3 Common Problems for Arabic Learners of English
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Even though learning English can be problematic for speakers of any first language, some languages offer some respite due to the similarity between the two languages. With these languages, it is possible to understand a few words or have good pronunciation because there are connections between the language and English. With other languages, there are no similarities between the two languages. Arabic is one such language. Arabic is one of the Central Semitic languages, along with Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician, while English is an Indo-European language. In this piece we will look at problems for arabic learners of English.
Arabic is spoken as an official language in 25 countries and a national language in six more countries. With the fact that there are over 300 million Arabic speakers in the world and with English becoming more and more popular to learn, there is a good chance that at some point in your teaching career you will find yourself teaching Arabic speakers. Of course you would expect to teach Arabic learners in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey and Morocco, but you can also expect to teach Arabic learners in the U.K., the U.S., South Africa, Australia and many European countries.
3 Common Problems for Arabic Learners of English
If you have no familiarity with and no understanding of Arabic, it might seem overwhelming to teach students who speak the language. But we should all know by now that you don’t need to be able to speak the language of your learners in order to be able to teach them English. However, it’s always helpful to get a few tips to help us out, so here they are: three common problems for Arabic learners of English.
Read more: Do I Need to Know the Language to Teach English as a Foreign Language?
First of all, the alphabet. English uses the Latin alphabet and is written (and read) from left to right. Arabic uses Arabic script and is written right to left. It doesn’t differentiate between upper- and lower-case letters and does not adhere to punctuation rules as much as English does – for example, there are no capital letters in Arabic.
In terms of spelling, Arabic spelling is directly linked to its pronunciation. In other words, if you can read Arabic you should, for the most part, know how to pronounce the words. English, on the other hand, is not phonetic at all, as we can see from the different pronunciations of the letter –o in hot and month.
For Arabic speakers, then, learning English is not just learning new words but learning to read and write all over again.
How can you help?
Even if you are teaching adult learners, you will need to spend time focussing on letter formation, handwriting and reading. This can be a delicate balance between teaching adults and teaching literacy so if you are in this position, make sure you are prepared. Teaching adults to read and write is not the same as teaching children to read and write! If you have a class of mixed nationalities, bear in mind that your Arabic learners may need more time for reading or writing.
In terms of grammar, there are numerous constructions in English which don’t exist in Arabic. The most important of these is the verb to be. It exists in Arabic but is used far less frequently than in English, with the result that many Arabic speakers will often leave it out in their language production. This is the same with the auxiliary do, as well as modal verbs and the indefinite article. This can result in sentences like I going home; He happy; and You like pizza?
Similarly, Arabic students will have problems with the present perfect tense in English because there is no distinction between actions completed in the past and those completed in the past with a connection with the present, which is what the present perfect does. Because of this, Arabic learners will use the past simple tense in place of the present perfect, for example I finished. Can you check?
Read more: An Explanation of the Present Perfect
In Arabic, adjectives come after the noun they qualify, whereas in English they come before the noun. This will lead to Arabic learners having problems with word order and saying, for example, the pen red rather than the red pen.
In Arabic, there is no indefinite article. What’s more, the definite article in Arabic is not utilised the same as the definite article in English. This will lead to issues when it comes to articles, such as I like the chocolate or You have pen?
How can you help?
Because the verb to be and the auxiliary do are problematic, this is a problem which needs to be dealt with at a very early stage. There’s not much you can say in English without the verb to be! So when you are teaching Beginner students, make sure you spend time on the foundations of English grammar before moving on.
If you listen to somebody speaking Arabic you will realise how different the sounds are to those we use in English. English has about three times as many vowel sounds as Arabic, which makes English vowel sounds problematic for Arabic learners. This is especially noticeable when it comes to differences between long and short sounds, for example as in ship and sheep. It is also a problem when it comes to differentiating words with short vowel sounds, for example pot, pet and pat.
There are problems with other sounds which don’t exist in Arabic. For example, there is no /p/ and /v/ sound in Arabic so Arabic speakers will often pronounce these sounds as /b/ and /f/ respectively. Similarly, Arabic speakers may also confuse /t/ and /d/.
Also English has more consonant clusters than Arabic does. As a result, this causes problems with pronunciation. For example, Arabic does not have three-segment initial consonant clusters like spr, skr, str, and spl. Arabic speakers often insert a short vowel sound to help them say the sound. So spring may become sipring.
Such consonant clusters are also common at the end of a word in English, which is not in Arabic. Again Arabic speakers will add in another sound. For example months becomes monthiz.
In terms of stress, Arabic is a stress-timed language, which means its stress patterns are predictable. English is a syllable-timed language which means its stress patterns change according the syllables of words. Because of this Arabic learners may struggle to pronounce word or sentence stress correctly.
How can you help?
With the pronunciation of individual sounds, make sure you spend time practising the shape and movement of the mouth, teeth, tongue and nose when pronouncing a sound. This will help your learners understand the sound better. Minimal pair activities are a great tool to help with learning to differentiate sounds.
Read more: 3 Activities to Help Your Students with Pronunciation
As you can see, there are various difficulties Arabic learners may have learning English because of their first language. When dealing with learners of English, it is important to make yourself as familiar as possible with their first language. Doing this will help you anticipate particular problems they may have learning English and so help you prepare lessons which will take this into account.Of course, you also need to be aware of any challenges your learners may face which is not related to their language, but to their culture and your culture. If your culture or the culture of the classroom is very different to that of your Arabic students, that is also something you need to bear in mind and deal with.
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We’ll only market other organisations’ products and services if you have said it is OK for us to do so.
You can ask us to stop sending you marketing information or withdraw your permission at any time.
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD retains personal information in line with our corporate retention requirements. Your data will be stored within the European Economic Area (“the EEA”) (The EEA consists of all EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). However, in some circumstances, part or all of your data may be stored or transferred outside of the European Economic Area (“the EEA”). You are deemed to accept and agree to this by using our site and submitting information to us. If we do store or transfer data outside the EEA, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the EEA and under the GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with, and the use of the EU-approved Model Contractual Arrangements. If we intend at any time to transfer any of your data outside the EEA, we will always obtain your consent beforehand.
Right to access personal information
- Under the law, any individual has a right to ask for a copy of the personal information held about them. This means that you can ask for the information that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD holds about you. This is known as the right of ‘subject access’.
- When making a request you will need to give us:
- a request in writing (by post or by email)
- We may need to ask you to provide:
- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.