Heath offers insights for use in the dissertation study for investigating any difficulties in the area of Americans learning Arabic. This study specifically addresses the learner and his/her creativity in Arabic communicative competence as it applies toward competently completing both the DLI course and the OPI (Heath, 1987).
Alptekin (2002) discusses the notion of communicative competence that suggests that native-speaker competence is the metric by which communicative competence is decided. Alptekin argues that this particular norm creates an unrealistic and utopian model for language learning that makes it impossible for SLA to be considered complete or sufficient. Native speakership is said to be a myth of linguistics, and infers that the native-speaker's culture is the mainstream, as is its language. Considering language in this way is said to be constrictive and unhelpful for those learning second languages, and as a result new notions of communicative competence are required. In order to achieve communicative competence for language teaching, the following would have to be adhered: creating successful bilinguals that celebrate knowledge between cultures, and offering both domestic and international contexts as settings where non-native languages are used in instruction. This creates a more tolerable and reachable means of achieving communicative competency (Alptekin, 2002).
Importance of Language Teaching as it Relates to Culture
Jones et al. (2005) demonstrate the need for live Arabic speakers in a military context due to the inadequacy found in most Arabic machine translation units. Educated native-English speakers were given versions of a Defense Language Proficiency Test for Arabic which were run through machine translation units, and asked to read them. The accuracy of these MT units was enough to pass Level 2 performance, but not Level 3. With this in mind, it is clear that machine translation is still not preferable to live, thinking and Level 3-proficiency Arabic speakers for defense language contexts; this further underscores the need for effective language learning in the DLI and other locations (Jones et al., 2005).
Albert (2001) discusses language anthropology in terms of using language to study a contemporary culture - in this instance, using contemporary France as an example. Discursive practices found in evidence can help to enlighten students on how a culture or nation-state is created - examining its language shows the linkage between the way language is practice, how this language is perceived by others, and what it says about their sociopolitical contexts. In this way, a learner can learn more about the nature of a society by examining language anthropology (Albert, 2001).
Custar (2011) examines the effects of English Language Learners (ELL) in American high schools to demonstrate the link between oral proficiency and academic achievement in SLA. There is a significant achievement gap to be found between those ELLs with poor oral proficiency and those who are native speakers or have high oral proficiency, demonstrating the need for fluency in a language, even an L2 language, to communicate and perform well academically. Furthermore, the competencies that are learned through SLA may create skills that improve academic achievement; either way, Custar's research discovered a positive association between oral language proficiency and academic achievement (2011).
Al-Dali presents applications for the dissertation in reviewing if the age of the U.S. student learning Arabic has a factor in identifying problems in the training process particularly in the design of the DLI shorter course. Al-Dali also points to the fact that the competency of the first language should have consideration in teaching any second language toward competencies upon finishing the second language study. This point opens valid implications for teaching Americans Arabic and his/her competencies in English (Al-Dali, 1996).
Morreale (2011) demonstrates the particular stressors and anxieties present in non-military personnel, focusing on university students studying abroad. The importance of immersion in foreign culture is emphasized, as study abroad students are shown to have less stress and anxiety in the language learning process than those who have not experienced immersion in a target culture. The experience of foreign culture immersion as a language learning tool is shown to dramatically improve motivation in SA participants, as they are able to more easily place vocabulary and grammar in proper societal and cultural contexts (Morreale, 2011).
Fischer’s study provides relevant examination and conclusions for the dissertation research toward a rapid Arab language program for Americans. Fischer’s study group derived from the DLI program at the Presidio at Monterey and clearly aligns with the dissertation intent toward the same type of DLI group. His findings determined factors for consideration in the dissertation study directed at the means for conducting the DLI and OPI exam face-to-face compared to the distance modalities in determining the success of the testing face-to-face and on the telephone compared to face-to-face versus the desk top computer (Fischer, 2004).
Americans are not the only culture to have trouble learning Arabic - Sicard (2001) examines an experiment taken in Montpelier to teach Arabic in local secondary schools. These efforts were also put in place to bring language learning to younger children, and to offer greater social integration between Arabic speaking students and native French speakers. The pupils, due to their enthusiasm, as well as the increasing demand for Arabic language instruction, are encouraged to continue the Arabic language learning initiatives. This helps to create the correlation of youth having a great enthusiasm for learning new languages, and the community support such initiatives can receive (Sicard, 2001).
In a military context, learning Arabic is particularly important. Nichols (2010) describes the desire for formal Arabic language instruction found in very high numbers in Iraq War veterans. In essence, narrative research strongly indicates that cultural and linguistic experiences in Iraq are determined by those who are there in a military situation to be quite important to their successful interaction and operations there. Those encountering Arabic language speakers without proper instruction often wish to learn more about the language later, in order to provide further enlightenment as to Arabic cultural and language norms (Nichols, 2010). If this type of instruction is applied to military personnel before their deployments, more positive and productive cultural interactions (as well as effective military operations) can be attained.
Language Programs Need Vocabulary Acquisition
Al-Qadi’s research findings reveal that second language teaching/learning programs often focus only up on the grammar leaving the acquisition of vocabulary at an unsatisfactory level. This failure of language programs to give the learner prompts for acquiring more vocabulary words is a valuable operant for consideration in the dissertation focus to design a shorter, yet comprehensive Arabic language study for American learners (Al-Qadi, 1991).
Isenberg (2010) demonstrates the need for vocabulary acquisition in post-secondary level language learning courses, and that web-based components to SLA learning can be equally effective at imparting vocabulary acquisition, oral proficiency development and other attributes of SLA onto students.
Accessibility of Universal Grammar
Al-Banyon’s research into universal grammar acquisition among adult English speakers learning Arabic is less likely than among the younger learners. In his study, “The Accessibility of Universal Grammar in Language Acquisition: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective” the results of his study directly provide considerations for application in the dissertation research, particularly, since Al-Banyon determines the adult American (English speaker) has less access to the universal grammar in language acquisition that prompts the likelihood of the learner facing conditional issues in the “functional computation of components in the bilingual brain/mind (Al-Banyon, 1996)”.
White (1985) discusses a 'logical' problem involved with second language acquisition that allows for the possibility of universal grammar. Second language learners face a problem when needing to determine every single complexity of adult grammar in their second language of choice. However, White argues that there are certain innate principles that orient the learner to the extent where they may excel at SLA. Once these principles are learned, as part of universal grammar, research suggests that they acquire complex knowledge of the second language that exceeds the input they have received. Teaching implications for this framework involves putting in more than just positive input to an L2 student in order to pick up on universal grammar; the complexity of the specific L2 grammar must be identified before finding ways to connect it with the L1 grammar (White, 1985).
Research Emphasizes Problems Teaching Arabic to American Students
According to Zouhir, English-speaking students learning Arabic have difficulties with the phonics, syntax and with structuring words. Zouhir emphasizes that her study reveals “not enough” has been researched by educators about the issues that effect learning and teaching Arabic among American students. Her research aligns with the focus of the dissertation for identifying the problems for American students learning Arabic in determining/creating the faster time version of the DLI Arab language program (2010).
Smith (2009) describes the importance of motivation in long-term language achievement; native English speakers find the effort and the desire to persist in language learning to a greater extent than is minimally required of them in a university setting. Education programs, particularly involving L2 language learning, are shown to have greater efficacy when the primary source of motivation is changed over time and internally regulated by the learner along with long-term goals (Smith, 2009). This has the effect of creating more effective language learners, and must be emphasized in new language learning programs regardless of context.
Uddin (2009) examines the importance of role play and storytelling in the process of SLA; using counseling techniques such as these have been shown to be effective in creating greater competencies for SLA students. Role play helped their communicative skills, including vocabulary enhancement, and made students more fluent in indirect vocabulary. With the help of storytelling, the students had occasion to make full use of their vocabulary, creating the process of independent learning within the students with regards to their SLA learning. At the same time, this was shown to only be beneficial to intermediate and advanced-level learners; elementary-level learners did not have the basic vocabulary to participate effectively in role-playing and storytelling activities (Uddin, 2009).
Shirley (2007) studied the relationships between personality and SLA - while individual differences and learning are known to exist, this has been studied little in terms of learning the Arabic language in a defense context. Military students studying Basic Modern Standard Arabic at the DLIFLC were studied based on their personality traits and their proficiency learning BMSA; the NEO-PI-R domain level personality measures were used as a metric to quantify certain traits that could be linked to better or worse language proficiency. The results supported the notion that certain personalities were more well suited to learning BMSA at the DLIFLC, allowing for the possibility of greater selection criteria for candidates to learn Arabic as an L2 language (Shirley, 2007). There have also been shown to be tremendous issues in creating standardized tests for Arabic language proficiency (Winke and Aquil, 2006).
Elkhafaifi (2005) discusses the role of anxiety and stress as a role in classroom performance in an Arabic language learning classroom. The presence of stress and anxiety is shown to have tremendously detrimental effects on the efficacy of language learning classes for native English speakers learning Arabic as a second language. Approximately 1,320 hours of intensive instruction in structured programs are required for notoriously difficult languages including Arabic; compared to 480 hours for learning French or Spanish, this makes Arabic a comparatively difficult language to learn for a native English speaker. Far too many students learning Arabic give up after approximately one year of study, frustrated at lacking communicative competence. Innovative methods to address these stressors and anxiety causes - stemming from the difficulty and reputation of the language - must be addressed in order to create more effective teaching methods (Elkhafaifi, 2005).
Efficacy of Preparatory Courses for Learning Languages
St. Pierre III explains the focus of his study specifically measures the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center’s (DLIFLC) Introduction to Language Studies (ILS) the efficacy language learning success through its preparatory course. The benefits of this study in support of the dissertation work gives validity to the focus of designing a DLI shorter Arab language program and provides critical implications for consideration to the efficacy of the proposed program (St. Pierre III, 2008).
Vakilifard (2008) denotes the need for expository text comprehension in second language acquisition - this is said to be one of the most influential components of understanding an L2 language and applying it in an effective manner to practical life. A concept map-based intervention was applied to a French second language learning course in order to improve their overall scores and gain greater comprehension of informative texts. However, this strategy proved ineffective in inferential comprehension (Vakilifard, 2008).
Bustamante (2009) measured the effectiveness of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) pilot courses for basic Spanish language learning. This has been shown to have a tremendous effect on motivation and confidence in results among students - the majority of students had a positive reception and increased comfort level with the pilot program, which involved reading out loud, standardized writing assessment involving spontaneous writing, and other diverse methods (Bustamante, 2009). This demonstrates the efficacy of an interdisciplinary, innovative program with high student involvement in L2 learning courses.
Currently, the US Air Force Academy employs a selection and placement policy in order to allocate the more "appropriate" students into either Chinese or Arabic, or some other strategic or defense language. Their current policy models involve measuring first language ability, motivation variable, student choice, and other factors. These factors were evaluated in order to discern the predictive model that would get the students who have the highest aptitude for becoming effective learners of Arabic. The most important factor, it has been found, is motivation; L2 teaching initiatives must tap into motivation and create the most ideal environment for defense language learners (Hughes, 2010).
Alm-Lequeux (2001) demonstrates a scaffolded learning environment to teach indirect speech, using the Internet to increase cognitive readiness and create a more effective second-language acquisition program. Internet-based education like this is said to extend the user's contact with the language in question, as well as its culture - in order to meet the Zone of Proximal Development, a virtual community can be created that allows for further language learning and exposure. This model is shown to be effective in teaching indirect speech in SLA, following a Vygotskian approach (Alm-Lequeux, 2001).
It is absolutely necessary, in a globalized military, to teach cross cultural competency to those who will be interacting with others of a different culture (Abbe, Gulick and Herman, 2007). Increased interaction with Arabic cultures in military operations, for example the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, make it more pressing than ever to provide military personnel with the skills needed to successfully and peacefully interact with native Arabic speakers. The problem is many educators, linguists and scholars in the field of teaching Standard Arabic language need to continue to conduct research identifying specific difficulties Americans encounter throughout their learning of Arabic in the classroom (Duarte, Carmen 2008) while other studies explore the challenges of teaching Arabic (Strout, Erin 2006).
Investigating the Relationship between Creativity and Communicative Competence Strategies among Bilingual and Bi-dialectal Adolescents (TESOL)” offers insights for use in the dissertation study for investigating any difficulties in the area of Americans learning Arabic. “The Age Variable: An Investigation of English Acquisition Among Arabic-Speaking Intermediate-Level Students in the State of Kuwait” presents applications for the dissertation in reviewing if the age of the U.S. student learning Arabic was a factor in identifying problems in the training process particularly in the design of the DLI shorter course. Fischer’s “Comparing Face-To-Face and Distance Modalities in Conducting Arabic and Russian Speaking Proficiency Testing” study provides relevant examination and conclusions for the dissertation research toward a rapid Arab language program for Americans.
Al-Qadi’s research “Acquisition of English Derivational Morphology by Arab Speakers” findings reveal that second language teaching/learning programs often only focus on the grammar and leave the acquisition of vocabulary at an unsatisfactory level. Al-Banyon’s research into universal grammar acquisition among adult English speakers learning Arabic is less likely than among the younger learners. According to Zouhir, English-speaking students learning Arabic have difficulties with the phonics, syntax and with structuring words. St. Pierre III explains the focus of his study specifically measures the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center’s (DLIFLC) Introduction to Language Studies (ILS) the efficacy language learning success through its preparatory course.
Some of the primary issues discovered in the research involve problems with stress, anxiety and motivation - regardless of context, whether it be in a university or defense language setting, often language learners have difficulty handling the pressure associated with learning a second language. Their motivation decreases along with their confidence, and lower efficacy results in their learning. As a result, dramatic changes need to be made to existing curriculum, involving greater methods to increase motivation and lower anxiety/stress.
In a defense context, predictive models do help to target appropriate candidates for defense language learning, in languages like Chinese and Arabic. However, the responsibility falls to defense language instructors to create and apply a curriculum that fully engages the students and increases their oral proficiency and vocabulary. These activities must involve interdisciplinary and diverse activities that involve immersion in the target culture, along with web-based and role playing elements. This would equip these students, soldiers and officers more adequately for life while deployed in Arabic-speaking countries, thus creating more effective mission outcomes and greater interaction with the host culture.
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