The reason I find this particular type of research (second language acquisition, particularly of Arabic) appealing is my fascination with intercultural studies and the difficulty of defense language learning. Because Arabic is such a uniquely difficult language for an English speaker, due to their dramatic structural differences, finding new and better ways to learn it is vitally important.
I know many people in the military; as a result, I have several preconceptions toward military and American attitudes toward Arabic as a language. Often, cultural attitudes toward Arabs and the like are relatively negative; the aggression and violence bred by military service, combined with a lack of education and exposure to people from different cultures can lead to some disdain about learning the Arabic language. There is an initial anxiety that is exacerbated by the pressures of military service and impending or possible deployment to Arabic-speaking countries. These factors can contribute to greater difficulty in learning defense languages like Arabic. My agenda in performing this research is to find ways to make such a difficult language for English speakers more palatable and learnable, ideally by comparing the value of existing methodologies and strategies such as Rosetta Stone with the new interventions being researched.
The Pimsleur language system works by focusing on four primary ideas of language acquisition: anticipation, graduated interval recall, core vocabulary and organic learning (Pimsleur, 1967). Pimsleur requires the student to take an active role in the memorization of words and language, participating in complex exercises that require critical reasoning skills. This is a direct contrast to simple 'listen and repeat' memorization that occurs in other language interventions. In the Pimsleur method, participants repeat phrases based on audio from a native speaker; further phrases integrate new vocabulary into the old phrases, while explaining their meanings. This has the effect of creating a better understanding of the language through the four principles mentioned previously - the speaker anticipates a new meaning, while learning organically through repetition and reasoning. The Rosetta Stone language learning program is a set of software that includes pictures and sound, along with text, to match words and grammar functions with their audiovisual components. The goal is to make intuitive decisions about what vocabulary terms match with what phrase; there is no translating or drill sequence to the method.
Comparing these two methods to the proposed qualitative design, it is hoped that the new design would provide a more comprehensive and applicable context for learning modern defense Arabic. In this qualitative design, an intensive curriculum based around the final learning objectives (FLO) of the Oral Proficiency Test the students at the DLIC have to take will be administered. These topics include: Introducing self, family relationships, daily routine activities, past and future narration, free time and hobbies, describe your hometown including advantages and disadvantages, important aspects, describe a person’s physical characteristics, description of places, the most embarrassing experience in your life, foods, and clothes, etc. By using these unique contexts, the curriculum would prepare these students for the specific situations in which they would be using modern defense Arabic, and thus would provide a more specialized education for them. Learning these everyday situations would help to minimize discomfort and anxiety regarding Arabic language usage situations.
The overall result of this intervention could be a greater cultural understanding between military officers who have successfully learned Arabic and those natives with whom they will interact as a consequence of military service. I wish to make sure to foster more positive relations between the two groups, which might make American occupations and military deployments in Middle Eastern countries go much easier.
When determining interpretive frameworks that are applicable to this study, it can be said that it will take a phenomenology-based approach: in essence, the study itself will be seen as an event, and its effects and performance will be interpreted through the human experience of its participants. As the overall goal is to create the most comfortable and effective education experience for the participant, the viewing of the study as a phenomenon will make viewing the effects easier. There may also be a cultural lens attributed to the interpretation of the data - that of a defense language and military context for language learning - though that is not the overall goal of the study. There are certain cultural factors that may come into play regarding the learning of a defense language itself: does the context of learning the language of those that may be considered enemies color the attitude a participant has toward learning said language? While the primary goal of the study is to merely examine the effectiveness of a change in intervention, some discoveries regarding this question may arise in the course of the study as well.
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