Cross-cultural decision making skills have been recognized to be increasingly vital to military and defense operations (Johnson & Friedland, 2009). The day-to-day operations of international military forces, in their interaction with different cultures as they work overseas, require intercultural competence to make decisions that are both appropriate and culturally sensitive (Johnson & Friedland, 2009). Cross cultural competency (3C) is accomplished through three unique steps: Cultural self-awareness, suspension of judgments and biases, and the development of skills that fit within domains of a new culture (Selmeski, 2009). Already, educational measures are being implemented by military colleges to promote 3C in military personnel for the sake of global operations (Selmeski, 2009; Abbe, Gulick & Herman, 2007). Knowledge of a foreign language is already considered a critical means of accomplishing the third step of developing skills fitting within the domains of a new culture (Abbe, Gulick & Herman, 2007).
The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) is considered the principle institution for foreign language instruction in the Department of Defense (DOD). DLIFLC is the Defense Department’s primary foreign language center of excellence since 1947 (Valceanu, John 2001). It offers resident courses at the Presidio of Monterey in 23 languages that accommodate approximately 3,500 Soldiers, five days a week, seven hours per day. Courses last between 24 and 61weeks, depending on the difficulty of the language.
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is taught within three Middle East schools and considered by DOD as one of the eight critical languages for US national security. There are 98% of the Instructors who are native speakers. Aside from classroom instruction, the faculty also writes course materials in the Curriculum Development Division, designs the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT), and conducts Oral proficiency Test (OPI) at the end of each course (Defense Language Institute 2011). Students must pass a series of examinations that test their listening, speaking, reading and writing proficiency in the languages they are pursuing (Valceanu, John 2001).
DLIFLC also sponsors Language Training Detachments (LTD) at multiple sites throughout the continental United States, where DLIFLC instructors teach language sustainment and enhancement courses; these are short-term intensive courses with an accelerated schedule based on specific military requirements. However, and when it comes to the 16 month basic course, one of the challenges is to maintain the students’ focus and motivation. They are young with many other interests and activities in which they would rather be doing than studying Arabic (Valceanu, John 2001).
Statement of the Problem
The problem is the scarcity of research on effective yet rapid new instructional strategies for learning Arabic language as a second language for American students. There are more studies investigating the complicated structure of the Arabic language while exploring the challenges of teaching Arabic (Strout, Erin 2006), and the aspects that might influence the learning environment in the classrooms; however there are few studies on how to prevail over those complications.
Researching an efficient Arabic language instructional and assessment methodology for American students, especially military personnel, will result in a qualified soldier linguist in less time than the current Defense Language Institute (DLI) 61 week course. The goal of discovering this method is a continuous effort for professional instructors at DLI and in the field of learning Arabic language in general. This sounds like a purpose or significance.
In general, few studies have introduced new applications of instructional methodology for delivering the Arabic language to American students. Taha-Thomure (2008) stated that it will remain an unprecedented interest in and awareness regarding the importance of developing and adopting new methodologies in the teaching of Arabic.
In order to fulfill part of the 3C competency principle, it is required that military personnel learn the appropriate skills to interact with natives of a foreign culture in military operations abroad.
Shiley’s (2007) in his study found the following:
The U. S. military services rely on highly trained linguists to fill critical shortages in the foreign language intelligence fields to ensure sustainment of our Nation’s defense and security capabilities. Given the global issue of terrorism today, it is especially important that we increase our ability to produce military linguists who are highly skilled in listening, speaking, and reading second languages-especially Basic Modern Standard Arabic. (P. 18).
Recent studies, such as Seraj (2010) have investigated varying teaching models to adjust and improve teachers' attitudes towards language instruction in a military setting, and correlations have been measured between teachers' preferences and some demographic variables.
As for the American students, it has been historically found to have difficulty with the inanimate plural forms as well as pronominal suffixes and plural constructions (Seraj, 2010). New programs should be implemented to addressed the gaps in the language acquisition research literature that relate to understanding whether, and to what extent, Intensive short-term foreign language immersion programs can succeed in stimulating the oral language learning process. Most important is to discover in what ways students begin to recognize those moments of clarity in their language learning process while emphasizing on the affective domains of learning the language.
Cloud et al. (2000) argued that the use of only one language textbook or series is insufficient. They recommended that immersion and content-based teachers should consider a textbook as only one of many resources, supplementing it appropriately, in order to provide language instruction that meets the needs of second language learners in content-based classrooms. Thus, According to Lyster (2007), the works required of teachers increases exceptionally as they expand their use of resources. Furthermore, Teachers are required to develop alternative resources and creative ways of counterbalancing language and content throughout the curriculum which is a solution that is proving more and more effective, however the level of creativity expected of teachers, not all teachers can do so.
The best methods with which to combine theories into reality that will enable teachers of the Arabic language as a second language to promote the oral proficiency skill quickly, while overcoming the identified challenges of the language, remain to be found (Samimy, 2008). There remains an unprecedented interest in and awareness regarding the importance of developing, and adopting, new methodologies in the teaching of the Arabic language (Taha-Thomure, 2008).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to evaluate a combination of instructional methodologies/strategies beyond current practices for teaching Arabic language to military personnel attending the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, California. The result of such instruction is that students (military personnel) will improve their pass rates on the various examinations that test their listening, speaking, reading and writing proficiency in Arabic.
This study will seek to narrow the gap between the previously introduced methods and findings of learning the Arabic language as a second language. It hopes to introduce and portray how to implement and put in application a combination of instructional methodologies in order to accelerate and facilitate the learning of the Arabic as second language. Previous studies have only highlighted the instructional and learning difficulties that the majority of American students face while learning Arabic as a second language. These include the concepts of , comprehension and vocabulary retention, which require a different pedagogical approach from English instruction (Applegate, Applegate and Modla, 2009; Wise et al., 2010).
The research objective is to identify those methodologies and explore how Arabic could be efficiently and effectively delivered while overcoming the difficulties in order to promote an enhanced level of oral proficiency in a short time in order to prepare competent linguist soldiers whom can communicate on the ground at the prospective culture.
The study hopes to disclose how to avoid the challenges that occur during the process of learning the language especially at the oral communication level or the speaking skill. It will introduce a new approach for Arabic learning resulting in more rapid and accurate language acquisition. The effectiveness of the “oral interaction positive corrective modeling” concept will be measured aligned with the current student oral proficiency performance at the DLI.
An increasing number of American college-level students seek degrees in the Arabic language or Middle Eastern studies. Other students of Arabic and the Middle Eastern culture include those from the United States government and the military. The DLI Curriculum Development Division designs the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT), and conducts the required Oral Proficiency Test (OPI) at the completion of each course (Defense Language Institute 2011). Language training with the federal government and U. S. military further includes passing a series of examinations testing students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing proficiency in the language studied (Valceanu, 2001).
Q1: Can the Counseling Oral Interaction Positive Corrective Modeling be implemented to teach rapidly and successfully in order to enhance the competency of Oral proficiency of the Arabic language as a second language?
Q2: Can the incorporation of a process approach to writing, with the Counseling Oral Interaction Positive Corrective Modeling, advances and shorten the learning process of the Oral proficiency skill in teaching Arabic than the current Defense Language Institute (DLI) model?
Q3: What efforts were made to overcome the difficulties that enabled the students to continue using the writing process phase?
Q4: Can an OPI based curriculum overcome the difficulties and challenges found in previous research, which has revealed the learning issues American students face while learning Arabic?
Q5: Can the use of an intensive accelerated program in Arabic second language learning contexts ensure that military students improve their oral proficiency in a shorter period of time?
These questions support the increasing requirement of the U. S. government and military for highly trained linguists to fill critical shortages in foreign language listening, speaking and reading modalities – especially basic modern standard Arabic (Shirley, 2007). Because of this critical need of trained Arabic linguists, specifically advanced in speaking communicative skill, at the Department of Defense and other federal agencies, answers to these questions will provide a timely resource savings during a time of increasing budget constraints. Furthermore, successful resolution of these issues will contribute to the limited literature, currently existing in this field of Arabic language programs, and quality Arabic language instruction.
These questions were chosen for research because of the continual need to provide effective, quality language learning programs for the United States government and the Department of Defense in the timeliest and cost- effective manner. The outcomes of these research questions expect to prove that the 24 week course not only saves money for the government and military, but also provides a quality Arabic language program that better prepares the student for the cross cultural competencies needed in a defense language context. Further projected and anticipated outcomes of the study will improve America’s national security and transform government language training to meet 21st century requirements.
Definition of Key Terms
Defense Language Proficiency Test-V (DLPT-V). A foreign language proficiency test offered by the Defense Language Institute for the purposes of determining overall language proficiency of foreign languages by native English speakers working in defense contexts. The DLPT-V is the latest iteration of such a test, offering both multiple-choice and constructed response versions of the test (Defense Language Institute, 2012).
Educational Technology. This field has many varied definitions, but for the purposes of this study it refers to any type of technological resource or process that is used for the express purpose of learning and performance improvement. This extends to software and hardware, as well as Internet-based resources and activities that are used for learning (Lowenthal & Wilson, 2010).
Foreign Language (FL). A language that originates and is commonly used in a country not of the speaker's origin (Stern, 1983).
Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR). A scale of language proficiency, which is the default grading scale in Federal occupations for language skill or proficiency. The scale runs from a 1 (elementary proficiency) to a 5 (native/bilingual proficiency) (Herzog, 2012).
Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). An interview-based standardized test used to determine functional speaking ability and language proficiency (Breiner-Sanders et al., 2000).