Published 28th June 2018

EFL materials for Middle Eastern students

The Middle East is fast becoming a hub for teaching English as a Foreign Language. More and more EFL teachers are making their way to Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait to teach English in schools, universities and technical colleges. As with any EFL destination, there are numerous considerations that need to be taken into account when teaching. These are environmental, social and cultural. Though you may have already realised you will need to bear these in mind, it is important to appreciate these in terms of EFL materials for  Middle Eastern students.

If you are not aware of the cultural considerations of teaching in the Middle East, you will need to be mindful of a few issues. Firstly, dress codes are generally much stricter than you are used to. This is especially true of women, who need to cover up – just how much depends on which country you are in. Then, social behaviours may be different too. You may not be allowed to drink alcohol in public and during Ramadan you won’t be allowed to eat in public during the day. In relationships, you may not be allowed to show public displays of affection and there may be restrictions on the kinds of relationships allowed. The exact laws and practices will differ from country to country but these are general guidelines.

How are Middle Eastern EFL classrooms different?

Of course this will affect your behaviour while in a Middle Eastern country. However, hopefully you realise this should be both inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, certain topics are no-go areas with regard to EFL materials for Middle Eastern students. Politics, religion, alcohol and relationships should not be discussed in the classroom. Popular culture may be quite different from what you consider popular culture and certain celebrities may be unknown to your students. This is especially true for some countries where there aren’t cinemas or Western films.

In terms of your materials you need to be careful too. Pictures cannot show men or women in revealing dress – swimsuits or short dresses, for example. Pictures or videos cannot show two people kissing, holding hands or drinking alcohol. You may think this is easy to avoid but if you examine any material you find online you’ll be surprised how much of it is unacceptable for Middle Eastern classrooms.

How to ensure your EFL materials  for Middle Eastern students are apppropriate

Since the last thing you want to do is insult or offend your students or colleagues, it is necessary to check your materials carefully before you use them in class. Here are a few simple ways you can do this.

  • Watch all videos from start to finish. You may need to edit a video to leave out a certain part or stop a video before the end.
  • Check any image carefully, even if it’s from a coursebook. You may need to copy a page and cut out the offending image before using it.
  • Read through all exercises. You may need to cut out a sample sentence or an answer which wouldn’t make sense to your students.
  • If possible, find a coursebook or resource book that is aimed at Middle Eastern audiences. This will save you a lot of time!