Teaching and Learning Arabic Variation Through Vocabulary
Date: 2 January 2018
University of Exeter
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies
The field of Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) has seen in recent decades a growing interest in portraying and teaching one of the most salient and intrinsic features of Arabic: language variation. This thesis takes a position in contrast to approaches that portray the two varieties as being distinct and well-defined dichotomic ...
The field of Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) has seen in recent decades a growing interest in portraying and teaching one of the most salient and intrinsic features of Arabic: language variation. This thesis takes a position in contrast to approaches that portray the two varieties as being distinct and well-defined dichotomic units, in favour of an approach that interprets them as two heterogeneous language varieties within one singular linguistic system. The two language varieties are embodied by Standard and Colloquial Arabic and it is argued here for the teaching of both varieties to students of Arabic as a foreign language. In this light, this thesis sets out to investigate the development of two language skills, vocabulary knowledge and language awareness, in a diglossic learning environment. Moreover, it explores the attitudes and perceptions of the students towards Arabic variation. Two experimental methods based on focus-on-form instruction are used in this research to teach Colloquial Arabic to students of Arabic as a foreign language at higher-education level, and the empirical research is conducted within a semi-embedded research design in which qualitative and quantitative data are collected. Students from three universities participate in this research: the Universities of Exeter, Genoa and Milan. This allows for the comparison of results from students of different mother tongues. The main research question that this thesis sets out to answer is: does focus-on-form instruction lead to vocabulary development in two diglossic varieties, namely Standard and Colloquial Arabic, more effectively when it focuses on the two varieties separately or when it links their forms? Two sub-questions investigate which of the two methods of focus-on-form instruction lead more efficiently to the development of language awareness, and the impact they have on students’ attitudes towards Arabic variation. The last sub-question asks to what extent the development of the diglossic language skills and attitudes is a consequence of the method of instruction received. The results of this study suggest that the answer lies in focusing predominantly on one variety at a time with additional consolidation exercises that compare the forms of the two varieties. The main contributions of this thesis are both theoretical, to the literature of TAFL, and empirical, regarding the development of the language skills and attitudes measured.
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