easier or more difficult than that of another. There could also be security issues related to the safe-guarding of the exam. In light of these concerns, a government-run standardised test designed by professionals – who have worked at local universities and are familiar with the academic learning environment and the students’ sociocultural backgrounds – may be the best option for the country. But even this option is not the perfect answer as it reignites the argument that one size does not fit all. A possible solution for the country would be to use high school English grades as the gatekeeper. At first glance this might appear to be an appropriate measure, however, there are a number of problems with this choice. Firstly, there is no nationwide overarching curriculum document guiding high school courses and their assessment (Farah & Ridge, 2009), allowing for a myriad of possibilities. To exacerbate this issue is the common practice of grade inflation by teachers in high schools, resulting in unreliable grades. Ridge (2014) indicated in her address at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi that in some cases, grade inflation has been reported as being as high as 50%, rendering high school report cards invalid for university gatekeeping use. With no local solutions readily available, it is understandable that the university community has turned to an international standardised test as the answer. However, a better – more local – solution needs to be found to address this dilemma of assessment. A possible alternative would be to commission IELTS to create a localised version of their exam where test-writers collaborate with local education experts to inform them of the topics and skills needed to operate in an academic English-medium learning environment in the UAE. Whether this option is of interest to IELTS and even feasible requires further investigation. In conclusion, English-medium universities around the world face similar challenges in the assessment of students’ academic English. Whereas an international standardised test may be the easiest option available to universities, it might not be the most effective. Further investigation into alternatives currently in use at English-medium universities abroad, however, has yielded few results. Perhaps future research investigating the effectiveness of IELTS (and similar exams) in measuring academic English in non-Western sociocultural contexts will bring forth a much-needed solution.

References Aboul-Ela, B. (2009) Overview of the quality assurance of higher education in the UAE, PowerPoint. See tion%20-%20Feb2009.ppt (accessed 10 May 2011).

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Al Amiri, A. (2012) The role of national policies and legislation in the development of education systems. In Essentials of School Education in the United Arab Emirates (pp. 19−56). Abu Dhabi: ECSSR. Al Farra, S. (2011) Education in the UAE: A vision for the future. In Education in the UAE: Current Status and Future Developments (pp. 219−237). Abu Dhabi: ECSSR. Altbach, P., Reisberg, L. and Rumbley, L. (2009) Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. Paris: UNESCO Press. Altbach, P. (2010) Why branch campuses may be unsustainable. International Higher Education, 58. Becker, R. (2009) International Branch Campuses: Markets and Strategies. London: The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. Bloom, D. (2000) Globalization and education: An economic perspective. In M. SuarezOrozco and D. Qin-Hillard (eds) Globalization: Culture and Education in the New Millennium (pp. 56−78). Berkeley: University of California. Brice-Heath, S. (1983) Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crystal, D. (2003) English as a Global Language (2nd edn). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Durkheim, É. (2004) Education: Its nature and its role. In H. Lauder, P. Rown, J. Dillabough and A. Halsey (eds) Education, Globalization and Social Change (pp. 76−87). New York: Oxford University (original work published 1925). English Australia (2012) English Australia Fact Sheet: Global Language Travel. See http:// ing_our_industry/01_FS_Global_ELT.pdf (accessed 10 December 2013). Fairclough, N. (2001) Language and Power (2nd edn). Essex: Pearson Education. Farah, S. and Ridge, N. (2009) Challenges to curriculum development in the UAE. Policy Brief. See Development_in_the_UAE (accessed 01 December 2014). Freimuth, H. (2013) A persistent source of disquiet: An investigation of the cultural capital on the IELTS exam. International Journal of Education 1 (1), 9−26. Freimuth, H. (2014a) Cultural bias on the IELTS examination: A critical realist investigation. PhD thesis, Rhodes University. Freimuth, H. (2014b) Cultural Bias in University Entrance Examinations in the UAE. Abu Dhabi: ECSSR Press. Freimuth, H. (2014c) Who are our students? A closer look at the educational and sociocultural influences that have shaped Emirati students. KUPP Journal 3, 37–47. Freimuth, H. (2014d) Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. KUPP Journal 3, 29−36. Freimuth, H. (2014e) Challenges to building a knowledge society: The role of literacy in promoting critical thinking in the UAE. Policy Paper No. 10. Ras Al Khaimah: Al Qasimi Foundation. Freimuth, H. (2014f) The influence of culturally unfamiliar IELTS writing prompts. TESOL Arabia Perspectives 22 (3), 5−10. Freimuth, H. (2015) A comparative cultural content analysis of the TOEFL and IELTS: Which reading exam is better for Emirati Students? TESOL Arabia Perspectives 23 (3), 5−11. Freimuth, H. (2016) An examination of cultural bias in IELTS task 1 non-process writing prompts: a UAE perspective. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives 13 (1). Gee, J. (1990) Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Green, A. (2007) IELTS Washback in Context: Preparation for Academic Writing in Higher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Hawkey, R. (2005) A study of the impacts of IELTS, especially on candidates and teachers, paper. See 21225thursdayeltrogerhawkeypaper (accessed 01 December 2014). IELTS Organisation (2014a) Test-takers information. See takers_information/test_takers_faqs/about_the_ielts_test.aspx (accessed 01 December 2014). IELTS Organisation (2014b) The history of IELTS. See history_of_ielts.aspx (accessed 01 December 2014). Jones, C. (2011) Economic, social, and political attitudes in the UAE: A comparison of Emirati and non-Emirati youth in Ras al Khaimah, paper. See (accessed 01 December 2014). Khan, R. (2006) The IELTS speaking test: Analyzing cultural bias. Malaysian Journal of ELT Research 2, 60−79. Khelifa, M. (2009) Reflective practice in a cross-cultural university setting: A theoretical model. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives 6 (1), 1−16. Kirk, D. (2010) The Development of Higher Education in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi: ECSSR Press. Knowledge and Human Development Authority (2012) Higher Education in Dubai. See (accessed 01 December 2014). Lootah, M. (2011) Assessing educational policies in the UAE. In Education in the UAE: Current Status and Future Developments (pp. 27−52). Abu Dhabi: ECSSR. Mickan, P., Slater, S. and Gibson, C. (2000) A study of the response validity of the IELTS writing subtest. In R. Tuloh (ed.) IELTS International English Language Testing System Research Reports 2000 Volume Three (pp. 29−48). Canberra: IELTS Australia. Phillipson, R. (2003) Linguistic Imperialism (6th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press. PISA (2012) Preparedness for Life: Skills at Age 15 in the UAE, report. See (accessed 01 December 2014). Prapphal, K. (2008) Issues and trends in language testing and assessment in Thailand. Language Testing 25 (1), 127−143. QS (2015) Top Universities. See united-arab-emirates/universities-dubai (accessed 04 February 2016). Ridge, N. (2011) The role of curriculum in the creation of a knowledge-based economy in the UAE. In Education in the UAE: Current Status and Future Developments (pp. 55−81). Abu Dhabi: ECSSR. Ridge, N. (2014) Specific Learning Needs of Emirati Students and Strategies to Meet the Needs. Key Note Address, 2 February, 2014, Annual Faculty Symposium, Khalifa University, Radisson Blu, Abu Dhabi. Ridge, N. and Farah, S. (2012) The 30%: Who are the males in higher education in the UAE?. See higher_education_in_the_UAE (accessed 01 December 2014). Smith, K. (2009) Transnational teaching experiences: An under-explored territory for transformative professional development. International Journal for Academic Development 14 (2), 111−122. Sonleitner, N. and Khelifa, M. (2005) Western- educated faculty challenges in a Gulf classroom. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives 2 (1), 1−21. Street, B. (1984) Literacy in Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Street, B. (1993) Cross Cultural Approaches to Literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Street, B. (2003) What’s ‘new’ in new literacy studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and practice. Current Issues in Comparative Education 5 (2), 77−91.

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Swan, M. and Ahmed, A. (2011) Young people’s reading skills deteriorating. The National. See (accessed 11 March 2011). Swan, M. (2013) International branch campuses’ key role in the UAE. The National. See (accessed 04 February 2016). Tyler, K., Stevens, R. and Uqdah, A. (2003) Cultural bias in teaching. See http://www. (accessed 14 July 2012). Qian, D. (2008) English language assessment in Hong Kong: A survey of practices, developments and issues. Language Testing 25 (1), 85−110. Vrazalic, L., MacGregor, R., Behl, D. and Fitzgerald, J. (2009) E-learning barriers in the United Arab Emirates: Preliminary results from an empirical investigation. IBIM Business Review 4, 1−7. Warschauer, M. (2000) The changing global economy and the future of English teaching. TESOL Quarterly 34, 511−535. doi: 10.2307/3587741 Wilkins, S. and Balakrishnan, M. (2012) Student perception of study at international branch campuses: implication for educators and college managers. In V. Huang, M. Balakrishnan and I. Moonesar (eds) Conference Proceedings and Program: Academy of International Business – Middle East North Africa Chapter 2nd Annual International Conference, Academy of International Business- Middle East North Africa Chapter (p. 61). (AIB-MENA), Dubai. Wilkins, S. and Urbanović, J. (2012) English as the lingua franca in transnational higher education: Motives and prospects of institutions that teach in languages other than English. Journal of Studies in International Education 18 (5), 405−425. Willis, A. (2008) Reading Comprehension Research and Testing in the US. New York: Taylor and Francis Group.


English in the United Arab Emirates: Innocuous Lingua Franca or Insidious Cultural Trojan Horse? Anthony Solloway

Introduction There is a relative paucity of data on the views of tertiary-level students towards a range of issues related to English, culture and society in the present-day United Arab Emirates (UAE). Given the sheer scale of the three predominately English medium of instruction (EMI) federal institutions of higher education (HE) in the UAE – this dearth is perhaps somewhat surprising. Two notable exceptions to this lacuna in the literature – Findlow (2006) and Hudson (2011) – have afforded researchers valuable insights, though there nevertheless remain questions as to the views held by female students in particular, who by dint of their numerical strength alone (circa 75% of the university population), arguably warrant further study. Through the lens provided by work problematising the global spread of English (e.g. Kumaravadivelu, 2006; Phillipson, 1998, 2001; Rogers, 1982; Swales, 1997), English in Islamic contexts (e.g. Karmani, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c, 2005d), the monolithic target-language-only ideology (e.g. Auerbach, 1993; Cook, 2001; Lin, 1999) and EMI in the UAE (Hunt, 2012; McLaren, 2011; Sanassian, 2011), this small-scale critically oriented study attempts to make some initial inroads into this gap in knowledge. Specifically, through a survey conducted with a group of female students on the Foundation programme at a major government university, the research presented in this chapter seeks preliminary answers to the following three research questions: (1) How do female Emirati HE students regard the pivotal nature of English in today’s world? 176

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(2) What are female Emirati HE students’ views regarding the EMI policy in tertiary education in the UAE? (3) To what extent do female Emirati HE students think English has penetrated their society and to what extent is it believed the language constitutes a threat to their culture and religion? The topics which broadly underpin and which motivated these research questions are discussed below.

The Englishisation of the Arabian Peninsula Despite the conservative nature of the Arabian Peninsula, the six Islamic monarchies that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – viz., Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – have not been bypassed by the unremitting post-WWII ‘Tyrannosaurus rex’-like stampede (Swales, 1997) of English. Indeed, one revealing indicator of the sheer extent of the Englishisation of the GCC is the major role English plays in all spheres of commerce, banking, travel and retail in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia (Al Haq & Smadi, 1996). Elyas (2008: 39), for example, notes that in an upmarket shopping district of Jeddah, consumers flock to international brand name outlets such as Toys R Us, The Body Shop, Starbucks, Next and Mothercare, with no Arabic in sight. In the education system in Saudi Arabia, too, remark Mahboob and Elyas (2014: 129), ‘English is explicitly promulgated’. Saudi Arabia is hardly unique in this regard. Indeed, referring to tertiary education in the GCC, Davis (2010: 38) remarks that ‘The use of English as a medium of instruction has been embraced without reservation, in contrast to the bitter confrontations in other parts of the Arab world over the use of former colonial languages over Arabic’. Although there may not have been any bitter confrontations, as reported by Al Haq and Smadi (1996: 308), ‘there is a sense of fear among the Saudis that the use of English entails Westernization, and detachment from the country, and is a source of corruption to their religious commitment’. Again, such feelings of trepidation and alienation are not limited to Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, all indigenous peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, write Byman and Green (1999: 24–25), appear to be experiencing a complete transformation of their traditional way of life. Thirty years ago, many citizens of the UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia lived in the desert and had little contact with the outside world. Beginning in the 1970s, these populations settled, began living in modern homes, and came to depend on the state for their livelihoods. Foreign television shows and movies exposed them to jarring new ideas and ways of life, particularly with regard to gender roles, sexuality, and family


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relationships. The spread of new ideas, new forms of communication, urbanization, literacy, and other sources of change disrupted the rhythms of daily life and social hierarchies. ‘Even in relatively calm Kuwait’, continue Byman and Green (1999: 25), ‘Islamist youths have pressed the government to remove satellite dishes and VCRs to fight spiritual pollution’. Such concerns have been found to exist throughout much of the Muslim world. In their analysis of data from nine predominately Muslim countries, Nisbet et al. (2004: 14) note that the majority (between 67% and 84%) believed that ‘the spread of American ideas and customs was bad for their country’. These ideas and customs are, of course, propagated through English.

The de-Arabicisation of Education in the UAE All the points above – EMI, the widespread use of English over Arabic, Western-oriented English-language media-cum-‘cultural nerve gas’ (Krauss, 1992: 6), the resulting encroachment of alien values on daily life and concerns that the local culture is thus being eroded – are however arguably exemplified in the UAE. English is the predominate medium of instruction at all three government-sponsored HE institutions in the country, UAE University (UAEU), Zayed University (ZU), and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and in 2010 the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) ordered compulsory bilingual schooling in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, a policy which is as controversial as the underlying issue is sensitive. As noted by Gallagher (2011: 63), ‘the decision to give equal prominence to English – seen by many in the region as the language of a colonising and bellicose west – is contentious because of antipathy towards its seemingly relentless encroachment, amidst fears of a consequent weakening of Arabic’. Such fears do not appear to be wholly groundless. A report in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National (Issa, 2013) for example quotes Dr Saif Al Mahrouqi of UAEU, who laments the fact that ‘Only 50 of 13,000 students at UAE University are studying Arabic, while many other universities do not even have an Arabic literature department’. Others in a more legislative and advisory capacity go somewhat further. The same press report cites Jamal Al Mehiri, a cultural adviser in the Dubai government, as declaring that ‘Lessons taught in English’ are ‘a clear violation of the country’s constitution’ (Article 7 of which states that the official language of the UAE shall be Arabic).

The Anglicisation of Daily Life in the UAE Although the sole official language of the UAE may be Arabic, it is somewhat rare to actually see the language in isolation. Road and shop

English in the United Arab Emirates


signs are in both Arabic and English, and printed matter at banks, airports, travel agencies, police stations, post offices – and, significantly, government offices – are invariably also in the two languages. Indeed, with the exception of the sphere of Islam, which is inextricably intertwined with Arabic (Al Allaq, 2014: 114; Dahan, 2013: 47; Diallo, 2014: 2) – the ‘liturgical language of 1.5 billion Muslims’ (Morrow & Castleton, 2007: 309) – English now plays a major role in most if not all aspects of the popular culture of the UAE. Nowhere is this clearer than in the mass media (Walters et al., 2007), particularly in the field of advertising. Nickerson and Crawford Camiciottoli (2013: 334) note how advertisements in the country can be in Arabic alone, in English and Arabic, or, somewhat bizarrely, in a peculiar form of Anglicised Arabic (an English-Arabic hybrid), as in Latinised expressions such as Eid Mubarak and Ramadan Kareem. In addition, note Nickerson and Crawford Camiciottoli (2013: 336), some aspects of advertising are typically exclusively in English, as is often the case with corporate slogans, for which Arabic translations are often simply not provided. At least part of the reason for this would doubtless stem from concerns relating to corporate identity and international branding, though another concern may simply be the sheer number of non-Arabic speakers in the UAE.

Emiratis: Strangers in their very own land With some 10% of proven global oil reserves (Shihab, 2001: 25) and an indigenous populace of less than 1 million (Al-Khouri, 2012: 2), the petrodollar-fuelled breakneck development experienced by the UAE has necessitated a massive influx of foreign manpower, both skilled and unskilled. Indeed, there are vastly more expatriates than national citizens in the UAE, and although this situation is common in the Peninsula (non-nationals outnumber nationals in four of the six countries that make up the GCC), the situation is somewhat more pronounced in the UAE, where, according to the 2010 census (Al-Khouri, 2012: 2), non-nationals make up some 88% of the populace (Qatar 87%, Kuwait 70%, Bahrain 52%, Oman 30% and Saudi Arabia 27%). These ‘demographic imbalances’ (Al-Khouri, 2012: 1; Martin, 2003: 54) have an immediate impact on the realm – and language – of business in the UAE, since, as noted by Al-Ali (2008: 366), UAE nationals make up less than 2% of the private sector workforce. Further, the vast majority of migrant workers in the UAE, writes Wilkins (2010: 392), are from India (1.75 million) and Pakistan (1.25 million), which, as noted by Weber (2011: 63), are both former British colonies where English retains its importance. In addition, significantly, British expatriates form the largest group of Europeans in the UAE (Wilkins, 2001: 155). Thus, English in the UAE is a genuine lingua franca, specifically, an acrolectal lingua franca for the estimated 200 nationalities in the country (Boyle, 2011).


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Arabic and Emirati culture: Subalterns under siege? Given the above, one pertinent question is whether English has lectal power over Arabic in the UAE. Sperrazza (2012) believes it most certainly has, arguing that The U.A.E., as a former protectorate of Britain, still remains linguistically submissive to its colonial ‘caretaker’ even as it strives economically on a global level. The predominance of English in U.A.E. schools, as well as in the overall workforce, has practically demoted Arabic to the role of a second-class citizen in its own country. Also, the predominance of guest workers from formerly colonized countries adds to a coloniallinguistic hierarchy that places English first, then Arabic, with all other languages tailing behind. (2012: 299) Sperrazza is by no means alone in such an assessment. Indeed, the growing use of English in the classroom, in popular culture, in business – and, according to Burden-Leahy (2009: 536), even in Emirati households – and the large number of non-Arabic-speaking expatriates in the UAE, all have serious ramifications for both the language and culture of the country, leading some to claim that Arabic and the very cultural fabric of the UAE are threatened by, if not under direct attack from, English (Ahmed, 2010: 6; Findlow, 2005: 296; Martin, 2003: 53; Raven, 2011: 135). Hokal and Shaw (1999: 173) note that the growing affluence enjoyed by the UAE has ‘also produced a violent acceleration in cultural change’, which was condemned in somewhat apocalyptic terms by many of the Emiratis interviewed by Ashencaen Crabtree (2007: 584), who were concerned about ‘the alien and therefore corrupt values brought in by the armies of multi-ethnic migrant workers that today flood the labour markets of the UAE’. Schvaneveldt et al. (2005: 85) likewise found that many of their informants felt that ‘Life would be better with fewer foreigners’. Similarly, in their study of mass advertising, Nickerson and Crawford Camiciottoli (2013: 344) found ‘evidence that participants viewed texts in English as a potential threat to the local language and culture’. Such fears are hardly new, of course; on the contrary, they were expressed in 1973 when Fellman (1973: 244) referred to ‘the problem of language and identity in the Middle East’. Nevertheless, such concerns appear to have become more widespread and more frequently expressed, often with vocabulary with a distinctly combative flavour. Shaw et al. (1995: 11) for example note how, depending on the year group, Arabic and Islamic studies may take up between 13 and 17 periods of a 30-period school week, and remark (1995: 11–12) that ‘The centrality of Arabic/Islamic studies in the curriculum relates to the need to hold the line against western values and styles, and to ingrain and protect Arab/Islamic identity’ (stress mine). Similarly, referring to the ubiquity of English in public sector offices, Dr Ebtisam Al Kitbi, professor of

English in the United Arab Emirates


political science at UAEU is cited (Issa, 2013) as stating that ‘there is no nation that allows an invasion of foreign languages in government institutions the way we did in the UAE’ (stress mine). Such fears are far from being exclusive to the UAE. In the People’s Republic of China, the influx of EFL teachers ‘raises the questions of whether learning English will affect Chinese identity, whether learning a foreign language is “spiritual pollution”, or whether modernization means Westernization’ (Cortazzi & Jin, 1996: 64; cited in Simpson, 2008: 382).

Islam: Under Attack from English? This allusion to spiritual pollution – also alluded to above by Byman and Green (1999) in relation to Kuwait – is of especial relevance as a major component of the identity of citizens of GCC states is their religion, Islam, which, by dint of what the language is perceived to represent culturally and ideologically, is another aspect of life frequently perceived as being under threat from English. Rahman (2005: 130) for instance writes that ‘English, like other languages, comes with normative baggage. The discourses in English, especially social, cultural and literary ones, assume certain distinctive features of “normality” – individualism, the nuclear family, individual rights, the desirability of development etc. – which may not be considered “normal” elsewhere’. It is presumably for such reasons that English has a long history of being perceived as a potential threat to Islamic thought and belief. As Abdussalam (1998: 60) notes, the Islamic theologian Ibn Taymiyah (1263–1328) maintained that ‘speaking in languages other than Arabic is permitted only for the native speakers of these languages’ and that the ‘use of non-Arabic languages should be restricted in order to attain distinction from unbelievers’. Similarly, notes Abdussalam (1998: 60), Ibn Khaldūn (1332–1406) believed it was ‘obligatory not to speak any language other than Arabic under an Islamic regime’. Somewhat more contemporarily, though no less radically, Elyas (2008: 34), Weber (2011: 62) and Mahboob and Elyas (2014: 131) all relate the story of a Saudi Arabian sheikh who equated ‘English with the language of the devil, etymologically linking the English word “blease” with “Iblis,” the Arabic word for Satan’ (Weber, 2011: 62), thereby quite literally demonising English.1 The idea that English may be more a form of Lucifer than a lexifer might seem something of an extreme example, and indeed it is, though it does nevertheless highlight the fear – held by many in the Muslim world – that English poses a potential threat to Islamic values and beliefs (e.g. Karmani, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c, 2005d). English does not necessarily have to threaten Islam, however. In their study of 1176 university students in Saudi Arabia, for example, Al-Haq and Smadi (1996) found that 68.5% either disagreed (34.5%) or strongly disagreed


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(33.7%) that learning English impacted on one’s religious commitment (1996: 313). Outside of the Peninsula, similar results have been found in India (Hudawi, 2013), Malaysia (Dan et al., 1996; Mohd-Asraf, 2005), Morocco (Hecker, 2000) and Pakistan (Mahboob, 2009). The question arises then as to the views held on this issue by female Emirati HE students, who, it has previously been noted (Schvaneveldt et al., 2005: 79) are ‘deeply devoted to the theology of Islam’ (see also Lambert, 2008: 105; Simadi, 2006; Simadi & Kamali, 2004).

Current Study: Setting and Participants With the above in mind, it was decided to problematise and critically analyse these issues from the perspective of Emirati university students themselves. To this end, a survey was conducted with a group (n = 43) of female Arabic L1 students on the Foundation programme at a federally sponsored gender-segregated tertiary institution, representative of government universities in the wider Peninsula. The students ranged from 17 to 20 years old (mean = 18.44) and represented all 7 of the emirates that make up the UAE, stemming from the emirate of Abu Dhabi (n = 28), Ras Al Khaimah (n = 6), Sharjah (n = 2), Ajman (n = 2), Dubai (n = 2), Fujairah (n = 2) and Umm Al Quwain (n = 1). The vast majority (n = 41) of the participants were national citizens, with 1 each from Palestine and Yemen. Students on the Foundation programme need to obtain an overall band 5 in IELTS (International English Language Testing System) in order to commence their degree course. It was decided to study and give a voice to female students for a number of reasons. First, there exists a serious lack of research into the views of female Emiratis towards a wide range of issues (Madsen, 2009: 21), not least the place of English in the UAE (Ronesi, 2011: 56). Furthermore, as Muslims of Arab descent, Emiratis constitute ‘a particularly politicised and racialised cultural group’ (Giroir, 2014: 35), which is frequently subject to othering in the EFL/ESL context (Rich & Troudi, 2006), and it is arguable that in the post-9/11 era it is vital to know more about Muslims’ views, opinions, and priorities, as well as to obtain deeper insights into their Weltanshauung. This is especially important in this case as Emiratis constitute an affluent, ‘economically powerful Muslim population’ (Nickerson & Crawford Camiciottoli, 2013: 330). In addition, as a (it is hoped, culturally sensitive) reflective practitioner (Minnis, 1999), it was desirable to endeavour to learn more about my students. This, presumably, is what some of the teachers in Saudelli’s (2012: 106) study mean when they urge others to ‘learn to see beyond the veil’. Moreover, as noted by Ghazal Aswad et al. (2011: 459–460), the proportion of women entering HE in the UAE is among the highest in the entire world. UAEU for example now serves approximately 12,000 students, of which approximately 75% are female, a gender ratio which reflects

English in the United Arab Emirates


national trends (Abdulla & Ridge, 2011; Ridge, 2009). To this we can add the fact that, as with most of Madsen’s (2009) informants and those studied by Clarke (2007) at HCT, the students who participated in the current study are among the very first in their families to undertake HE, and thus are of especial interest.

Data collection The research instrument employed in this study was a 16-question survey developed by the researcher. Since one of the major areas being researched was the place of English relative to Arabic, it was not desirable to afford either one of the languages any greater status over the other and, as it was necessary to ensure as far as possible that students fully comprehended the questionnaire, it was decided to create a bilingual, English/Arabic document, which students could complete in the language of their choice, or a combination of both. This, presumably, is also the rationale behind the bilingual English/Arabic instructions of the Common Educational Proficiency Assessment (CEPA) exam (Coombe & Davidson, 2013: 269), and it was noted that the absence of a bilingual research instrument is a shortcoming acknowledged by Thomas et al. (2010: 597) in their study of female Emirati university students. The initial Arabic translation of the survey was completed by a female final year degree student of translation, which was subsequently reviewed by a bilingual (Arabic/English) instructor of English, as a result of which a small number of minor edits were made. Participants were invited to read and sign a consent form before completing the questionnaire, were guaranteed anonymity, and were given an unlimited amount of time in which to complete the survey, which was distributed near the end of class. Twenty three students completed the survey in Arabic, 18 in English and 2 completed it in both English and Arabic. A 5-point, Likert-type scale measured the attitudes of the students towards the issues targeted. The questions, deliberately fairly broad in scope, afforded informants the latitude to interpret them according to their own priorities, beliefs, and values (Ashencaen Crabtree, 2007). To diminish, and ideally eradicate, the risk of ‘automated response patterns’, two items (Q7 & Q8) were presented in such a way that would vary the positive-negative cline of the 5 available options (strongly agree, agree, no opinion, disagree and strongly disagree). Anecdotally, the students appeared to complete the survey with some not inconsiderable earnest. However, to check this admittedly highly subjective impression, it was decided to analyse the responses to Q7 and Q8 to ensure that they did not contradict one another. A significant negative Spearman rank order correlation (ρ = −0.708, p < 0.001) was found when doing so, indicating that when one participant answered strongly agree to Q7, they were more likely to answer strongly disagree or disagree to Q8, and vice versa.


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Results and Discussion Table 8.1 Questionnaire and students’ responses (in percentages) Questions

Responses SA

1. The UAE needs English to become a leading nation in the world. 2. English is vital for international business, trade, and commerce. 3. Learning about the culture of English-speaking countries (England, America, Canada, Australia, etc.) is important when studying the English language. 4. One or both of my parents can speak English very well. 5. In the future I want my children to be able to speak English. 6. I speak in English with a domestic helper (housemaid, cook, etc.). 7. I prefer to be taught all subjects (maths, science, etc.) in English. 8. I prefer to be taught all subjects (maths, science, etc.) in Arabic. 9. I should be able to choose whether I study in English or Arabic. 10. Using Arabic in English lessons can help me learn English. 11. Learning English makes students more Westernised. 12. The English language is a threat to UAE culture and traditions. 13. The English language is a threat to Islamic values and customs. 14. We should keep Arabic free of English words (e.g., ‘check’, ‘recharge’, ‘class’, ‘break’, etc.). 15. It annoys me when I hear Emiratis speak English together. 16. I like how some UAE leaders tweet in both Arabic and English.





16.28% 39.53% 4.65%

27.91% 11.63%

41.86% 51.16% …



34.88% 9.30%

41.86% 9.30%


41.86% 6.98%

30.23% 13.95%

48.84% 41.86% …



60.46% 2.33%

23.26% 4.65%


39.54% 41.86%



58.13% 23.26% 6.98%


62.79% 18.60% 4.65%



44.18% 32.56% 4.65%

11.63% 6.98%

23.26% 27.91% 20.93% 25.58% 2.32% 27.91% 27.91% 18.6%

25.58% …

25.58% 30.23% 4.65%

39.54% …

23.26% 46.51% 18.6%



37.21% 25.58% 16.28% 16.28% 4.65% 53.49% 25.58% 9.3%


SA = strongly agree, A = agree, NO = no opinion, D = disagree, SD = strongly disagree.


English in the United Arab Emirates


The 16 questions can be grouped into 3 broad thematic categories. The first category, which comprises Q1, Q2 and Q5, seeks to ascertain students’ views on the extent to which they believe that English plays an integral role in today’s world. The second group, which consists of Qs7 to 10, delves into students’ views on the target-language-only methodology and the policy of EMI. The third group, which is made up of Q3, Q4, Q6 and Qs11 to 16, investigates the extent to which the students believe that English has ‘infiltrated’ Emirati society, exerts a ‘Westernising’ effect, and poses a threat to their culture and religion. This is the order in which the results are discussed below.

The pivotal role of English The first two questionnaire items were designed to investigate participants’ attitudes towards the importance of English in today’s globalised world, and how the Englishisation of the global economy is perceived to affect the UAE. Seventeen of the 43 students surveyed (39.53%) agreed and 7 (16.28%) strongly agreed that the UAE requires English to be a leading nation in the world. Twelve (27.91%) disagreed, 5 (11.63%) strongly disagreed and 2 (4.65%) expressed no opinion. One student who disagreed wrote, in English, ‘Because the arabic is a language of people in UAE’.2 Another student who disagreed remarked that ‘All nations rise with their own native languages’.3 Three further students who disagreed all alluded to Japan, with one writing that ‘Some countries do not feel an obligation to use foreign languages to be a leading country. The native language of any country is behind its development, such as with Japan’.4 Another noted that ‘Any country that commits itself to the use of its own language, as is the case with Japan, can achieve a high position among countries. English has not been an obligation for Japan’, 5 and another opined that ‘Japan is holding onto its native language, yet despite that is a developed country’.6 Two students who strongly disagreed variously stated ‘Preserve the Arabic language’7 and ‘Arabic is the language of paradise and the Quran’.8 Of particular interest is the fact that even a student who agreed with Q1 nevertheless added a caveat, noting that ‘I do not prefer using English in all subjects’,9 thereby linking this issue to that of EMI, despite this not being mentioned. In addition, a student who answered no opinion nevertheless wrote ‘We must be proud of our language and keep it’, suggesting that to this student the use of English in the international arena entails the possible demotion of Arabic. As regards Q2, 22 students (51.16%) agreed that English is vital for international business, trade and commerce, a further 18 (41.86%) strongly agreed and only 3 (6.98%) disagreed. What is of particular interest here is that the students appear to have drawn a clear distinction between the integral role English plays in the international economy (Q2) and the suggestion that the UAE requires English in order to become a forerunner in the global arena (Q1).


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One student who strongly agreed with Q2 drew attention to the global status of English, noting, ‘Because we receive people from all over the world’,10 no doubt capturing the primary reason for the overwhelming consensus on this issue. In response to Q5, 21 students (48.84%) strongly agreed, and 18 (41.86%) agreed that they would want their future offspring to speak English, which is strikingly similar to the results obtained by Pessoa and Rajakumar (2011) in their study of university students in Qatar. Only 2 students (4.65%) disagreed and another 2 strongly disagreed. One student who strongly agreed wrote ‘now my country needs people who speak English’. Another, who also agreed, added, with some obvious resentment, ‘I want them to have a good life, different from mine. I have spent two years on the foundation programme’.11 The clear frustration expressed by this student may unfortunately stem from references in the national media (e.g. Lewis, 2010) to such Foundation programmes as ‘remedial work’, which is a tad disparaging, if not downright humiliating. As stated by Allison (1992: 16), an ‘obvious problem with a characterisation of students as “remedial” is that students themselves may feel stigmatised or may have a poor self-image, and so may well be resentful because they have been assigned to follow ESL courses’.

L2 only and EMI The use of students’ L1(s) in the L2 classroom – either by the teacher and/ or by the students themselves – has long been a controversial issue (e.g. Auerbach, 1993). Some (e.g. Anwaruddin, 2011; Cook, 2001; Harbord, 1992; Tedick & Walker, 1994: 302) argue that the L1 can be harnessed as a resource and should thus be exploited in order to enhance the language learning process. Indeed, in an oft-cited paper, Lin (1999) gives numerous examples of instances where judicious use of the students’ L1 appears to benefit learners. In the UAE, however, ‘permitting’ use of the students’ L1 may have very real ramifications for one’s career (Hunt, 2012). Somewhat oddly, however, given that they are most affected by this pedagogical policy, students themselves are rarely, if ever, asked whether they believe their L1 could assist their study of an L2 (Burden, 2000). Qs 7 to 10 were designed to elicit just such opinions. It transpired that 19 students (44.18%) strongly agreed and a further 14 (32.58%) agreed that the use of Arabic could facilitate their learning of English (Q10). Thus, some 33 students (76.76%) were of the opinion that their L1 could profitably be used as a resource in the L2 classroom. Five students (11.63%) disagreed with the notion, 3 (6.98%) strongly disagreed and 2 (4.65%) had no opinion. As regards the related issue of EMI (Q7), a striking 18 students (41.86%) strongly disagreed that they prefer to be taught all subjects in English, with a further 17 (39.54%) disagreeing, thus giving a total of 35 students (81.4%) against EMI. Only 4 (9.3%) agreed, and another 4 had no

English in the United Arab Emirates


opinion. Out of the 18 students who strongly disagreed, one stated that ‘Studying in Arabic makes it easier to understand’,12 another wrote ‘It is difficult for students to study these subjects in English’,13 and a further noted that ‘It is difficult for students to understand’.14 What is of interest with these three comments is that they suggest that the students are not necessarily opposed to English in the classroom per se, but rather are concerned about the potentially detrimental effect that being taught in a foreign language has on their ability to succeed academically in various other subjects. This reminds one of Findlow (2006: 21), who argues that any putative metacognitive benefits of bilingualism ‘do not mean it is acceptable to force students to study in a foreign language when so much is at stake competitively’. As should be expected if students did not answer the questions blindly or automatically, the responses to Q8 are a reverse image of Q7, with precisely 35 students (81.39%) being in favour of all classes being taught in Arabic (25 students [58.13%] strongly agreed and 10 [23.26%] agreed). Only 4 students (9.3%) disagreed and 3 (6.98%) had no opinion (one student left this particular field blank). Three students who strongly agreed with Q8 variously wrote that it ‘Facilitates understanding’,15 ‘Because it is the native and official language of the UAE’,16 and ‘It is easier for students and it is our native language’.17 It should perhaps be noted that although the distinct preference expressed by these participants to undertake HE studies in their L1 may not be in concert with the prevailing ideological target-language-only policy imposed on students, it is however in concord with the research thus far conducted, which though scant, does nevertheless suggest that EMI is of questionable pedagogical benefit. To the best of the current writer’s knowledge, there is only one doctoral thesis examining the effect of EMI (so-called ‘incidental language learning’) on HE students’ English language competence (as measured by quantifiable data generated by standardised tests) in the UAE, viz., Rogier (2012), who examined the IELTS scores of 59 students at ZU when commencing their baccalaureate studies and four years later when final year students. The desired outcome of ZU was for students to achieve a (decidedly modest) overall increase of 1 band over the course of their degree programme (bands in IELTS range from 1 to 9), though Rogier (2012) found that after some four years of EMI 38% failed to meet this expectation (2012: 85), and in the four individual skill areas, 65% did not achieve the desired increase in reading, 51% in writing and 48% in listening (2012: 95). Some 86% did manage to meet this expectation in speaking (2012: 103), though as noted by Rogier (2012: 136), this may not be a direct result of EMI per se, but rather through ‘everyday exposure to the English language in the Emirates’. To the extent that these results are typical, EMI would appear to augur ill for the future workforce of the UAE, for adopting a foreign language as the medium of instruction thereby makes the ‘mastery of content subjects […] contingent upon the student’s language skills’ (McLaren, 2011: 2).


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On the question as to whether students should be able to elect their language of instruction (Q9), 27 students (62.79%) strongly agreed, a further 8 (18.6%) agreed, 3 (6.98%) strongly disagreed, 3 disagreed and 2 (4.65%) had no opinion. In sum, then, no fewer than 35 students (81.39%) were in favour of being able to select their language of tuition. One student who strongly agreed wrote ‘Freedom of study. Freedom of opinion’.18

The threat posed by English to Arabic In response to Q4, 18 students (41.86%) agreed and 3 (6.98%) strongly agreed that one or both of their parents could speak English very well, 13 (30.23%) disagreed, 6 (13.95%) strongly disagreed and 3 had no opinion. One student who strongly disagreed stated that this was ‘Because they are very old’,19 which is of interest as this student apparently felt the need to explain – or perhaps even ‘justify’ – her answer, and this itself perhaps gives an insight into the ubiquitous nature of English in contemporary Emirati society. Indeed, Q6 seeks to obtain data regarding the extent of the use of English in UAE households, which are very private places, and about which it can thus be difficult to obtain information (Nickerson & Crawford Camiciottli, 2013: 335). ‘Domestic helpers’ are common in the UAE (Al Sumaiti [2012: 4] notes that 94% of Emirati families employ maids and nannies), and in the greater GCC (Roumani, 2005: 154). Indeed, it would, elsewhere in the world, be somewhat challenging to imagine employers having to speak a foreign language with their employees in their very own home, but this appears to be quite commonplace in the UAE, at least for those surveyed in this study, with some 26 students (60.46%) agreeing, 4 (9.3) strongly agreeing, 10 (23.26) disagreeing, 2 (4.65%) strongly disagreeing and 1 (2.33%) expressing no opinion. Again, this arguably affords a candid glimpse into the sheer penetration of English in the modern-day UAE. Either there is a great deal of code-switching taking place in Emirati villas or these responses represent a smidgen of evidence for the claim that ‘there is a pattern emerging of Arabic being replaced by English as the main language in some Emirati homes’ (BurdenLeahy, 2009: 536). Q15, too, looks at the extent to which English has penetrated Emirati society, but also touches on the issue of language and national identity, and how the two are dovetailed together. Sixteen students (37.21%) strongly agreed that they were annoyed by their compatriots conversing in English, 11 (25.58%) agreed, 7 disagreed, 2 (4.65%) strongly disagreed and 7 (16.28%) had no opinion. One student who agreed stated that ‘Its okay if they (ONLY) practicing their English’, and another, who strongly agreed, wrote ‘Because it is not our language’.20 A related issue – addressed by Q14 – is that of the perceived ‘purity’ of the Arabic language and how English, which coexists alongside Arabic in the UAE, acts as a lexifier language. 20 students (46.51%)

English in the United Arab Emirates


agreed that Arabic should be kept free of English loan words, 10 (23.26%) strongly agreed, 3 (6.98%) strongly disagreed, 2 (4.65%) disagreed and 8 (18.6%) had no opinion. Finally, Q16 looks at the simultaneous use of Arabic and English, in this case on the part of some sheikhs who have taken to making announcements on social media platforms in both languages. Twenty-three students (53.49%) strongly agreed that they liked this recent development, 11 (25.58%) agreed, 4 (9.3%) had no opinion, 3 (6.98%) disagreed and 2 (4.65%) strongly disagreed. One student, who strongly disagreed, wrote ‘They must write only in our language’.21

English and the deculturisation of the UAE There exists an on-going controversy within the field of TEFL/TESL as to whether it is desirable – or even possible – to fully master an L2 without also learning something of the culture of its speakers. Trivedi (1978: 93) for example asserts that ‘You cannot learn a new language unless you have a sympathetic understanding of the cultural setting of that language’ (original stress). Hyde (1994: 297) concurs, arguing that failing to present students with a cultural context for the target language can ultimately do them a gross disservice. However, it has, on the other hand, been argued that including culturally specific information can also be confusing for students (Hecker, 2000). Predictably, then, there is disagreement within the literature over whether the language presented in materials should be taken from targetlanguage contexts, i.e. British, Australian and North American (BANA) culture, or whether it should be taken from the (EFL) context of the students themselves (e.g. Adaskou et al., 1990; Alptekin, 1993). Q3 addresses these points. Eighteen students (41.86%) disagreed, 4 students (9.3%) strongly disagreed, 34.88% (15 students) agreed and only 2 students (4.7%) strongly agreed. Interestingly, then, slightly more than half (51.16%) of the students either disagreed or strongly disagreed that students need to learn something of the target language culture. This attitude was summed up by one student when remarking ‘I think it is not important we don’t need it’. On the question as to whether learning English makes students more Westernised (Q11), 12 students (27.91%) agreed, 10 (23.26%) strongly agreed, 11 (25.58%) disagreed, 1 (2.32%) strongly disagreed and 9 (20.93%) stated they had no opinion. Ultimately, 22 students (51.17%) stated that they believe that learning English does indeed have a Westernising effect, though it is interesting that no fewer than 9 students expressed no opinion, which is the highest of the 16 sets of responses. Following on from this, Q12 addresses the issue raised by many critical theory-oriented pedagogues within the field of applied linguistics, namely that English, as with any other language, is not a neutral system of communication, but rather is both culturally and ideologically loaded, can act as a form of insidious cultural ‘Trojan horse’ (Kumaravadivelu, 2006; Qiang & Wolff, 2005), is not so


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much a lingua franca as more a ‘lingua Frankensteinia’ (Phillipson, 2009), and that its teachers are perhaps best seen as ‘imperial troopers’ (Edge, 2003). This issue is particularly sensitive in the GCC, especially Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, where, as we saw earlier, national citizens are in the minority. Twelve students (27.91%) strongly agreed with the supposition that English does indeed threaten the traditions and cultural integrity of the UAE, and another 12 agreed. Thus, a total of 24 students (55.82%) were of the opinion that English poses a threat to the very cultural fabric of their society. 11 students (25.58%) disagreed and again, interestingly, a relatively high number of respondents (8, or 18.6%) opted to give no opinion.

Islam and English As previously noted, English has not only been seen as a potential threat to the cultural integrity of the UAE, but also to its religion, Islam. This is since English is ‘seen by many as being the embodiment and carrier of JudeoChristian cultural values’ (Mohd-Asraf, 2005: 104) and, as such, can often be regarded as a threat to Islamic values, beliefs and customs. Indeed, teachers of English in Muslim countries have even been described as ‘de-Islamising agents’ (Karmani, 2005a: 266). With the sheer amount of foreign media typically consumed by young women in the UAE (Walters et al., 2005) not to mention the overwhelming number of non-Muslims in the country, one wonders to what extent all the potentially alien values presented to university-age female Emiratis have kindled and/or fostered a concern that their Islamic beliefs are threatened. Q13 was designed to shed some light on precisely this question. Nearly one-third of the students (13, or 30.23%) agreed and a further 11 students (25.58%) strongly agreed that their Islamic values and beliefs are indeed threatened by English. In contrast, 17 students (39.54%) disagreed and 2 students (4.65%) gave no opinion. It could, however, be argued that there exists something of a contradiction here. For, despite the fact that most students felt that English threatens both the culture and the Islamic values of the UAE, the overwhelming majority nevertheless expressed a desire for their future offspring to learn English (Q5), and thus further perpetuate the threat posed by the language. However, this perhaps does not so much highlight any inconsistency on the part of the students, as more evince the reality of the complexities – and the inherent contradictory nature (the potential economic gain the language affords its users [e.g. Grin, 2001] versus possible erosion of culture) – of the place, role, and standing of English in today’s globalised world. Unfortunately, of course, the uneasy tension created by an acknowledgement of the importance of English on the one hand and a pronounced dislike of EMI on the other can invariably lead to students harbouring what Lin (1999: 394) dubs a ‘want-hate relationship with English’ (see also Abbott, 1992: 174; Kachru, 1996: 150; fn.1).

English in the United Arab Emirates


Conclusion Although conducted with a relatively small sample population, the representative nature of both the participants and their institution suggests that some of the findings of the present study may, in part, account for the somewhat lackadaisical attitude towards studying English, and other subjects via English, evinced by many female Emirati HE students previously noted by teachers (e.g. Martin, 2003: 52; Hudson, 2012) and others (e.g. Krane, 2010: 268). Indeed, the clear desire to study in Arabic rather than English – the latter being the current ‘choiceless choice’ (Troudi & Jendli, 2011: 41) – expressed by more than 80% of the students alone arguably goes some not inconsiderable way towards accounting for much of this apparent apathy. Similarly, that the vast majority of those surveyed (again, in excess of some 80%) believe, rightly or wrongly, that their study of English would be facilitated and enhanced by using Arabic in the classroom could also be construed as sowing the seeds of resistance towards target-language-only lessons. Could it perhaps be that some of the salient shortcomings of these uniformly affable, respectful and unassuming students – such as an overreliance on rote learning and memorisation (Hatherley-Greene, 2012: 6; Rogier, 2012: 114) and an apparent aversion to self-study (Gardner, 1995: 293; Martin, 2003: 52; Rogier, 2012: 123) reading course materials (Martin, 2003: 52; Rogier, 2012: 116) and note-taking (Craig, 2007: 252) – are but manifestations of an underlying resistance to the domination of English in the UAE classroom? Perhaps the most significant finding of this study, however, is that more than half of those surveyed believe that the ‘icon of the contemporary age’ (Guilherme, 2007: 74) that is English, the power of which ‘continues to spread due to its seemingly symbiotic relationship with globalization’ (Dahan, 2013: 47), constitutes a threat to the Islamic values and customs of the UAE. Such a belief – no matter what its perceived validity by those with a dispassionate etic perspective – should give those engaged in TEFL/TESL, and indeed all English-medium educators in the UAE, pause for thought.

Acknowledgements The author wishes to thank the students who took part in this study, Sheikha Mohammed Ali Saeed Al Buloshi for the Arabic translation of the survey and for English translations of students’ Arabic responses, and Hayet Amdouni for her invaluable comments on earlier drafts of this chapter.

Notes (1) The phonological inventory of MSA does not contain the voiceless bilabial stop /p/, and L1 speakers of Arabic often produce – and indeed perceive – /p/ as the voiced bilabial stop /b/.


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(2) Students’ comments in English are reproduced in full, complete with typographical, capitalisation and grammatical ‘errors’. Comments made in Arabic have been translated and it is these translations which appear in the main body of the text above. The original Arabic statements appear as notes. (3) .‫ﻛﻞ أﻣﺔ ﺗﺮﺗﻘﻲ ﺑﻠﻐﺘﮭﺎ اﻷم‬ (4) .‫ ﻓﺎﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻷم ﻟﻜﻲ دول ھﻲ أﺳﺎس رﻗﯿﮭﺎ ﻛﺎﻟﯿﺎﺑﺎن‬،‫ﺑﻌﺾ اﻟﺪول ﻻ ﺗﺘﻘﯿﺪ ﺑﺎﻟﻠﻐﺎت اﻷﺧﺮى ﻟﻜﻲ ﺗﺼﺒﺢ راﺋﺪة‬ (5) .‫ ﻓﺎﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻟﯿﺴﺖ ﻗﯿﺪ ﻟﮭﺎ‬،‫أي دوﻟﺔ ﺗﺘﻘﯿﺪ ﺑﻠﻐﺘﮭﺎ اﻷم ﻛﺎﻟﯿﺎﺑﺎن أﺻﺒﺤﺖ ﻓﻲ ﻣﻜﺎﻧﺔ ﻋﺎﻟﯿﺔ ﺑﯿﻦ اﻟﺪول‬ (6) .‫اﻟﯿﺎﺑﺎن ﻣﺘﻤﺴﻜﺔ ﺑﻠﻐﺘﮭﺎ اﻷم وﻣﻊ ذﻟﻚ ھﻲ دوﻟﺔ ﻣﺘﻘﺪﻣﺔ‬ (7) .‫اﻟﺤﻔﺎظ ﻋﻠﻰ اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻟﻌﺮﺑﯿﺔ‬ (8) .‫اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻟﻌﺮﺑﯿﺔ ھﻲ ﻟﻐﺔ أھﻞ اﻟﺠﻨﺔ واﻟﻘ ﺮآن‬ (9) .‫ﻻ أﻓﻀﻞ اﺳﺘﺨﺪام اﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ ﻓﻲ ﻛﻞ اﻟﻤﻮاد‬ (10) .‫ﻷﻧﻨﺎ ﻧﺴﺘﻘﺒﻞ ﻣﻦ ﺟﻤﯿﻊ دول اﻟﻌﺎﻟﻢ‬ (11) .(‫ أﻣﻀﯿﺖ ﺳﻨﺘﯿﻦ ﻓﻲ اﻟﺘﻌﻠﯿﻢ اﻷﺳﺎﺳﻲ )أوﺟﺮو‬،‫ ﻟﯿﺲ ﻣﺜﻞ ﺣﯿﺎﺗﻲ‬،‫)ﻷﻧﻨﻲ أرﯾﺪ ﻟﮭﻢ ﺣﯿﺎة ﺟﯿﺪة‬ (12) .‫د راﺳﺘﮭﺎ ﺑﺎﻟﻌﺮﺑﯿﺔ ﺗﺴﮭﻞ اﻟﻔﮭﻢ‬ (13) .‫ﺻﻌﺐ ﻋﻠﻰ اﻟﻄﻠﺒﺔ د راﺳﺔ ھﺬه اﻟﻤﻮاد ﺑﺎﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬ (14) .‫ﯾﺼﻌﺐ اﻟﻔﮭﻢ ﻋﻠﻰ اﻟﻄﻠﺒﺔ‬ (15) .‫ﺗﺴﮭﻞ اﻟﻔﮭﻢ‬ (16) .‫ﻷﻧﮭﺎ ﻟﻐﺔ اﻷم واﻟﻠﻐﺔ اﻟﺮﺳﻤﯿﺔ ﻓﻲ اﻹﻣﺎرات‬ (17) .‫أﺳﮭﻞ ﻋﻠﻰ اﻟﻄﻠﺒﺔ وھﻲ ﻟﻐﺘﻨﺎ اﻷم‬ (18) .‫ ﺣﺮﯾﺔ اﻟ ﺮأي‬،‫ﺣﺮﯾﺔ اﻟﺪ راﺳﺔ‬ (19) .‫ﻷﻧﮭﻢ ﻛﺒﺎر ﻓﻲ اﻟﺴﻦ؛ ﻟﺬﻟﻚ ﻻ ﯾﻌﺮﻓﻮن اﻹﻧﺠﻠﯿﺰﯾﺔ‬ (20) .‫ﻷﻧﮭﺎ ﻟﯿﺴﺖ ﻟﻐﺘﻨﺎ‬ (21) .‫ﯾﺠﺐ أن ﯾﻜﺘﺒﻮا ﺑﻠﻐﺘﻨﺎ ﻓﻘﻂ‬

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Part 4 The Position of English in Teaching and Research Careers


Novice Practitioners’ Views on the Applicability of Postmethod and Critical Pedagogy in Saudi EFL Contexts Kyle Nuske

Introduction The post-method turn in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) poses a fundamental challenge to ‘top-down’ models that posit the construction of pedagogical knowledge as the exclusive province of Western, ‘native-speaking’ nations (Kumaravadivelu, 2003). Discursively perpetuating the legacies of colonialism and empire, these models hold that the role of multilingual teachers in so-called periphery contexts is to passively receive and re-enact externally derived methods. Post-method approaches, by contrast, give primary consideration to the unique dynamics of particular learning contexts and seek to empower multilingual practitioners by validating the expertise that stems from their first-hand awareness of local languages, customs, traditions and values. The currency of post-method has increased amid the larger, long-term emergence of critical orientations to language teaching, which have grown from radical reconfigurations of traditional thought (Pennycook, 1994; Phillipson, 1992) to an established domain of disciplinary knowledge (Mahboob & Paltridge, 2013; Pessoa & Urzeda-Freitas, 2012). Broadly, critical work of this type seeks to unveil connections between languageteaching practices and the reproduction or contestation of social power disparities, thereby promoting advocacy for marginalised instructors, students and general populations. To this end, a major aim of critical scholarship in TESOL is problematising monolingual normative ideologies of native



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speakers as dispensaries of authentic speech and sole arbiters of acceptable usage (e.g. Holliday, 2006). The critical and post-method shifts in professional literature notwithstanding, significant numbers of apprentice English as a Second/Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) teachers from around the world continue to pursue professional development through enrolment in Western TESOL programmes (Ilieva, 2010; Inoue & Stracke, 2013). This trend is possibly attributable to enrolees’ idealised conceptions of the West as a realm where optimally modern or sophisticated methodologies unknown in their native lands can be accessed. Alternately, it could stem from their savvy awareness of the social capital associated with qualifications awarded abroad. Regardless of the factors motivating such academic migration, researchers have critiqued the curricula of Western TESOL programmes for seeking to supplant rather than scaffold upon international students’ pre-existing literacies (e.g. Ilieva, 2010; Liu, 1998) and stressed the need to make these programmes more responsive to the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse populations of novice scholar-practitioners (Chowdhury & Phan, 2014; Park, 2012). Thus, there is a need for further examination of learning outcomes in programmes that emphasise post-method and critical pedagogical approaches to encourage learners to mediate authoritative knowledge claims in service of establishing locally sustainable pedagogies. One locale in which the discursively constructed prestige of Western training exerts a considerable influence on teachers’ career paths is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) (Barnawi & Phan, 2014). The KSA has invested ‘billions of [US] dollars’ in scholarship initiatives that enable Saudi teachers to study at Western universities, in effect rendering foreign training a prerequisite for competitive positions and stigmatising practitioners without such qualifications as a ‘subordinate group of language educators’ (Barnawi & Phan, 2014: 5). Considering these circumstances, it is perhaps unsurprising that Saudi enrolment in Western graduate schools has surged over the past ten years; for example, over 11,000 Saudis entered graduate programmes in the United States during the 2013 to 2014 academic year according to the Open Doors Report (2014). Yet, just as practices of English use on the Arabian Peninsula remain greatly under-researched in general (Buckingham, 2014), relatively little attention has been paid to the experiences of Saudi learners who pursue their graduate degrees in the West and to what extent those who plan to eventually return to the KSA perceive course content as relevant to their intended future teaching contexts. More broadly, Chandella and Troudi (2013: 54) noted that, while ‘critical research has started to emerge throughout the Arab world and the Middle East’, the perceived appropriateness and viability of critical orientations to language teaching in the Peninsula states is in need of further inquiry, especially given the continued predominance of rote and teacher-centred modes of instruction in

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many of these settings. Taking steps to redress the general dearth of research in this vein, Barnawi and Phan (2014) used qualitative case studies to illuminate teaching strategies employed by Saudi EFL practitioners who had learned about post-method during their training in Western graduate programmes. The authors described how two such male teachers preserved traditional approaches, such as memorisation and drilling, which were valued and anticipated by local learners despite being characterised as outmoded in Western literature. Whereas Barnawi and Phan (2014) elicited teachers’ retrospective reflections on the significance of their studies after they had obtained English teaching positions in the KSA, there is room for qualitative investigation of Saudi apprentices’ early formative interactions with disciplinary knowledge during their graduate coursework. Efforts to evaluate the impact of ideas introduced via overt instruction could furthermore account for the beliefs and assumptions that novices have accrued through their personal language learning histories and journeys to the EFL profession, as scholarship from the field of teacher cognition asserts that the assumptions apprentices consciously or unconsciously glean from their own upbringing and prior schooling are likely to have an enduring impact on their professional development (Borg, 2006; Pajares, 1993). Hence, the objective of the present study is to examine how four Saudi apprentice teachers responded to the teaching of post-method and critical pedagogical concepts during their first semester in a Master of Arts TESOL programme in the United States. The efficacy of these concepts in achieving their purported purpose of empowerment was gauged by examining how extensively participants could utilise them to discern possible means of positioning themselves more favourably within perceived systems of power relations in personal and professional spheres of the KSA. As described in further detail below, this investigation involved thematic analysis of participants’ narratives about their lived histories along with direct inquiry into the perceived relevance of post-method and critical pedagogy in the Saudi EFL context. However, due to the small number of participants, the study does not attempt to make definitive claims about the suitability or unsuitability of these concepts. Rather, it seeks to elucidate specific apprentices’ views and experiences in service of raising possibilities and potential difficulties for teacher educators to consider as they design their own courses and curricula. Prior to describing my methodological approach in more detail, I present a concise overview of the social, cultural and political issues that underlie and inform the phenomenon of EFL instruction in the KSA. The aim of my review is to establish the contentious role of English in the local linguistic ecology and the authoritative discourses and social institutions that Saudi teachers must contend with as they stake out professional identities fully reflective of their knowledge, skill, and humanity.


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Issues of power in the Saudi EFL context Mahboob and Elyas (2014: 128) describe the Saudi EFL context as ‘loaded with political, religious, social, and economic overtones’. In the professional sphere, English is frequently used as the medium of communication between locals and expatriate workers, including foreign technical advisors for the KSA’s nationalised and immensely lucrative oil industry (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014). As a result, the concept of sustaining economic development by bolstering English proficiency draws widespread support from all but the most ardently conservative sectors of Saudi society. Scholars such as Karmani (2005a: 87), however, have argued that discourses of English as an agent of modernisation are circulated within the oil-rich Middle East in order to propagate global capitalist hegemonies which ‘disproportionately serve the economic interests’ of Western countries. Shaw (1993: 28) articulated a similar perspective: ‘There is a strong argument that the policies of western nations and the multinationals are not to westernise in the good sense but to dominate’. Motivated by the desire for globalisation and a range of internal and external pressures toward educational reform, the Saudi Ministry of Education has placed increased emphasis on English learning in its standardised curriculum. Like the entirety of the KSA’s educational system, the objectives and procedures of EFL instruction are ‘centralized and controlled’ by the Ministry and put forth in ‘an identical syllabus with guidelines and deadlines that [teachers] are expected to follow’ at each grade level (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014: 130). Much like prescribed curricula in any other setting, the KSA’s highly regimented system poses certain restrictions on instructor autonomy, as I discuss in greater detail below. On a broader cultural level, the rising importance attached to English has met with some apprehensions about the encroachment of Western principles considered ‘harmful to … Muslim identity’ (Elyas & Picard, 2010: 142), particularly since contemporary EFL materials acknowledge Western cultural practices such as ‘dating, drinking alcohol, and co-education’ (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014: 131). These fears appear to be partially justified in light of the derogatory conflation of Islam with terrorism that has pervaded the political discourse of English-speaking nations in the wake of September 11 (Karmani, 2005b). Moreover, some calls for curricular revision emanating from within the KSA, from other Arab Peninsula States and the United States overtly seek to displace the Islamic core of Saudi education on the grounds that it ‘promotes hostility against non-Muslims’ (Jamjoon, 2010: 547). In this regard, certain of these calls are not necessarily focused on improving the quality of education provided so much as instilling purportedly neutral secular values, an agenda that can be argued to constitute a politically motivated attempt to further Western interests in the region more so than promote tolerance of cultural difference (Karmani, 2005b). Though curricular reform efforts

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remain highly controversial, Saudi EFL classrooms can be viewed as complex intercultural contact zones in which ‘teachers are given a primary role to unpack Western discourses in texts and to compare them with local discourses’ (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014: 133). While there is justification for questioning the motivations behind appeals to modify tradition-based aspects of education in the KSA, critical scrutiny must also be brought to the ways in which such traditions and the country’s contemporary political landscape potentially restrict or suppress human freedoms. The KSA has met with widespread condemnation from various human rights organisations, and the ruling monarchical government has been characterised as authoritarian due to actions such as internment and corporal punishment of political dissenters (Islam Human Rights Commission, 2011). Two incidents of such repression that are relatively recent as of this writing occurred in the cases of Raif Badawi and Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Badawi, a blogger who posted critical comments about Islam and the ruling political regime, was convicted on charges of ‘cybercrime and parental disobedience’ (Hubbard, 2015: para 3). His sentence of 1000 lashes by cane, 10 years in prison, and a fine of more than 250,000 US dollars raised an international outcry (Hubbard, 2015). The consequences of civil disobedience were lethal for Sheikh Nimr, a ‘prominent and outspoken’ Shia cleric who was convicted on terrorism charges and executed for his public support of protests by the Shia majority in the KSA’s Eastern Province and numerous criticisms of the Saudi royal family (Johnston, 2016: 4). The execution provoked widespread condemnation and is said to have exacerbated sectarian tensions in the Middle East (Johnston, 2016). Beyond governmental severity, much of the criticism levied at the KSA has focused on allegations of ubiquitous gender-based oppression, as reflected in the country’s laws prohibiting women from driving cars and requiring them to obtain permission from male guardians (mahram) before travelling within and beyond the country, though evidence suggests that precise tenets of the latter social practice are subject to interpretation and inconsistently enforced (Forsythe, 2009). Women’s rights in the KSA is a contested topic among Saudi women themselves, with opinions expressed in public venues ranging from defence of Saudi traditions as last bastions against ‘imported Western values’ in the Islamic world (Saleh Ambah, 2006: para 8) to open statements of dissent by activists such as Wajeha Al-Huwaider, who has compared women’s conditions to slavery (Lichter, 2009). Similarly, Doumato (2011: 195) elaborated on the disparities and contradictions inherent to women’s social standing in the KSA, asserting that ‘the Saudi regime [has] opened new public spaces to women: museums; research libraries; public festivals; civic organizations; and new media, including and especially satellite television and Internet access’. Yet, Doumato (2011: 193) also contended that ‘women are underrepresented in the workforce and their


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participation is constrained by paternalistic labor laws, sex segregation rules, and prohibitions against their working in specific areas’. Annemarie (2011: 1258) observed that these ‘cultural constraints’ also limit the degrees and fields of study that some public and private universities are able to offer to female students. Furthermore, Hamdan (2012: 205) argued that the KSA’s education system ‘continues to indoctrinate young women into believing that their mission in life is to serve their husbands and that, in consequence, their educational and career goals have little or no value’. Her overarching position, however, is that ‘progressive Saudis can be optimistic that women will eventually achieve their rightful place in society in general and in the employment sector’ (2012: 202). Crucial to her argument is the notion that any such liberation will not occur as a consequence of adopting ostensibly more benevolent or enlightened Western values, but rather from women’s emerging recourse to ‘[acquire] expertise in Islamic law and Shar’ia so that they can speak authoritatively in the name of Islam’ (2012: 216). Referencing the precedent set by Dr Fatima Naseef, the first Saudi woman to be endowed with the authority to issue legal decrees concerning Muslim communities (Fatwah), Hamadan predicted that women will become better-equipped to challenge what she viewed as the deliberate distortion of Qur’anic teachings in Saudi society to perpetuate male hegemony. In sum, while it should not be assumed that Saudi women uniformly view themselves as subjugated victims, there is indeed justification for examining how the lives of Saudi EFL practitioners have been affected by the systematic and codified gender inequalities that are increasingly the object of protest and debate in the KSA.

Method Data were collected during participants’ first semester of Master’s level study in TESOL at a university in the Mid-Atlantic United States. As described elsewhere in an investigation of a different data subset (Nuske, 2015), I commenced my research by contacting Dr Jean Sohn (pseudonym), the instructor of a required first-semester Introduction to TESOL course. Having been previously informed of Jean’s intent to place significant emphasis on post-method and critical pedagogical concepts in her class, I interviewed her before the start of instruction to obtain more detailed information about her rationale for foregrounding these concepts, the texts and activities that would be used to introduce them to students, and her intended learning outcomes. Subsequently, I observed each session of the course and took field notes on classroom events (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003).

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During the first class meeting, I solicited the participation of individual students in additional data collection procedures, and all of the Saudi cohort members (who comprised four of the 14 total learners) consented to participate in my research. Each participant took part in two face-to-face, semi-structured interviews lasting 30 to 50 minutes per session. One occurred around the approximate beginning point of the semester (Sept 2 to 18, 2012), and the other occurred around the approximate midpoint (Oct 22 to Nov 26, 2012). The initial interviews were designed to elicit their language learning histories (Roberts, 2002), journeys to the teaching profession, and previous teaching experiences. By focusing on these elements, I sought to ascertain how they conceptualised the Saudi EFL context and their role in relation to authoritative individuals, texts and discourses therein. Informed by research on identity construction among second language learners and teachers (Pavlenko, 2001; Park, 2012), I also pursued an understanding of how discourses of Western and native speaker supremacy may have influenced participants’ views on language learning and their own abilities as multilingual practitioners. However, I did not broach these topics directly because I felt that doing so would have been off-putting for the participants in the very early stages of their coursework and potentially counterproductive, bearing in mind contentions that consent to self-marginalising discourses is sometimes inculcated below the level of conscious awareness (Bourdieu, 1991). The second series of interviews occurred once participants had engaged with post-method and critical pedagogical scholarship on multiple occasions in Jean’s course. As such, I asked more plainly about the perceived feasibility and advisability of these concepts in the Saudi EFL context and also invited them to elaborate on statements or actions I had observed during class sessions (the questions used to elicit particular comments are interspersed throughout the text below). Once transcripts of the interviews had been prepared, I conducted a recursive thematic analysis to identify patterns in participants’ comments. Upon completing my preliminary analysis, I used member checking (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) in an effort to ensure that I had accurately captured participants’ viewpoints and the meanings they associated with their experiences.

Participant characteristics Though the participants were relative newcomers to the teaching profession, they had accrued practical experience prior to their sojourns abroad. Each had completed student-teaching internships at secondary and postsecondary institutions during their undergraduate studies in the KSA. Subsequently, they had worked as EFL instructors at universities in large or


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mid-sized Saudi cities for 1 to 3 years. A summary of participant characteristics appears in Table 9.1: Table 9.1 Summary of participant characteristics Name

Approximate age

Years of teaching experience; context

Laila (F) Myriam (F) Salem (M) Zahra (F)

Early 30s Late 20s Late 20s Mid 20s

2 years, private university 3 years, national university 1 year, private university 2 semesters, local secondary schools (internship)

Note: F = female; M = male. All participants are referred to by pseudonyms.

Upon completion of their graduate degrees, the participants intended to return to the KSA and obtain more permanent and prestigious teaching positions on the strength of their enhanced qualifications. Additionally, they all referenced frustrating aspects of their previous vocations and therefore sought to effect changes in customary practices of EFL teaching in their home country to varying degrees. One participant, Salem, even carried an ambitious long-term goal of entering the Saudi Ministry of Education and setting curricular policies for the nation. Thus, the participants were uniquely suited to reconcile the tenets of disciplinary literature with first-hand experience of the demands posed by the Saudi context.

Course information Drawing on her previous experiences as a teacher-educator in TESOL, Jean identified two primary reasons for highlighting post-method and critical pedagogy in her introductory class. The first was her intention to disrupt the perception that developing teaching expertise was primarily a matter of learning decontextualised methods, which she viewed as common among novice practitioners. Jean reported that the incoming cohort demonstrated this propensity during a pre-semester orientation meeting: when asked to briefly describe their goals for graduate study, ‘every single one of them wanted to know the best method’ (interview, Aug 12, 2012; see also Nuske, 2015). Because she felt that method-centric orientations to teacher training positioned students as passive recipients of universalised knowledge claims rather than active problem solvers, she used Kumaravadivelu’s (2003) landmark article on post-method to prompt reflection on how recognised techniques could be modified or reinvented to suit the unique needs of learners in particular sociocultural contexts. As an East Asian woman and self-identified critical pedagogue who had been subjected to prejudicial attitudes during her own professional development, Jean moreover held a conviction that it was crucial for multilingual

Nov ice Prac t it ioners’ Views on the Applicabilit y of Post-method Pedagogy


teachers to become advocates for themselves and their future students, an endeavour that would require them to cast off the senses of inferiority imposed upon them by colonialist and native speakerist discourses. To promote this process, she devoted several class sessions to discussion of texts addressing a range of critical topics, including the emotional journey of an individual ‘non-native speaker’ instructor as she came to validate her expertise as a TESOL professional (Park, 2012), the mechanisms of discrimination that underlie mainstream discourses of cultural difference (Kubota, 2004), and the sociopolitical origins of the prominent belief that student plagiarism is a transgressive act (Pennycook, 1996). Adopting the position that critical consciousness-raising holds value only insofar as it motivates concrete advocacy actions, Jean repeatedly stressed the need to pursue connections between EFL teaching and the establishment of more democratic and inclusive social structures. To counteract the perception that such social transformation was a grandiose ideal remote from the possibilities of practical instruction, she clarified that she was not advocating for sudden revolutionary upheaval but rather minor gestures aimed at a gradual, painstaking accumulation of shifts in belief and action (Field notes, Oct 4, 2012).

Results Participants’ language learning histories and paths to the teaching profession Participants’ narratives indicated that both discourses of Western and native speaker supremacy and the internal politics of the KSA had exerted a considerable influence on their journeys to the EFL profession. At the most immediate and literal level, a strong undercurrent of native adulation was manifested in the desire to emulate native phonology and the concurrent stigmatisation of one’s own ‘accent’. When questioned about what led her to enrol in a TESOL programme in the United States, Zahra explained that, during her undergraduate studies, she had been impressed by Saudi professors who had modified their speech after studying abroad: ‘all of them were students in UK or in the United States so I would like to be just like them, and study abroad since I found my accent is not perfect’ (Interview 1). This remark suggests that the native-speaker ideal had ingrained a self-subjugating mentality; Zahra ironically characterised her teachers as inspirational even though their example actually prompted her to appraise her own abilities from a deficit-oriented perspective. Zahra’s longing to enact a similar process of self-transformation was bolstered by her view that sojourning abroad had enabled her Western-trained professors to not only improve their pronunciation but also effect positive


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changes in their demeanours, cognition, and other fundamental facets of their ways of being: You can’t compare the professors who studied at a foreign country from the professor who studied at locally or in your hometown … The professor who has studied in foreign country usually have another system which I think I like more than the professors who were student … locally, yes. Or even in Arabic other country. So their way of thinking, even their personality, their way of speaking, you can find that … as a student you can feel it. Highly educated, yeah. (Interview 1) The discursively constructed prestige of English proficiency was also reinforced through familial attitudes, particularly among female participants. Myriam described how her mother, who had never learned to read or write in Arabic, would often lavish praise upon young women who were fluent in English: Interviewer: Myriam:

What specifically about English learning appealed to you? My mother … loves when she sees a Saudi girl … talking in English she said, “Wow look at her.” Although my mother is—she didn’t study anything. She doesn’t even know how to read and how to write [in Arabic]. But she likes to have a fluent girl. (Interview 1)

Myriam’s desire to win commendation from her mother motivated her continued study of English despite her lukewarm attitudes toward the subject throughout most of her formal education, and her burgeoning command of the language had the effect of vicariously fulfilling her mother’s yearning for the education that had been denied to her: ‘My mother, she loves to … say I am the one who makes her dream true’ (Interview 1). For Laila, Zahra and Myriam, male family members exerted a more coercive influence on their paths to the English teaching profession. A striking commonality in the three women’s narratives was that they all carried dreams of entering the medical field only to encounter resolute refusals from their fathers. Though nursing is actually one of the vocations commonly considered acceptable for women in the KSA (Hamdan, 2005), female participants in the present study were prohibited from pursuing medical careers because their fathers rejected the prospect that they would work in mixedgender environments. All three women attributed their families’ staunch objections to ‘conservative’ beliefs and described how they were compelled to instead pursue careers in teaching, a profession that was considered permissible because of the practice of strict gender segregation at all levels of the educational system. In response to a question about her reasons for majoring in English at university, Laila explained: When I graduated from high school, my percentage or my score was very high. I can go to medicine. But you know it’s like in my country there are some restrictions and my dad refused to do it because it’s like you know we are from it’s like conservative

Nov ice Prac t it ioners’ Views on the Applicabilit y of Post-method Pedagogy


community that men and women can’t work at the same place … and … also studying medicine’s like, it’s like a mixed community some male teachers and male students and classmates, men and women are in the same class or in the same lab. And also they work together and my family they refuse that thing. (Interview 1) Replying to the same question, Zahra remarked: I wanted to … study for medical stuff. Even nurse or a doctor or whatever dentist for example but this, at that time that were not allowed to me in my family … In my country actually, women especially from conservative families, they can’t work anywhere. So we have to find a job that is suitable for women, and what is the job that’s suitable for women and have a good salary at the same time? It’s teaching. (Interview 2) Hence, becoming English teachers enabled Laila, Zahra and Myriam to claim forms of expertise and authority that may have otherwise proven elusive in the KSA’s patriarchal social order, which often restricts women’s career choices to a narrow range of options that are ‘believed to suit their nature’ (Hamdan, 2005: 44; see also Annemarie, 2011; Doumato, 2011). However, it must be considered that these gains occurred in a vocation forced upon them and therefore did nothing to challenge the reproduction of the gender politics that had denied them the autonomy to choose their own careers in the first place. Having conveyed some of the beliefs and experiences that participants brought to the initial stages of their graduate education and examined the ways in which larger relations of power had impacted these, I now transition to the perceived relevance of post-method and critical pedagogy among participants.

Seizing upon the localising ethos of post-method On the whole, participants embraced post-method and utilised its tenets to reflect anew on possibilities for making their teaching more responsive to local learners’ needs. As will be shown through the examples of Myriam and Laila, engagement with post-method led participants to articulate pedagogical principles that were somewhat contradictory in relation to each other but nonetheless attuned to the specific demands of their respective contexts. Myriam reported that she had previously taught at a university where English was a standalone subject and many students had little investment in using the language beyond the classroom. Considering these factors, she reconceptualised plagiarism in such a way as to reject the imposition of Western values as universal truths. She described customs of citation in Saudi education as comparatively lenient, observing that copying short passages from outside sources without acknowledgement was considered acceptable or even encouraged by her own professors. In contrast to Western-centric viewpoints, which typically presume plagiarism to entail an innate


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dishonesty or lack of rigour (Pennycook, 1996), Myriam endorsed Saudi customs of authorial attribution as deliberate invocations of local values – namely, the principle of communal rather than individual ownership of ideas. When asked which readings from the course had made the strongest impression on her, Myriam referenced Pennycook’s (1996) text, stating, ‘I’m not really convinced that there is a plagiarism on ideas’ (Interview 2). The perceived application of this post-method perspective was that it was not necessary to teach Western citation customs in all of their elaborate and idiosyncratic detail unless students were preparing to study abroad in the West. As the following exchange demonstrates, Myriam intended to adopt a pragmatic approach grounded firmly in students’ present ability levels and purposes for English learning: Interviewer: Myriam:

What made that particular text [i.e. Pennycook (1996)] interesting? English there in Saudi Arabia it’s only a foreign language and [students] don’t have to use it at all. Maybe for some of them they … use it only in university, that’s it. So why do I have to be strict on them and tell them you have to write professionally while they don’t have the language? (Interview 2)

By contrast, English was the medium of instruction for coursework in the scientific disciplines at the university where Laila had previously been employed. As such, Laila’s former students were under far more intense pressure to achieve the baseline proficiency levels that would enable them to comprehend and enact valued literacy practices in their chosen fields. Observing that these learners were often stymied by the invisible norms of English-language academic discourse, Laila argued for additional courses designed to provide direct training in academic literacy development: Interviewer: Laila:

Is there a specific text or idea that we discussed in Dr. Jean’s course that suggested something you could do in your future teaching? So I thought of developing a course in English for academic purposes to teach students how to write scholarly articles, to read articles, and to write for example synthesis paper … Okay if the students are just Arabic speakers and they come to the university and they start learning English and it’s like intensive courses they can’t match [teachers’ expectations]. That’s why I think a good step we have to add another courses to develop students academically. (Interview 2)

A corollary to the process of developing post-method perspectives was that participants attained a new conceptual vocabulary for resisting the prescriptive curricula imposed upon them in their previous teaching and unveiling

Nov ice Prac t it ioners’ Views on the Applicabilit y of Post-method Pedagogy


the ideological underpinnings of standardisation. Laila lamented that a required textbook and committee-designed exams had reduced her previous teaching to a narrow range of rote learning and unengaging activities: ‘If we stick to the book all we are teaching [is] the book’ (Interview 1). Similarly, Salem decried the prescriptive curriculum at his previous place of employment for promoting a facile conception of learning as the acquisition of neutral facts or skills, leaving the belief systems through which students filtered their experiences of the social world unexamined: ‘This is not learning, I mean if you don’t change your students or at least try to change something within them. It’s just not learning. I mean for the better, not for the worse’ (Interview 2). Moreover, concepts introduced in graduate coursework helped Salem to deconstruct this institution’s official rationale for the implementing a standardised curriculum and requiring the use of textbooks that were conspicuously bereft of references to contemporary social reform movements or anything remotely controversial: Interviewer: Salem:

How much freedom did you have in terms of methodology or teaching approaches [in your previous position]? Well, teachers didn’t have a chance to choose textbooks … [the adminstration’s] problem is that they are afraid that some teachers would not choose good books … and so [to] solve all of these things they assign the book. A textbook in which we don’t talk about well let’s say negatively about tradition or … religion. (Interview 1)

Salem opined that, though these policies were masked in the pretence of ensuring quality control, they actually served to limit teachers’ autonomy and discourage the likelihood that classroom proceedings would lead to instances of social critique.

Conflicted responses to critical pedagogy Participants expressed similar levels of enthusiasm for the critical pedagogical principles of validating their own multilingual literacies and expertise while contesting discourses of native supremacy. During the fourth session of Introduction to TESOL, Jean led the class in a discussion of native privilege. While the conversation progressed, Salem seemed to be forging a critical perspective in real time as he interrogated the hierarchical positioning of English native speaker faculty members above their non-native counterparts at his undergraduate university (Field notes, Sept 21, 2012). He described a situation in which Saudi faculty members who possessed doctorates were subordinated to the English department administrator, a young white American male who possessed no qualifications beyond a Bachelor’s degree. This example resonated with the class, prompting much subsequent discussion.


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Similarly, it was striking to observe how Laila’s reflections on the value of studying critical pedagogy took the form of a declaration of self-empowerment explicitly anchored in post-colonial terminology: Interviewer: Laila:

What did you find appealing about critical pedagogy? We used to think that the native speaker are the perfect teacher of English so it’s like to remove the colonized view of teaching language, I’ve just get to know that for example if I learned English as a second language I would be a good teacher to teach students who learn English as second language and have the same L1 as mine. So it would be helpful for me to understand how they think and how can I help them in the same situation … I’m bilingual by the way, so this is a good point for me. (Interview 2)

However, participants’ positive responses to the concept of validating multilingual practitioners’ unique strengths were counterbalanced by their strongly pessimistic attitudes toward the prospect of utilising classrooms as venues of critical consciousness-raising and the pursuit of social justice. They dismissed the notion that the Saudi EFL context could accommodate this dimension of critical pedagogy with a succinct finality because they felt such actions would never be tolerated by administrators, senior faculty, and other authority figures in universities. This belief was rooted in numerous instances when supervisors had rebuked them for supposed transgressions. During a class discussion of Kubota’s (2004) piece on Critical Multiculturalism, in which the author stressed the need for frank classroom conversations about racism and other forms of prejudice that lurked beneath polite veneers of public discourse, Zahra, Laila and Myriam rejected outright the notion that they could raise the topics of race or gender-based discrimination in an English class and testified that they could be fired for a single (so-called) offence of this type (Field notes, Sept 21, 2012). Asked to elaborate upon this perspective in a subsequent interview, Laila stated, ‘We can’t mention something related to politics or something related to the government or something related to the policy of the university’ (Interview 2). Myriam echoed these sentiments, reporting that censorship of sensitive topics was among the first institutional policies established by a high-ranking figure at her former institution: ‘I think from the first meeting with our vice-dean, she said like … “Do not ever talk about … politics [or] religion”’ (Interview 2). In a disconcerting commentary on the paranoid apprehension about defying authority that had been instilled in Myriam’s mind, she claimed that one could be incriminated by statements whose seditious components existed only in the minds of listeners:

Nov ice Prac t it ioners’ Views on the Applicabilit y of Post-method Pedagogy

Interviewer: Myriam:


Do you think that there ever would be a situation where it would be a good idea to bring up a so-called taboo topic like politics or anything like that in the context of an English class? You know what, you could be jailed if you talk about politics … Yeah for us politics is a taboo even outside [the classroom] because you don’t know sometimes we say something you don’t intend to like to criticize the king or something like that, but others may interpret it as something else. (Interview 2)

Myriam’s trepidation was perhaps partially attributable to an incident in which a supervisor had given her a stern warning upon learning that she had used a YouTube video with incidental music as an instructional tool, an act that the supervisor held to constitute a violation of Islamic teachings. She was frustrated by the experience because she felt that such videos had genuine pedagogical value in that they captured students’ attention and connected with their interests in ways that authorised materials rarely could: Interviewer: Myriam:

So there’s a social attitude that using music is not appropriate in educational settings? You know, the religion in Saudi Arabia is Islam. And in Islam it’s haraam or forbidden to listen to music, any kind of music. Even for the video clips, also the music is not allowed … in the classroom but I used them because most of the video clips I think it’s with music and it will be so boring if I mute them. I felt it will be interesting for my students and beneficial … Even with music. … we all did like wrong things sometimes so why not to the benefit of our students? (Interview 2)

It is significant to note that, in Myriam’s construction of the event, the supervisor’s intervention was not expressed in terms of formative feedback on professional development, such as explaining why the practice was inadvisable from a pedagogical perspective or suggesting a more appropriate alternative, but was rather restricted to a reprimand for a perceived moral wrongdoing. Salem shared similar experiences and expressed that he found the culture of his previous institution keenly frustrating in light of his firm desire to bring a more socially conscious dimension to his teaching. As mentioned above, he felt that teaching should necessarily involve efforts to effect meaningful change in students’ ways of thinking and foster personal growth. He additionally reported that he often found himself dispirited by encounters with students who seemed to exhibit an ossified apathy towards social concerns. Though it could be said that teachers have levied such complaints against students since time immemorial, Salem’s perspective that this indifference was a substantial problem in his context merits respectful consideration.


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Hence, he wished he could establish a classroom environment in which learners actively questioned the worldviews inscribed by the dominant culture: Interviewer:

What do you think what would the benefit be of introducing political topics?


Well, believe me, I haven’t heard the students saying ‘I believe in this. I’m with this, I’m against this’ … Many of them would say, ‘I don’t know. It’s not my issue, it’s not my responsibility’. And this is depressing. (Interview 2)

This intention notwithstanding, Salem referenced an additional factor that he felt forestalled the pursuit of critical approaches – students, having been indoctrinated into a state of fearful compliance, might act as informants to administrators if teachers dared to broach taboo topics: If I was talking about for example let’s say women driving and one of my students went to … the head of the department or … whoever is in charge and said that, he’ll come to me and … say “Don’t do that”. (Interview 2) Furthermore, despite his general pessimism regarding the viability of critical approaches in the KSA, Salem averred that, in certain discrete instances, he would be willing to defy institutional mandates prohibiting discussion of contested social issues, such as movements to overturn laws against women driving cars, in upper-level courses: [In] very simple English beginning level English so we cannot talk about for example having you know permitting women to drive cars or you know … such issues … [But in] advanced classes why not? … cuz women are not permitted to drive back home … they can have drivers but they cannot drive. For example, let’s say discussing some economic issues. Though Salem did not directly express his rationale for framing the issue in economic terms, his decision could reflect a shrewd circumvention of potential objections. In other words, by presenting the issue as a purely rhetorical exercise, he could covertly pursue his stated ambition of bringing a politically engaged dimension to his pedagogy.

Discussion The primary aims of this chapter were twofold: first, I investigated how four Saudi apprentice TESOL practitioners characterised the dynamics of their past and intended future teaching contexts – universities in the KSA – on the basis of their lived histories. Second, I examined how they responded

Nov ice Prac t it ioners’ Views on the Applicabilit y of Post-method Pedagogy


to the teaching of post-method and critical pedagogy during their first semester of graduate coursework in the United States, focusing on the degree to which they perceived these concepts as feasible and advisable for Saudi EFL classrooms. While the perspectives and reported experiences of participants in the present study are by definition unique to the individuals involved, they raise several points for teacher-educators to consider as they fashion their own approaches to working with Saudi novices. Participants uniformly expressed positive attitudes toward the concept of post-method and were able to apply its localising imperative to identify limitations of the texts and curricula they been expected to use and follow in their previous teaching. Moreover, they could generate possibilities for making future teaching efforts more responsive to the needs, motivations, and ability levels of particular student populations, as when Myriam questioned the necessity of reproducing Western citation customs and Laila realised the need for more explicit demystification of the conventions of English language academic discourse. Thus, the present study echoes Barnawi and Phan (2014) in emphasising the potential value of teaching post-method to encourage novices to reconcile the authoritative knowledge claims they encounter in Western academic literature with their first-hand awareness of valued procedures of instruction in particular contexts of the KSA. Conversely, a more complex picture emerges from participants’ ambivalent reaction to the tenets of critical pedagogy. On the one hand, interaction with critical pedagogical concepts appeared to prompt a reappraisal of the native speaker ideal and spur their willingness to validate their own skills and qualifications as multilingual practitioners. This shift was indeed noteworthy when considered against the content of their narratives about their journeys to the teaching profession, which suggested that they had internalised discourses of Western and native speaker supremacy to a considerable degree and endured numerous restrictions on their autonomy in personal and professional realms. On the other hand, participants regarded the critical pedagogical principle of engaging in advocacy for marginalised populations by making overt classroom references to social injustice as utterly unfeasible in the Saudi EFL context. Despite Jean’s assurances that advocacy efforts need not take shape as drastic challenges to the existing order and could instead pursue minor shifts in student thinking and behaviour, participants felt that any overture along these lines would provoke censure from supervisors or senior colleagues and could possibly cost them their jobs. In this regard, their perceptions would appear to align with Elyas’ (2014: 28) assertion that ‘conservative backlash against any change to the status quo’ is a noteworthy factor in education and society at large in the KSA. The apparent impasse between disciplinary constructions of critical teaching and participants’ views on what constituted practicable approaches


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raises several pressing questions. The first and most practical question has to do with content relevance in cross-cultural teacher education. Considering calls to make Western TESOL programmes more responsive to the needs of diverse populations of apprentices (Chowdhury & Phan, 2014; Ilieva, 2010) and the rapid rise in Saudi enrolment at Western institutions over the past 10 years (Open Doors Report, 2014), it might behove teacher-educators to elicit the degree to which Saudi students who plan on returning to the KSA conceive of social critique as desirable and productive in their intended future teaching contexts. Though teacher educators may carry a firm conviction in the value of teaching of critical pedagogy, as Jean did, it is important for them to accept the prospect that some Saudi students will have a sound rationale for avoiding reference to issues of social justice in the classroom, particularly as they cannot ethically compel novices to enact practices that would imperil their livelihoods. As Akbari (2008: 646) succinctly summarised the dilemma, ‘dealing with topics such as capital punishment, marriage, and honor killings can cost a teacher his or her career or freedom in some Arab or Muslim countries because of certain religious interpretations of such concepts’. Yet, the perceived stalemate is problematic on another level in that Salem directly aspired to promote social consciousness and civic engagement through his teaching but could perceive no viable means of mounting a sustained challenge to institutional mandates prohibiting reference to political topics. More generally, there seemed to be a disconnect between the largely powerless positions participants felt they occupied in academic spheres and the comparatively measured portrayals of power relations in the KSA that emerge from academic and journalistic outlets. While recognising instances of harsh governmental retribution against those who challenge its authority (Hubbard, 2015; Johnston, 2016), these outlets state that some social reform movements are occurring in the KSA and debates about formerly taboo issues are finding their way into mainstream society. For example, Hamdan (2005: 61) claimed that ‘Saudi columnists are able to constructively criticize the system’s performance in the health, education, and women’s rights sectors’. Of course, participants’ pessimistic feelings could have their origins in the particular cultures of their respective universities and the enduring power of previous experiences to shape and restrict the perceived scope of future pedagogical possibilities (Borg, 2006; Pajares, 1993). Nevertheless, the present study suggests that Saudi apprentices who profess an interest in critical approaches might benefit from engaging in prolonged reflection on the nature and extent of perceived impediments to their implementation. Such efforts could lead to the discernment of concrete classroom strategies, such as Salem’s tactic of framing debates about the legality of women driving in economic terms, which would enable practitioners to subvert official restrictions on acceptable lesson content if they so desired. In conclusion, current scholarly discussions stress the inherently ideological dimensions of EFL instruction in the KSA and note that teachers’

Nov ice Prac t it ioners’ Views on the Applicabilit y of Post-method Pedagogy


efforts to facilitate the development of English proficiency must of necessity acknowledge ‘the changing nature of both Western and Islamic culture(s)’ (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014: 133). When one considers the abovementioned reform movements in tandem with continued, albeit contested, calls for the promotion of creative, critical and independent thinking in Saudi curricula (Elyas & Picard, 2013), it appears likely that the relevance of post-method and critical pedagogical approaches will only increase in the Saudi EFL context over the long-term. As such, there is justification for further research on pre-service and in-service Saudi teachers’ perceptions of these concepts and their willingness and ability to enact them in classroom settings.

References Akbari, R. (2008) Postmethod discourse and practice. TESOL Quarterly 42 (4), 641–652. Annemarie, P. (2011) The Middle East at a crossroad: an educational revolution. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 15, 1257–1261. Barnawi, O.Z. and Phan, L.H. (2014) From western TESOL classrooms to home practice: a case study with two “privileged” Saudi teachers. Critical Studies in Education 1–18. Bogdan, R. and Biklen, S. (2003) Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theories and Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Borg, S. (2006) Teacher Cognition and Language Education: Research and Practice. London: Continuum. Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language & Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Buckingham, L. (2014) Building a career in English: Users of English as an additional language in academia in the Arabian Gulf. TESOL Quarterly 48 (1), 6–33. Chandella, N. and Troudi, S. (2013) Critical pedagogy in language education: Challenges and Potentials. In R. Akbari and C. Coombe (eds) Middle East Handbook of Applied Linguistics (pp. 42–61). Dubai: TESOL Arabia Publications. Chowdhury, R. and Phan, L.H. (2014) Desiring TESOL and International Education: Market Abuse and Exploitation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Doumato, E.A. (2011) Women in civic and political life: Reform under authoritarian regimes. In M.A. Tetreault, G. Okruhlik and A. Kapiszewski (eds) Political Change in the Arab Gulf States: Stuck in Transition (pp. 193–223). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. Elyas, T. (2014) Exploring Saudi Arabia’s EFL student identity: A narrative critical approach. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature 3 (5), 28–38. Elyas, T. and Picard, M. (2010) Saudi Arabian educational history: Impacts on English language teaching. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues 3 (2), 136–145. Elyas, T. and Picard, M. (2013) Critiquing of higher education policy in Saudi Arabia: Towards a new neoliberalism. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues 6 (1), 31–41. Forsythe, D.P. (ed.) (2009) Encyclopedia of Human Rights, Volume 2 (p. 396). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hamdan, A. (2005) Women and education in Saudi Arabia: Challenges and achievements. International Education Journal 6 (1), 42–64. Hamdan, A. (2012) The role of authentic Islam: The way forward for women in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Women of the Middle East 10, 200–220. Holliday, A. (2006) Native-speakerism. ELT journal 60 (4), 385–387.


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Hubbard, B. (2015) Saudis begin public caning to punish a blogger. The New York Times, 09 January. See Ilieva, R. (2010) Non-native English speaking teachers’ negotiations of program discourses in their construction of professional identities within a TESOL program. Canadian Modern Language Review 66 (3), 343–249. Inoue, N. and Stracke, E. (2013) Non-native English speaking postgraduate TESOL students in Australia: Why did they come here? University of Sydney Papers in TESOL 8, 29–56. Islam Human Rights Commission (2011) Saudi Arabia’s Political Prisoners: Toward a Third Decade of Silence. London: Islamic Human Rights Commission. Jamjoon, M.I. (2010) Female Islamic studies teachers in Saudi Arabia: A phenomenological study. Teaching and Teacher Education 20, 1–12. Johnston, A. (2016) Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr: Saudi Arabia executes top Shia cleric. BBC News, 02 January. See Karmani, S. (2005a) Petro-linguistics: the emerging nexus between oil, English, and Islam. Journal of Language, Identity and Education 4 (2), 87–102. Karmani, S. (2005b) English,‘terror,’ and Islam. Applied Linguistics 26 (2), 262–267. Kubota, R. (2004) Critical multiculturalism and second language education. In B. Norton and K. Toohey (eds) Critical Pedagogies and Language Learning (pp. 30–52). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003) A postmethod perspective on English language teaching. World Englishes 22 (4), 539–550. Lichter, I. (2009) Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. Lincoln, Y.S. and Guba, E.G. (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Liu, D. (1998) Ethnocentrism in TESOL: Teacher education and the neglected needs of international TESOL students. ELT Journal 52, 3–10. Mahboob, A. and Elyas, T. (2014) English in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. World Englishes 33 (1), 128–142. Mahboob, A. and Paltridge, B. (2013) Critical discourse analysis and critical applied linguistics. In C.A. Chappelle (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (pp. 1–7). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Nuske, K. (2015) Transformation and stasis: Two case studies of critical teacher education in TESOL. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies 12 (4), 283–312. Open Doors Report (2014) Open Doors Fact Sheet: Saudi Arabia. See research-and-publications/open-doors/data/fact-sheets-by-country/2013 (accessed January 2014). Pajares, F. (1993) Preservice teachers’ beliefs: a focus for teacher education. Action in Teacher Education 15, 45–54. Park, G. (2012) “I am never afraid of being recognized as an NNES”: one teacher’s journey in claiming and embracing her nonnative speaker identity. TESOL Quarterly 46 (1), 127–151. Pavlenko, A. (2001) “In the world of tradition, I was unimagined:” Negotiation of identities in cross-cultural autobiographies. The International Journal of Bilingualism 5 (3), 317–344. Pennycook, A. (1994) The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language. New York: Longman. Pennycook, A. (1996) Borrowing others’ words: Text, ownership, memory, and plagiarism. TESOL Quarterly 30 (2), 201–230. Pessoa, R.P. and de Urzeda Freitas, M.T. (2012) Challenges in critical language teaching. TESOL Quarterly 46 (4), 753–776.

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Phillipson, R. (1992) Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roberts, B. (2002) Biographic Research. Buckingham: Open University. Saleh Ambah, F. (2006) Saudi women rise in defense of the veil. The Washington Post, 01 June. See AR2006053101994_pf.html Shaw, K.E. (1993) Research into higher education in the Arabian Gulf states. International Journal of Educational Development 13 (1), 21–31.

10 Between the Covers: A Case Study of Scholarly Journal Publishing in Oman Louisa Buckingham and Kirankumar Ramachandran

Investment in the educational sector in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has brought impressive results in recent decades, including almost universal literacy to the countries’ younger generations,1 accessible university education and access to specialist training through study-abroad scholarships. Increasing numbers of highly qualified GCC nationals are employed in the region’s tertiary sector, until recently largely or wholly dependent on expatriate labour. Evidence of an indigenisation of the labour force resulting from capacity-building policies (such as the Omanisation policy) can be seen in lecture theatres and science labs.2 Reflecting international practice, hiring and promotion decisions place importance on ‘research outputs’ alongside teaching and service duties, giving rise to both growing interest in undertaking publishable research, and pressure to provide evidence of scholarship. The domestic academic research culture in Oman is largely spearheaded by the country’s primary research-oriented tertiary institution, the Corolian Institute (CI),3 established over two decades ago. Oman’s tertiary sector is predominantly English medium (exceptions to this are particular degree programmes in the fields of law, religion, education and Arabic) and most research-active academic staff aspire to publish in English-medium academic journals (Buckingham, 2014). Analogous to other contexts (e.g. Bardi, 2015; Englander & Uzuner-Smith, 2013; Muresan & Pérez-Llantada, 2014), at CI (and other tertiary institutions in Oman), evidence of such publications is required from prospective academic staff and for promotion. Financial incentives are awarded for publications in refereed journals indexed in SCOPUS, Thomson’s Web of Science, or in indexed Arab periodicals (TRC, Researchers’ incentives program n.d.: 5), where the Omani Research Council (TRC)4 is acknowledged as the project funder. While these incentives acknowledge the 220

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


value of publications in Arab periodicals, job postings at prestigious local universities tend to stipulate the requirement of publications in ‘international journals’, which may be interpreted as a request for evidence of research writing ability in English. Coherent with the TRC objective of supporting the development of an environment conducive to research, selected Omani tertiary institutions have themselves established academic journals.5 Such local or regional journals enable academics in less-privileged contexts to contribute to knowledge creation processes (Ligthelm & Koekemoer, 2009), and give wider visibility to topics of a local or regional importance, which might be viewed as parochial by prestigious international journal editors (Flowerdew, 2001; Mišak et al., 2005; Muresan & Pérez-Llantada, 2014). Such exposure allows locally oriented scholars an opportunity to reach beyond their local contexts and participate, whether formally or informally, in transnational networks. Institutions attempting to ‘grow’ their research capacity often struggle to build a critical mass of research-active scholars working in any particular sub-discipline (Lomnitz et al., 1987); thus, the possibility of transnational collaboration can be a vital strategy to build and maintain specialist expertise. In a small nation such as Oman, with a population of under 4 million and a modest number of active researchers,6 transnational networking is an acknowledged survival imperative; indeed, over 50% of research articles published by locally based scholars between 2004 and 2013 evidence international collaboration through co-authorship (SCImago, n.d.).7 This study examines the publishing practices of an internationally-oriented scientific publication, well established and respected within the local context, the Corolian Institute Scientific Journal (CISJ),8 and enquires into how journal editors succeeded in positioning the journal as a respected publication platform both locally and regionally, despite being hosted by a relatively young institution within an emerging research context. As the English-medium attribute of the journal appears a vital component of ‘internationalness’ (despite the status of Arabic as a world language), this study also investigates editors’ perspectives on the use of English in scientific research as a tool to build and maintain a professional community of practice, connected both locally (within the immediate region) and further afield through the journal.9 As the authors of work appearing in CISJ are primarily non-native English speakers, this study thus also examines the process of ‘shaping’ a manuscript (Burrough-Boensch, 2003; Lillis & Curry, 2010) to prepare it for publication. While authors may have valuable data or apply an innovative approach, they may lack the academic linguistic skills to present their research appropriately (Clavero, 2010; Ligthelm & Koekemoer, 2009; Marušić et al., 2004; Mišak et al., 2005), a factor which in some fields appears to contribute to lower article acceptance rates for non-native English speaking authors (Coates et al., 2002).


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The study contributes to our understanding of the contribution of second-tier journals to the academic environment within a local and regional context. In particular, this study inquiries into the strategies followed by this journal in achieving its objective of stimulating scientific research and publication in Oman. As previously illustrated in the case of the Croatian Medical Journal (CMJ), to encourage greater presence of less experienced researchers and writers in the journal, editors need to take an active role in strengthening the quality of submissions (Mišak et al., 2005). By the same token, the journal needs to be viewed as a prestigious publishing platform to attract quality or promising submissions from local and regional scholars. These two objectives require careful balancing. To this end (and as previously noted by Marušić & Marušić, 2001), the consistent application of quality control measures by the editorial board is clearly vital to ensure the adherence of research and publication standards which contribute to the journal’s reputation as a respected medium of disciplinary-specific communication. The study thus builds on the published accounts by editors of the CMJ on the development of a scientific journal and scholarly publishing processes in a European context by contributing insights from a distinct cultural and educational environment which has received little attention to date. It broadens our understanding of how scholars and writers in less privileged settings can, through their own agency, create the necessary conditions to participate successfully in mainstream scientific publishing.

Publishing and Privilege Academic publishing in less privileged academic environments has sometimes been termed scholarly publishing on the ‘periphery’ or in ‘off-network’ (Swales, 1987: 43) environments, as distinct from the ‘centre’ contexts. The intrinsic difficulties in producing quality scholarly work of an acceptable standard for quality academic journals in this context has been described in numerous studies (e.g. Bardi, 2015; Bardi & Muresan, 2014; Buckingham, 2014; Canagarajah, 1996; Marušić & Marušić, 1999; Muresan & PérezLlantada, 2014); while geographic locations vary, the type of research-related challenges do not. These adversities extend beyond the absence of appropriate bibliographic resources and research equipment to include inadequate office space and the unrealistic provision of time reserved for research-related activities in the work schedule. The result is low rates of participation by scholars from such environments in the scientific mainstream and, in consequence, research on local conditions and phenomena located in ‘off-network’ regions is considerably thinner than that emanating from environments with well-established research and publishing processes (see for instance, Lillis & Curry, 2013; Thompson Reuters, 2012), leading in turn to a glut of

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


output employing data sets, methodologies or analytical perspectives sourced from a narrow range of countries. Local or regional journals may represent the only channel through which local research can become translocal. Their significance transcends the knowledge dissemination function, however. The scholarly publishing experience provides the opportunity to refine research writing skills, to test one’s knowledge against that of an external benchmark (in this case, journal editors and reviewers), and critically reflect in written form on material and topics authors may otherwise only discuss orally during lectures or with colleagues. Such journals are thus affordances for deepening and broadening authors’ knowledge and skill base. In the case of the peer review task, such journals also provide a rare opportunity for scholars to interact critically with a peer’s work. The degree to which the aforementioned benefits accrue, however, is contingent on the quality of interaction between participants in the publication process and the level of accomplishment expected of authors and reviewers by the editorial board. In the context of their pedagogical or enabling role, some journals provide literacy brokering services (language-related or academic) in the course of the text production and publication process. While such brokering frequently occurs prior to article submission through support from individuals with specific linguistic or scholarly skills, various forms of brokering are often provided during the text review and text publication stages from the editor, manuscript reviewers and the language editor or copy editor. The extent to which this input contributes to shaping a text depends on the editor’s willingness, ability or availability to engage with authors, the quality of the peer review process and the skills of the language and copy editors. Journal publishing potentially also provides an opportunity to develop collegial networks through the visibility that publishing affords. For scholars in less privileged environments, participation in networks, whether local or transnational, is an effective strategy to pool or mobilise resources, whether material, rhetorical or intellectual (Lillis & Curry, 2010: 69; Curry & Lillis, 2010). Such collaboration may have a cumulative effect in that it may lead to diversified or deeper collaboration, whether research related or dissemination related (i.e. publishing or conference presentations). This exposure may also result in a diversification of collaborative linkages; that is, initially uniplex ties may branch into multiplex ties as a network expands or thickens. Scholars who do not publish, even at a local or regional level, are effectively excluded from this channel of professional and intellectual development.

Methods Data for this study were compiled from interviews conducted by the second author with two different sections of the editorial board and a reviewer, all of


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whom involved in the manuscript submission, review and pre-publication processes: (1) two managing editors (2) two assistant editors (language and technical) and (3) a reviewer. The editorial board is a multi-ethnic, multilingual group, with teaching and scholarship duties at CI in addition to their position at CISJ. The reviewer is a CI-based scholar with a sound understanding of the local academic work environment. By compiling data from representatives of three professional roles, we were able to introduce a degree of data triangulation. The three groups were interviewed independently and interviewees were not informed of information revealed during interviews with other informants. Contact with the journal editors was initiated in late 2013; interviews lasting between 60 and 90 minutes took place over a period of several months in early 2014 on the CI’s premises and were conducted in English. Two group interview sessions were held with the editorial team representatives, as some were absent during the first meeting. The group-interview arrangement was judged to be more respectful of the participants’ time, as questions did not have to be repeated in separate interviews and the arrangement allowed the interviews to develop in a style closer to a focus group format; answers to some questions emerged in the course of the discussion without needing to be explicitly elicited, and comments from one participant prompted responses from another without being channelled through the interviewer. The interview guide, compiled after an extensive review of the literature related to journal publishing practices, comprised five main topic areas: journal profile; journal reputation and development; manuscript submission procedure; peer review process; and journal quality control. The exact number and phrasing of individual questions from each topic area varied during each interview, depending on the information elicited previously. The interview guides for the three groups were similar with respect to topics which related to manuscript review and pre-publication procedures, but question items were adjusted in order to be appropriate to each of the three groups. The interviewer, of South Asian origin, is a long-time resident of the Arab Peninsula, and is involved in editorial work for an English-medium scientific journal hosted by a different Omani tertiary institution. His familiarity with the sociocultural context and local academic writing and publication practices informed all stages of contact with the CISJ team. Interviews were recorded and later transcribed and the interviewees received the transcription for verification and comments, together with a near-final draft of the results section to ensure their comments had been correctly interpreted. This form of ‘member checking’ (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) led to the clarification of particular points. The interviewees remain anonymous and are referred to by their professional roles (editors, language/technical editors and reviewer). The organisation of this section reflects the three main sections of the interview guide. The findings are provided in the form of a summary of issues raised by the three groups, interspersed with excerpts from the interviews which illustrate points addressed by the editorial team.

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


Journal profile Information regarding the journal’s profile was gathered primarily early in the interviews (see Table 10.1). CISJ has been in operation in its present form for almost a decade and while it has had an English-medium policy since its inception, abstracts are available in Arabic. CI is home to the country’s largest scientific institute and almost all associate and assistant editors of CISJ are from the institute. While around 40% of publications are authored by CI faculty, the number of publications from other Omani institutions and from abroad is rising. As displayed on the journal website, one explicit objective of the journal is to support and provide international exposure to research that would otherwise likely remain locally bound. This objective was met firstly by ensuring that the journal fulfilled the standards required for inclusion in prestigious journal databases, and secondly through the journal’s open access policy. This policy was made possible by funding from the CI and thus obviated dependency on income from subscriptions or article downloads. Open access to content combined with the visibility of the journal in academic databases contribute to heightening the desirability of the journal as a publishing platform for scientists in the region and further afield. Added to this, is the policy of publication at no cost to the author, as many scientific journals charge for manuscript publication, particularly if the manuscript contains graphics. A further feature specific to this journal that editors identified as differentiating it from others was the provision of, sometimes quite considerable, writing support during the revision and pre-publication stages. This is of

Table 10.1 CISJ: Facts and figures Journal profile Foundation year Publication frequency Included in databases

Author provenance (2013 published manuscripts)

Submissions per year Manuscript rejections per year Location of reviewers

Early 2000s Multiple issues annually [Three high profile international databases specific to this discipline], SCOPUS, Google Scholar, DOAJ, Al-Manhal (database for Arabic-language journals) 46% from CI faculty 12% different Omani institutions 8% GCC countries 13% other Middle Eastern countries 21% from elsewhere Over 300 submissions per year. Submission rate rising. Approximately 65% of submissions The Middle East, GCC countries, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, North America


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particular value to less experienced researchers or novice writers. Aware of the need to build research expertise in the immediate Omani context and Arabic-speaking region, editors identified the journal’s mission to work with authors to improve manuscripts with potential as one strategy towards strengthening the domestic research context. The occasional reference to the journal’s editor-in-chief underscored that this was a firmly embedded policy. Kiran:

What purpose does the journal serve that isn’t served by the larger prestigious journals in the field? Editors: […] Going back to what I was saying, the purpose of this journal most importantly is to support research in Oman and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Also we do provide a quite a substantial editing service and for free, right from scratch.

Considerations of reputation, readership and language choice The journal’s high profile, domestically and regionally, and its inclusion in a wide array of prestigious databases (see Table 10.1) owes to a concerted, coherent policy to construct a quality research platform with long-term commitment of funding and expertise. A commitment to achieving excellence implies monitoring the journal’s reception. One objective form of doing this involves periodically assessing the journal’s impact online by undertaking a bibliometric analysis of content usage such as article views and citations. The editors perform this impact analysis periodically to assess the uptake of particular topics and also to gain an understanding of where the journal’s work is cited. Editors were adamant that an important factor in attracting promising work lay in the visibility CISJ was able to afford authors through its presence in databases such as [name of high-profile specialised database omitted] and SCOPUS. Part of the journal’s outreach strategy involves the English-Arabic bilingual provision of abstracts, in reflection of the journal’s location and the provenance of the greater part of its readership and authors. Publishing an Arabic-language scientific journal had never been considered an option, however. The lack of a standardisation in Arabic for academic terms (Laroussi, 2004: 257) was already a challenge at the level of the abstract. The use of English had enabled the journal to expand its readership, attract a greater number of quality manuscripts and specialised reviewers, secure a presence in prestigious databases and benefit from established channels of collaboration between CI and South Asian universities.

From manuscript submission to publication (or rejection) Two journal editors described the submission to publication process in detail and an analysis of the transcript enabled the identification of approximately 17 major steps in the publication of a successful manuscript. These are presented in Table 10.2. The iterative review process involves the author

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


Table 10.2 Procedure from manuscript submission to journal issue publishing Stage

Description of activities


The submitted manuscript is checked by an editor to ensure it is blinded, and the formatting and article structure appropriate. A plagiarism check is done. The manuscript is assigned a number and sent to an associate editor (these are specialists in particular scientific fields at CI). This person decides if it is worth sending it out for review. If not, the manuscript is rejected. Manuscripts are sent out for double-blinded international peer review. Once all reviews for the manuscript are returned, a decision is reached on how to proceed, depending on the reviewers’ ratings. If no decision can be reached, another reviewer is sought. If reviewers’ ratings are low, the manuscript is taken to the editorial team meeting, and the editor in chief decides on whether to reject it. If the manuscript rating is high and there are no comments to be included in a revision, manuscripts may be accepted at this point. If suitable, the manuscript is returned to authors with the reviewers’ comments for revision. The revised manuscript is returned to the associate editor to check the revision and to the same reviewers who took part in the initial review. The editors check the comments from the associate editors and reviewers. If further changes are needed, the manuscript is sent out again; otherwise, it is accepted. The accepted manuscript is prepared to be sent to external copy editors. This involves formatting and adding the authors’ names, affiliations and the submission history. The accepted manuscript is sent to external copy editors. The abstract is translated into Arabic (either by the author or an Arabic nativespeaking associate editor). Author translations are checked by an Arabicspeaking associate editor. Manuscripts returned from external copy editors undergo two or more rounds of editing by one or two assistant editors and the managing editor. If there are any queries to the author, such as missing information or questions regarding unclear content, it is returned to the author for their input. After the author returns the manuscript, a gallery proof edit is prepared using desktop publishing software. The Arabic abstract is inserted. The galley proof is sent to the authors and the original associate editors for approval and comments. The journal assistant editors and managing editor check the entire issue to ensure there are no errors. The issue is presented at an Editorial Board meeting and an Academic Publications board meeting. This may lead to further corrections. The second galley proof is prepared and sent to the authors for their final corrections. The issue is sent to the print shop and a proof is run off. Two or more journal editors go through this proof to ensure the issue is ready for final printing. The approved issue is published online and six weeks later hard copies are distributed.



4 5 6 7

8 9

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17


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Figure 10.1 Preliminary stages of the submission and review process10

revising the manuscript on multiple occasions at different points of the process. Figure 10.1 illustrates a segment of this circular process; space limitations preclude the inclusion of a diagram depicting the full procedure. The journal has a rate of rejection of around 65% (see Table 10.1). While inferior academic work and poor scholarly writing skills were identified as reasons for manuscript rejection, it is clearly important for the journal to be a platform for innovative or novel work. The orientation towards locally relevant research underscored the preference for keeping the journal nested within the regional context. Kiran: What are you looking for in a manuscript? Editors: We actually have this – these guidelines for reviewers. Is the topic of interest and relevance for us – very important. Also is the work new and important? That’s one of the most common reasons for rejection. It’s just not new; it’s been published before therefore there is no reason to publish it now. Unless you can explain something that’s different…maybe the issue itself is not new but you have a new technique for dealing with it or it is the first case in this region or the first case involving an Arab maybe. Important factors when assessing the degree to which a submission meets journal expectations include the level of interest in the topic and the element of novelty of the topic or approach taken. This did not imply that the work

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


was expected to be innovative, but a clear justification for the study was expected by, for instance, clarifying the need for a fresh approach to analysing a particular data. Other salient aspects editors sought to identify in their first appraisal of the manuscript included the appropriate development and organisation of content within each section. Problems with the inadequate development of some sections appeared to be due to a poor understanding of research article writing conventions, such as the requirement for specific sections of an article to fulfil very specific purposes. Organisational problems varied from the very basic level of organising the study into sections to understanding the distinct rhetorical functions of each section. Importance was also placed on providing a clear indication of the applicability of findings. Editors: Relevant discussions – very often we find that discussions are just reiterating the result section and that’s not what it’s for. It should state at the beginning the main results what they found – but then it should go on to compare the work within the international or local regions…with other studies. For instance talk about the limitations of the study. […] And the implications of the findings. It is very important to say what this means […] how this is going to affect people. The lack of appropriate bibliographic resources is perhaps a predictable concern relating to work produced in ‘off-network’ locations. According to the editors, a lack of awareness of the state-of-the-question at the outset of study seriously detracted from the rationale for undertaking the research. Beyond the lack of appropriate bibliographic resources, checking authors used available resources appropriately and steering them towards more appropriate usage required a considerable investment of time by the in-house reviewer. Two issues mentioned were some authors’ lack of control over the sophisticated range of functions served by in-text citations and misleading or inappropriate citations. With respect to the former, the reviewer noted a tendency of authors to over-cite, that is, to provide a reference when actually the phenomenon was well established and did not constitute a contestable claim. Previous research has highlighted that less-experienced academic writers often struggle to discern the subtle functions of in-text citations (see Harwood & Petrić, 2012; Petrić, 2007). Reviewer: there is a tendency for researchers to – they want to make a statement they want to say that … say some phenomenon is prevalent in Oman…okay they just write that down. Then they feel they can’t write that without a reference so they go and look up an arbitrary reference and they slap it in…


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Aware that a reference was required, an author might provide a misleading reference (i.e. the cited work did not in fact support the point being made), or refer to a text that was not actually an academic study and thus did not provide sufficiently weighty support. While the use of inappropriate texts might signal lack of access to suitable bibliographic resources, the use of misleading references might reflect the author’s expectation of a more superficial review process. Reviewer: … and on a couple of occasions … because I want to keep abreast with the literature, I find […] that people are often referencing incorrectly. That’s the kind of thing that happens not only in this journal but everywhere. So I tend to look at that … also where a person said something like … ‘where this has happened then generally this is the response’ and they give a single reference … now that’s got to be a big literature review then, if the word ‘generally’ is used and so I looked it up and it was from a Letter to the Editor where they’ve just mentioned a small experiment … you can’t quote that, you can’t cite that as ‘generally this happens’. Alternatively, the more junior colleague of a co-authored work may have been tasked with the literature review, while the first author assumed responsibility for the actual data collection and analysis. The lower priority assigned to the development of a solid literature review then detracted from the quality of the discussion section. Insufficient understanding of the discursive functions of each section and, in this case, how the sections are interrelated and even interdependent, may weaken the manuscript considerably. Reviewer: I get the feeling that when people are writing scientific articles they concentrate on the methodology and the results and then the lit review just gets slapped in and if there’s two authors then it’s usually the junior author that just gets told … you know … read up and find some references on this. The quality of a manuscript was also measured on its methodological soundness. The ability to use appropriate statistical tests and adequate technical expertise to conduct quantitative research appeared to be lacking in many submissions. The editors viewed this as an opportunity for networking to build the necessary skill set or knowledge base to undertake a given study. In this sense, editors strongly encouraged prospective authors to carefully consider whether the study design would benefit from co-authorship. This concern elicited detailed commentary from three editors during the interview. Kiran:

Is it something to do with the statistical methods used? The wrong approach being used? Or the wrong analysis?

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


Editors: What some studies may need is to include someone who is good at statistics as co-author, who can do the analysis. I learned that while I can do a study and collect data, I would not be able to do the actual analysis of the data and to find any kind of significance just…I don’t have the necessary knowledge. So why do you have a co-author; get someone else [with knowledge of statistics]. They contribute significantly so they can be considered a co-author as well. Manuscript rejection was not a decision taken lightly. The editorial board’s circumspect approach to manuscript rejection was echoed by the reviewer. The first opportunity for manuscript rejection occurred upon initial submission and was a decision taken by the editorial board after careful review. As only a selection of articles entered the review cycle, the manuscript rejection rate fell at this second stage. Rejection notifications were usually accompanied (where possible) by detailed reviewer notes and, where appropriate, a suggestion to convert the reviewed article into an alternative, and briefer, form of publication. Reviewer: […] I also want to take the approach that, as far as possible I believe that every piece of research can be salvaged somehow so that even if it is to be rejected maybe it can be put in a shorter form maybe it can be a Letter to the Editor or something like that but sometimes, there is actually so much wrong with it that I mean it might have been…the entire design of the experiment might have been so wrong so there’s nothing that you can do.

Maintaining ethical standards in research and publishing Inadequate knowledge of how to author a study in English may lead to ethical issues surrounding authorship. Editors pointed to the problematic re-use or recycling of sentences or text chunks from related studies. As most authors of submitted manuscripts were not first language users of English, the editors conceded that such textual borrowing practices could be a coping strategy for some. Transgressive textual borrowing could also originate in lack of awareness of plagiarism and the ease with which this can be detected. A check of authorship is conducted upon receiving a manuscript using the text-matching software Turnitin. Approximately 50 articles a year (14%) are rejected on the grounds of plagiarism concerns. The journal considers plagiarism a serious problem due to its frequency and the extent to which texts may be plagiarised. In reflection of the particularly sensitive nature of scientific research, a statement confirming ethical approval of the study is required. Transparency in the steps taken to enable the study’s reproducibility was considered imperative.


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Editors: It’s very important that it’s been approved…for an original study…by an ethics committee. They need to have the ethical approval for the study. We don’t need to see the approval but they need to state that they have it and it’s their responsibility to ensure that they actually have the approval.

Peer review process Interview questions in this section inquired into the role played by the peer review procedure in maintaining journal quality. This was an unpredictable factor in journal management, however, as the journal has only limited control over the reviewers’ approach to the task. The detailed coverage of review criteria and expectations provided in the Reviewers’ Guidelines on the journal website gave editors a degree of leverage in cases where reviewers did not appear to approach the task appropriately. By the same token, the criteria used to evaluate manuscripts were also transparent. Editors estimated that they contacted annually around 750 reviewers. While around a third of reviewers are based in Oman, the reviewer database included people located in over 50 different countries. As a circular, iterative process involving multiple participants, the peer review procedure is logistically complex, owing to both the quantity of reviews required for the manuscripts in any one journal issue, and also the multifarious geographical locations and varied disciplinary expertise. According to the editors, the ease with which reviewers can be found depends on the extent of previous publications on the topic. For more specialised or innovative topics, reviewers can be harder to locate and bibliographic databases may be consulted. Editors considered that the quality of reviews received was overall high, despite some fluctuation in competence and commitment. Reviewers who could deliver a detailed, informed report with practical suggestions for improvement or well-grounded reasons for rejection were sought after. As perhaps is the case with any journal, however, reviewers might accept an invitation to review without actually being prepared to dedicate the effort required to the specialised task. Kiran:

Are you satisfied with the quantity and the quality of feedback reviewers give? Editors: I would say on the whole yes. We have a lot of reviewers who are extremely good. Very logical, very fair. They give detailed feedback that is really useful for us to give for revision. However there is always the other side of the coin we also have reviewers who just haven’t read our guidelines or don’t understand what we’re looking for. Or they might say ‘accept after revision’ but give no comments or suggestions on how the author could improve. It can be very frustrating if you get three reviews like that; you don’t know what to tell the author.

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


In reflection of editorial policy, for each manuscript sent for peer review, a portion of those invited to review are affiliated to Omani institutions. As the editors explained, the policy was directed towards providing training opportunities to local researchers through exposure to, and critical engagement with, publishable research. This experience was expected to benefit the local reviewers’ own research writing skills as well as offer privileged insight into current research projects pursued elsewhere. Editors: The more they review the better they become when they write their own research. And they also see what journals are looking for and they see what the other reviewers are saying and I think, in general, it’s part of learning and growing as a researcher and a scientist. Comments from the reviewer evidenced the positive outcome of the journal’s capacity-building orientation. Positioned in an ‘off-network’ location, the reviewer process afforded locally based scholars the opportunity to experience other research environments vicariously and was clearly an important factor in maintaining or even building one’s professional expertise. Kiran:

How do you find the reviewing task? Do you find it useful? Do you learn from it? Reviewer: Yes, I…okay, one of the reasons I am happy to review journal articles is that I keep up to date with some of the latest stuff before they are published. So I am generally very happy to do reviewing. I do learn a lot in content and in methods because you know methodologies change and what becomes accepted can go out of date as new standards come in and that helps me with my own research also because I see the way things are being done […] I am able to see my own articles as a reviewer…how would a reviewer look at this? Editors underscored, however, that the journal sought expertise on specific topics internationally, and cast a wide net to ensure an adequate number of reviewers for any one study. This involved searching bibliographic databases for relatively recent publications on the subject area in respected journals and contacting the respective authors. Editors: Not just from Oman, we have some really good reviewers from all over the world. […] Mostly it is sent to international reviewers because it all depends on who had published on this subject before. That’s why we go to [name of high-profile specialised database omitted], that’s why we go to SCOPUS,


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Science direct and we search for this particular topic. […] Because we are not so well known, every article generally we invite an average of 12–14 reviewers. In the end that means maybe 3 or 4 reviews only. In alignment with the journal’s broader quality control mechanisms, editors sought to ensure that reviewers were suitably positioned to evaluate current research. Specialist expertise, in their view, was a product with a ‘use-by date’, a ‘perishable item’ that potentially ages relatively rapidly if the individual is not demonstrably abreast of current developments. In the fastmoving sphere of research in this discipline, out-datedness implied an obvious risk-factor. Editors: And we also make sure that they have published within the last four years. So it’s not just this really famous author wrote about it twenty years ago; we can’t invite him to review now! They have to be up to date; they have written on it within the last four years so they really know what they’re talking about. The journal’s policy of working with authors to improve manuscripts with potential is reflected in the multiple review rounds to which manuscripts are subjected, and the detailed, author-helpful comments expected from reviewers. This same commitment to the process of improving the manuscript is expected of authors, however. As can be seen from Step 5 in Table 10.2, the review process entails mechanisms whereby journal editors can ensure authors respond adequately to the feedback they receive, and Step 9 where a degree of quality control is exercised over the author’s text. The multiple layers of work required on a manuscript, extending beyond external review and editing to clarifying issues related to scientific phenomena or terminology, is not always recognised by authors. Editors: I think some authors think that once it is accepted their job is done and obviously that’s not the case. It’s all very well that it’s accepted but if you [the author] ever want it to be published, you kind of need to work with us as we get it ready for publication.

Discussion This study has documented how an English-language journal located in a relatively ‘young’ research environment can become an internationally respected, competitive forum for scientific research. Unlike other studies which have examined journal publication practices in contexts where the

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


country’s official language is the dominant language at university and in communication between team members during journal stages of production (e.g. Marušić et al., 2004; Marušić & Marušić, 1999, 2001; Muresan & PérezLlantada, 2014; Petrić, 2014), CISJ is hosted by an English-medium institute and is managed by a multilingual, multi-ethnic editorial board. In keeping with other professional contexts in Oman, the use of English facilitates communication between members of an ethnically diverse workforce, and enables collaboration with an international pool of experts and the consultation of diverse, authoritative information sources during the manuscript reviewing and editing process. While previous studies have framed the use of English in academic publishing as an example of domain loss for local languages, participants in this study viewed the use of English as an opportunity to benefit from a broad array of authoritative information sources. CISJ engages a variety of participants and expertise in both the language and scientific brokering process of a single manuscript and throughout the different stages of review and production draws on expertise from around the globe, proficient to varying degrees in English. This engagement ensures an effective quality control over manuscripts accepted for publication. In contrast, publishing manuscripts in Arabic would limit the disciplinary conversation to a very specific readership. For high-stakes disciplines such as this scientific field, this presents obvious repercussions. A vital purpose of a scientific journal (whether a top-tier or third-tier publication) is to inform practitioners of scientific work, and research findings thus need to have undergone rigorous review by subjectmatter experts to ensure readers can have confidence in the information presented. As elucidated by the editors in this study, identifying appropriate reviewers for specialised scientific topics can be challenging, even when attempting to source potential candidates from large international databases (such as described in Thompson Reuters, n.d.). In contradiction to the claim by Salager-Meyer (2015: 27), that peripheral journal editors are ‘do not generally adhere to international guidelines regarding authorship policies’ due, allegedly, to unfamiliarity with editorial conventions, the CISJ editorial board viewed adherence to (and enforcement of) international research and publishing ethical standards as a cardinal factor in building the journal’s reputation. Analogous to the experience of CMJ (e.g. Marušić & Marušić, 2005), the journal’s English-medium publication policy, in concert with the journal’s commitment to building local research expertise, provides local scholars with the opportunity to engage with an international network of reviewers, whilst articles authored by local scholars benefit from broad exposure by virtue of the inclusion of the journal in prestigious journal databases and through the journal’s open-access policy. The impact of such exposure is felt perhaps most keenly at a regional level, as a significant number of the journal’s collaborators (in terms of authors, reviewers and readers) are located in


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South Asia, a region with important socioeconomic and political historical ties to Oman. The journal’s partially bilingual policy involving the provision of abstracts in Arabic and English enables an alternative route for the dissemination of findings and strengthens linkages to practitioners in the Arabicspeaking region. The policy also presents a corpus building opportunity, as an abstract, notwithstanding its limitations, is a context for which scientific terms must be identified and employed with consistency. This is perhaps of particular consequence in the case of a pluricentric language such as Arabic with considerable dialectal differences and a lack of standardisation of specialised terminology to express evolving scientific phenomena and procedures (Laroussi, 2004). This partial bilingual policy may be appropriate in other contexts where the national language has been perceived to have undergone ‘domain loss’ (Berg et al., 2001; Calaresu, 2011; Ljosland, 2007). While Salager-Meyer (2015) advocates ‘up-grading’ peripheral journals to international status as strategy to provide greater visibility to research produced in peripheral contexts, she concomitantly identifies the lack of professionalism in journal management (in particular, editorial boards) as an impediment. Analogously, this study has argued that journal management and publication procedures play a pivotal role in shaping the journal’s quality, domestic and international reception and that these, rather than geographical location determine to a greater extent the degree to which research production may be labelled as heralding from ‘peripheral’ or ‘centric’ locations. As the editorial practice of CMJ has also demonstrated, healthy journal management practices can raise journal standards to the levels required for elite journal indexing and abstracting databases (Marušić & Marušić, 1999, 2001). Similarly, the over-arching goal of establishing a reputable international academic journal can also be coherent with the objective of enhancing the research culture at local institutions and, through well-designed journal management practices, contribute to up-skilling locally based academics. With such experience, local academics may be better prepared to target higher-stakes international publication outlets. It should be acknowledged, however, that the achievements of this journal (similar to the case of CMJ) were facilitated by the supportive posture of the hosting institution. As argued by Salager-Meyer (2014), universities and local professional associations must also assume some responsibility for strengthening local academic research culture. As previously advocated by Marušić and Marušić (1999, 2001), successful models of small journal management in less-privileged contexts are vital to inform practice in similar settings where locally based academics (and journals) struggle for recognition by the scientific mainstream. The increased transparency of prestigious journal management practices in recent years (see Thompson Reuters, n.d., 2012) can usefully inform the practice of small journal management in under-resourced contexts, while acknowledging that

A Case Study of Schol arly Jour nal Publishing in Oman


the evolution of small local journals may differ from that of journals hosted by resource-rich institutions. The is a bottom-up developmental approach advocated here is the embodiment of the adage ‘think globally’ with a view to ‘acting locally’ by implementing best practice (Marušić & Marušić, 2001) in a manner that serves the double objectives of capacity building and scientific advancement. It is an approach which merits consideration in other contexts.

Notes (1) The dramatic shift from widespread illiteracy to almost universal literacy almost within a generation is illustrated by a comparison of literacy rates according to age group. The following are 2010 data from Oman: 97.7% (15 to 24 years), 86.9% (above 15) and 23.3% (above 65) (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, country profile, Oman). (2) This policy seeks to incentivise the employment of nationals through a combination of labour market regulations and professional training (see Al-Hamdi et al., 2007: 103). (3) This is a pseudonym. In agreement with the journal editors, we do not reveal the name of the journal or the host institution. To maintain anonymity, we refer to this as a ‘scientific journal’ rather than identify the specific discipline. (4) Founded in 2005, the Research Council is tasked with monitoring and funding or research on topics of national interest, and is the originator of the country’s National Research Strategy. This strategy has three primary goals: to build research capacity, support the development of a research environment, and disseminate research; these goals are supported by project funding and financial incentives for project collaborators administered by TRC. (5) Local journals are evident in the fields of science and technology, and health in particular. These are two areas of national interest, as evidenced by the number of research projects funded by TRC since 2009 in the categories ‘Energy and industry’ and ‘Health and social services’ (TRC, Funded projects), and in the number of published studies from Oman in the fields of the hard sciences, engineering and health over the last decade (SCImago, n.d.). (6) In 2011, Oman had an estimated 478 researchers per million inhabitants (160 employed full-time), the majority of whom employed in higher education (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Country profile, Oman). (7) This study employs data derived from the academic journal and university ranking database SCImago. Using data from SCOPUS SCImago provides an alternative (and often somewhat different) source of information on journal impact factors from Thomson’s Web of Science and is more transparent with regard to the calculation of rankings (Butler, 2008). (8) In resonance with TRC, CISJ’s officials aims (as expressed on the journal website) include the goal of being an internationally recognised scientific publication, to encourage scientific research and publication in Oman, the Peninsula and elsewhere and to foster awareness of recent developments in scientific research in Oman and elsewhere. While CISJ is not the sole academic journal hosted at this tertiary institute, it is perhaps the most prominent. (9) Unlike previous studies which have documented the shift from the local language to English (e.g. Calaresu, 2011), CISJ has been an English-medium publication since its inception. (10) This document was provided to the authors by the journal editors with permission to reproduce it in this study.


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abbreviations 75, 76, 80, 96 abstract and indexing databases (e.g. SCOPUS) 6, 220, 225, 226, 233–237 Abu Dhabi 14, 17, 39–58, 87–115, 139–160, 172, 178, 182 Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) 35, 91, 140, 145, 146, 178 Aden 5, 61, 63, 73, 78 advertising xi, 59–83 Ajami 19–21, 30, 31 Ajman 182 Allah lexicon 107 Arabic dialects (see also Arabizi) 2, 13–38, 60, 146, 148, 236, Arabic Language Charter 35 Arabic-medium instruction (AMI) 18, 39–58, 62, 119, 139–160, 177, 178 Arabizi (see also Arabic dialects) 13–38, 107

co-authorship 221, 230, 231 code-switching (code-mixing) 13–38, 62, 63, 66, 107, 188, codification 65 commercial signs 59–83, 179 Country of Origin (COO) 68–70 Critical Pedagogy 6, 199–219 cultural references 60, 65, 68–70, 79, 80, 166, 167 domestic workers 4, 13–38, 50, 51, 91, 62, 128, 184, 188, 214 Dubai 14, 17, 24, 31, 41, 43, 50, 54, 70, 91, 94, 143, 147, 162, 178, 182 diglossia 14, 24, 42, 54, 146 East Africa 2, 61, 62, 65, 78 editors (journal) 220–239 Education City (Qatar) 117, 119, 120 educational attainment (female) 4, 41, 121, 130, 153, 182, 204 Emirati Arabic (see Arabic Dialects) Emiratisation 91 English-medium instruction (EMI) 14, 18, 26–32, 39–58, 116–134, 139–155, 162, 163, 165, 168, 172, 176–191, 210, 220, 235 Englishisation 87–115, 177, 185 ethics (research) 231, 232, 235 Ethiopia 32, 62 Ethnography of Literacy 16 exams (international English language: TOEFL, IELTS etc.) 5, 94, 145, 161–175, 182, 187 expatriate workers (see also migrants) 13–38, 49, 50, 53, 55, 60–65, 81, 89–94, 106, 107, 116, 117, 121, 146, 179, 180, 202, 220

Balochi 19, 20 Bedouins (see also Tribe) 15, 42, 52, 89 Bangladesh (and Bengali) xi, 166 bibliographic resources 222–239 biliteracy 5, 13–38, 42, 151–153 Bollywood 4 Bourdieu 15, 33 branch campuses (foreign university) 117, 119, 120, 141, 143 brand advertising 60, 67, 70, 72, 80, 119, 177, 179 Britain 5, 21, 40, 61, 63, 70, 78, 88, 89, 90, 104, 116, 167, 180 capital (social, linguistic) 13–38, 152, 200 Classical Arabic 33 cleft habitus (Bourdieu) 26, 28, 34 clipping (lexical) 69 Chinese 13, 66, 69, 181 citations (author) 209, 210, 215, 226, 229, 230 240

Inde x

family 13–38, 47, 50, 52, 61, 97, 103, 122–134, 153, 177, 181, 208, 209 Farsi (Persian) 14, 19, 20, 21, 31, 39–56 field (Bourdieu) 15–17 French 4, 66, 70, 141 gender 48, 52, 151, 153, 177, 182, 203, 204, 208, 209, 212 gerund 74, 77 Globalisation 35, 43, 88, 89, 93, 117, 118, 120, 132, 133, 152, 163, 170, 185, 190, 191, 202 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 2, 7, 88, 91, 92, 177, 179, 181, 188, 190, 220, 225 habitus (Bourdieu) 15, 26, 28 heritage (or home) language 4, 14, 15, 25, 33, 34, 53 heterogeneity (societal) 3, 40, 60 heteroglossia 13–38 Hindi (and other languages of the Indian subcontinent) 39–55, 61, 66 hybrid languages/hybridization 46, 49, 51, 54, 65, 80, 88, 89, 107 179 identity 3, 5, 24, 25, 27, 33, 34, 42, 87–134, 140, 144, 150, 151, 164, 179–181, 188, 202, 205 immersion education 139–159 indexicality 15–30, 80 indigenous languages 35, 60, 119 India 4, 21, 61, 70, 89, 90, 104, 116, 179, 182 Iran 14, 19, 21, 27, 31, 49, 49, 50, 65, 116, 164 Islam 32, 40, 41, 62, 70, 97, 103, 104, 107, 116–118, 122–127, 132, 133, 140, 144, 167, 169, 167, 176–184, 190, 191, 202–204, 211–213, 217, 220 Japanese 13, 69, 70, 77, 89, 94, 54, 185 Korean (or South Korea) 13, 46, 47, 51–55, 94, 154 Kuwait 7, 70, 88, 145, 146, 169, 177–179, 181, 190 language choice 16, 18, 35, 47, 59, 60, 63, 65, 66, 72, 79, 118, 132, 191, 226 language ideology 15, 16, 24, 33, 34, 176


language loss (Arabic) 99, 100, 102, 119, 146, 178, 235, 236 language policy 24, 29, 30–35, 63, 133, 139–159, 178, 187, 225, 235 lingua franca xi, 5, 26, 32, 34, 40, 43, 47, 53, 60, 62, 80, 91, 116, 141, 152, 162, 176, 179, 190 linguistic ethnography 16 linguistic predispositions 15, 16, 18, 28, 33–35 linguistic landscapes 59, 60, 81 literacy 1, 2, 5, 14–18, 21–24, 27, 34, 35, 42, 59, 61, 62, 87, 88, 91, 117, 146, 147, 150–154, 162–168, 178, 210, 220, 223, 237 literacy brokering 223, 235 literature review 230 loan words 75, 189 manuscript acceptance and rejection 221, 225, 226–229, 231, 232, 235 manuscript submission 222, 223–228, 230, 231 migrants 2–7, 13, 50, 62, 81, 179 minorities 2–7, 36, 42, 116, 190 Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) 14, 18, 24, 27–29, 32, 34, 35, 43 monolingual (monolingualism) 14, 24, 29, 34, 43, 63, 64, 73, 105, 144, 199 motivation (intrinsic/extrinsic) 100, 106, 122–124, 129, 146, 203, 215 marriage 3, 18, 30, 31, 51, 216 multilingualism 1, 3, 4, 13–36, 39–50, 59, 147, 199, 205, 206, 211, 212, 215, 224, 235 multinational companies 63, 70, 71 Muscat 59–81 nationals (citizens) 1, 3–5, 7, 13, 31, 41, 121, 126, 124, 162, 169, 177, 179, 181, 182, 190, 220 native speaker/non-native speaker 27, 32, 104, 105, 148, 152, 181, 205, 207, 211, 212, 215 networks (social, research) 6, 7, 17, 18, 26, 27, 31, 35, 45, 79, 223, 230, 235 New Literacy Studies 161, 163, 164 New Schools Model (Abu Dhabi) 35 non-native speakers (see native speakers) noun phrase 73, 79, 80


L anguage, Ident it y and Educat ion on the Arabian Peninsul a

Oman (Sultanate of) xi, 1, 2, 4, 7, 50, 59–81, 88, 146, 148, 153, 177, 179, 204, 220–237 Omanisation 81, 120 Ottoman Empire (see also Turkey) 61 Pakistan (Pakistani) 2, 49, 116, 179, 182 Pashto 43 peer review 223, 224, 227, 232–234 periphery (versus centre) research contexts 47, 48, 54, 55, 199, 222 Persian (see Farsi) petroleum sector 1, 21, 40–42, 52, 62, 89, 90, 116–118, 179, 202 phenomenology 116–133 plagiarism 207, 209, 210, 227, 231 primary school (elementary school) 27, 62, 100, 140, 145, 151 population growth 41, 116 post-method ELT pedagogy 199–217 pre-service teachers 39–55 Qatar 5–7, 69, 70, 88, 92, 116–134, 142, 144, 145, 153, 177, 179, 186, 190 Qatarisation 126, 127 religion (see Islam) renaissance (nahdah) 62, 148 Russian 4, 66, 165 Sana’a 59–81 Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of) 7, 50, 62, 69, 70, 88, 89, 94, 100, 107, 126, 139, 140, 145, 147, 153, 177, 179, 181, 199–217

secondary school (high school) 4, 27, 125, 127, 142, 145, 148, 151, 168, 169, 170, 172, 206, 208 semantic shift 76–79 Sharjah 40, 41, 182 Sheihka Mouza (Her Royal Highness) 30, 132 sign-writing 63–64 slogans (advertising) 60, 69–71, 179 socioeconomic indicators 1, 2 Sohar 62 Sultan Qaboos (His Royal Highness) 2, 61, 62, 81 Swahili 21 Tagalog (Filipino) 13, 19, 20, 32, 43, 51, 55, textbooks 107, 117, 139, 148, 169, 211, Theory of Practice (Bourdieu) 15 trade routes (merchants) 40, 54, 78 transliteration (Arabic-English) xi, 65, 66, 75 tribes/tribal (see also Bedouin) 42, 50, 62, 81, 116 Trucial States 21, 90, 169 Turkey (see also Ottoman Empire) 69, 89 unemployment 4, 62 United Arab Emirates (UAE) 13–38, 39–57, 139–159, 161–175, 176–195 Westernisation 117, 120, 129, 140, 169, 177, 181, 185, 189, 202 Yemen 1, 2, 4–6, 50, 59–83, 182 Zanzibar (see also East Africa) 65, 81