Learning English as a Fourth Language: The Case of the Arab Pupils in Israel

| October 28, 2009
Learning English as a Fourth Language: The Case of the Arab Pupils in Israel
This study examines the function of the affective factors in learning English as a Foreign Language among the Arab pupils in Israel (APIs). For these pupils, English, which is the gateway to academic life, is considered a fourth language, due to the diglossic nature of Arabic itself, their L1, and Hebrew, the State language. The research profiles the Interlanguage of these pupils by exploring the lingual, cultural and socio-political factors. The dynamic interplay among the affective factors and the learners was revealed through a set of targeted materials and questionnaires.

The research was conducted at two levels; firstly, a longitudinal study, which accompanied 21 participants from the same grade for two and a half years in their learning of the language, secondly, it included a cross-sectional study, which focused on 280 learners who represented the Arab pupils population living in Arab-only villages and cities, mixed Jewish-Arab cities and the Bedouin population in the South of the country. Thus, the effect of Hebrew, as one of the affective factors, could also be examined.

The data collected in the longitudinal study covered a variety of texts, and the analysis of the learners Interlanguage included both deviant and correct structures and forms, thus resulting in an appreciation of both the process and the product of language learning. Triangulation was used in the form of additional questionnaires and personal interviews with the participants. The data were analysed according to Corder s paradigm, using a computer program that was specially developed for the research.

The cross-sectional study, in addition to the lingual factors, tested for social, political and cultural factors that affect the learning process of the APIs. The data collected were subjected to descriptive analysis which revealed various correlations between the learners demographic, cultural, social and political backgrounds and their knowledge of English.

The results of both studies reflect a pattern that characterises the APIs Interlanguage as being unique for this group. It is by shedding light on this group that the contribution to knowledge becomes apparent; whether at the level of learning English as a fourth language in a diglossic society, living a turbulent social, economic and political life, or by analysing their Interlanguage and identifying patterns that characterise their deviant and correct language usage. The pedagogical outcome of this research, and the body of information produced in the corpus of language collected throughout the study can serve language researchers, educational policy makers, text-book authors, teachers and students in their quest for better understanding the process of learning and teaching English as a Foreign Language.


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Category: Thesis