Teaching English Language in Saudi Arabia Kindergarten

Abstract

It is widely projected that the population in the world’s English speaking language has increased dramatically and is projected to continue this trend. However, the learning structure in Saudi Arabia has traditionally focused on Islamic teachings and has only in recent years made an effort to incorporate more Western style into its curriculum. This research will primarily explore the significance of integrating English in Kindergarten, which have started emerging in Saudi Arabia, in both private and public schools. Most significantly, the research will examine the effectiveness of student’s development of literacy, vocabulary acquisition, phonological awareness and the proficiency of using English oral language.

The interview process will include an oral interview, English vocabulary, word identification, letter recognition and phonological awareness tests. Interviews will be carried out by ten teachers within the sample to respond to specific questions. Each Interview, lasting less than four hours, will take place in the school environment with each session being audio-taped to ensure the accuracy of records and to enable the team to focus on teachers’ response.

It is expected that the Kindergarten students with English knowledge will score higher in English phonological awareness and oral proficiency. The research provides different opinion about the effect of teaching a second language in kindergarten; as well as the most successful strategies for teaching the second language in Saudi Arabia.

Introduction

There are many challenges English as Foreign Language teachers face in the Saudi English classrooms. The main challenge is connected to the constraints the student face when educated under and differing cultural expectation between the teacher and the students. The inherent problem of teaching, reading and writing English is that Saudis do not have a strong tradition of reading and writing in Arabic. What little they do have is typically associated with scholarly studies of the Koran. The Koran is written in classic Arabic, which is different from the modern Arabic spoken today. Reading, whether for pleasure or knowledge benefits is wholly a foreign concept to most Saudi Arabia students. It is not a skill or pastime that they have developed nor is it one that is encouraged as in Western cultures.

The Saudi educational system has traditionally focused on Islamic teachings and has only in recent years made an effort to incorporate more Western style into its curriculum1. It is perceived that learning English language in early childhood may affect the cognitive child development process. In Saudi Arabia, there are two competing methods in teaching of the second language. Most public schools and some private schools have foreign language programs. However, recently, the teaching of English at Kindergarten level has begun to be used in some private schools. There is some kindergarten in Saudi Arabia, like “the fourth kindergarten” in Madinah, which teaches English language to the students. The spread of such type of education worldwide did not occur haphazardly. It is a response to research results which showed that not only such approach accelerates the learning of the second language but also impacts the accusation of such language.

In today’s global world, the importance of English cannot be denied and ignored since English is the most common language spoken everywhere. It may not be the most articulated language in the world, but it is the official language in a significant number of countries. This research will mainly explore the significance of integrating English in Kindergarten, which have started emerging in Saudi Arabia, in both private and public schools.

Literature review

Tabors demonstrates the stages that young children undergo while learning English as the second language2. First, the children make use of their first language with those who know it as well as those who do not understand it until they realize that the language used in the new environment are different from the one used at how. The second stage involves the children stopping verbal communication with those who do not understand them and switching to non-verbal communication such as whining, pointing and whimpering as a way to make themselves apparent to adults. Also, they begin watching, listening and preparing themselves for the new language.

The third stages involve using telegraphic and formulaic language. Telegraphic language involves naming objects and people as well as using counting and alphabet. Formulaic language involves the use of word phrases such as “yes”, “no”, “bye-bye” to get involved into and out of a social situation. Eventually, the children will start comparing both telegraphic and formulaic languages so as to express their needs, ideas and describe their activities. The children may commit many errors until they realize the working of the new language.

Krashen and Trellel3 investigated the difference between learning and acquisition. According to their research, the act of acquiring a language is done by picking it up naturally throughout natural, communicative settings whereas language learning involves knowing the rules and having accurate knowledge of the language mechanics such as grammar and syntax4. Language acquisition occurs when messages in the form of “comprehensible input” can be understood in the second language.

Also, it occurs when there is a directness to input or a “weak, sentimental filter” where the student has an active association with the teacher or the speaker of the language. Besides it can occur when understanding that fluency emerges on its own and after a silent period which can be formed a few months. Krashen and Terrell put forward a theory of second language acquisition that consists of significant principles associated with the environment previously stated5.

First, comprehension, arises from production, speaking or writing. Secondly, production roots in incremental stage beginning with non-verbal; then one-word response; then to two words responses; then short phrases; then sentences; and eventually complicated conversation. The focus of their theory turns to the communication of goals for each classroom activity organized by topic and where grammar and sentences structure are not emphasized. The final principle focuses on activities in the classroom and the focus on lowering the affective filter of the student through such condition as positive rapport with their teacher and peer. If they feel comfortable to express their ideas, thoughts and opinions, students will be successful in acquiring the second language.

According to Bialystock and colleagues6, learning English as a second language in the early stages contributes to early literacy acquisition in two ways. First it increases the reading ability of all children. Second, it helps in gaining literacy skills in bilingual languages by transferring principles across the language, especially when the first and second language share the same writing system. Their study involved three groups of student. They used Spanish-English bilinguals and Hebrew-English bilinguals to compare Chinese-English bilinguals. According to their findings, Spanish-English children had less time in studying Spanish than Hebrew-English children who used Hebrew in their daily instructions. However, both groups performed similarly in their first language. The Chinese-English group was less advanced than other others since they used English writing system that involved users of alphabet and characters in their learning.7

Mumtaz and Humpreys8; Hansen9; Zigler and Goswani10 agree that languages differ in regard to sound and spelling consistency. Some languages, like Urdu that have a systematic matching of letters and the sound they present, are described as shallow language. According to Hansen, English is a profound language since there exists a systematic matching11. The dissimilarity between the first and subsequent language affects children’s ability in second language word reading12.

For instance, children learning both Urdu and English had no difficulty in reading English regular words. However, English irregular words were more difficult for them since English irregular words depend on visual skills for decoding. Hansen points out that phonological awareness is more predictive in both words reading and reading comprehension than letter naming, rapid naming, and syntactic awareness13.

Barik and Swain compared two Kindergarten groups14. The experimental group received instruction in French but at the same time the children were freely able to continue using English in their spontaneous speech. The comparison group was enrolled in regular English kindergarten where French was taught as a second language. According toothier findings, the English students outperformed their peers in French comprehension skills, but both groups performed similarly in word skills15.

Significance of research

The study is aimed at examining the effectiveness of teaching English language in kindergarten and making the students ready for elementary school. Most significantly, the research will examine the effectiveness of student’s development of literacy, vocabulary acquisition, phonological awareness and the proficiency of using English oral language. The research is of great significance since it advocate different strategies for teaching a second language. The research evaluates different opinion about the effect of teaching a second language in kindergarten and the most successful strategies for teaching the second language in Saudi Arabia.

Research question

  • To what extent does teach English in Kindergarten contribute to students’ academic outcome?
  • What factors contribute to the sustainability of English language at both Private and Public schools?

Research methodology

A qualitative research approach will be implemented to suit the nature of the proposed research study. According to Silverman, qualitative methods can be applied either to biography, grounded theories, case study or ethnography16. A case study procedure has been used in various similar setting especially in learning institutions. Case study approach is believed to be unique in understanding commonalities between variables17. Therefore, the researcher found it to be a suitable approach to dealing with different perspectives of children and teachers.

The study will involve the student from three private schools and three public schools. Only students with learning disabilities will be excluded from the research study. The research will adopt curriculum used in teaching of English Languages as a language of instruction in all subjects except in religion and Arabic language arts. The social, economic status of the two groups is middle or high class. The interview process will include an oral interview, English vocabulary, word identification, letter recognition and phonological awareness tests. Interviews will be carried out by ten teachers within the sample to respond to specific questions so as to support the quantitative data with an understanding of children’s opinions.

Each Interview, lasting less than four hours, will take place in the school environment with each session being audio-taped to ensure the accuracy of records and to enable the team to focus on teachers’ response. The semi-structured questioner can be used flexibly, allowing the researcher and the responded to raise other significant issues that are not covered in the interview schedule. The respondent will sign a consent form allowing taping of the session as well as deciphering of verbatim for information investigation before the meeting. This option provided a way of gathering relatively complex responses that ordinarily could not be represented numerically. Interviews, each lasting less than four hours, will take place in the participant’s station with each session being audio-taped. This will ensure the accuracy of records and enable the researcher to focus on response.

The primary aim of analyzing data in the proposed research is to create substantive cases that will emerge from response of the participants from the area of interest. The research will use themes to recognize the data for the crucial area of analysis. Importantly, these core areas will be stemmed from the questionnaires used in the interview. The coding of the text into reasonable cases will be grouped into thematic units. The point of this is to produce sensible quantities of classes. The proposed study will likewise utilize a replication process. The transcripts will repeatedly be read as a whole so as to identify categories in the data and draw out evidence to support these groups. The next procedure in data analysis entails familiarizing with the text of each interview, identifying description groups, and comparing categories across each interview, It also involves identifying exceptions when the collective group does not fit the general case.

Ethical considerations

The researcher thought of what could be done differently to overcome the challenges encountered in confidentiality and voluntary participation of the respondent so as to create an opportunity for a more systematic approach. ‘The Delphi method,” will be introduced in the study describing a strategy to reveal information about the research topic. More so, the respondents will be unspecified so as to attain high-quality data. By this, there will be no form of alteration of the results by the researchers. The ‘Delphi’ approach aims at gathering opinions in a consensus manner, although critical examination lacks in its process. This technique perfectly suits the research style because it explores behavior and social tendencies. In addition, an email containing interview questions will be sent to the teachers. This will enable them to review their response to the interview. Written consent will also be presented to teachers before participating in this study.

A few techniques will be conveyed to guarantee discretion of the study member. The primary methodology involved is planning an educated accent that ensure the secrecy of the respondents’ personalities. Before, beginning the process of collecting data, permission will be acquired from the interested institutes. Secondly, an email containing an invitation, objective and significance of the research will be sent to the identified participants. All the designated members will be informed of the data collection process as well as its storage procedure. Lastly, before the interview, the correspondent will sign a consent form indicating his or her desire to participate the research study.

Limitation of the research

The research is expected to have a number of limitations. Firstly, since the respondents are from middle or high class, it will likely limit the generalization of the study. Secondly, the time of administering the tests will be four hours which necessitates the help of trained volunteers to accomplish the task. Consequently, the issues related to fatigue and boredom will have impacts on the results. Thirdly, collecting the data at the beginning of the academic year may produce different results than if they were collected at a different time since the students will be exposed more to the material texts.

However, the research study will serve as a foundation for future results, and the findings will be used to examine different teaching techniques on the emphasis to place English as a first language in Kindergartens.

Expected results

Khattab highlights that there factors which can influence language acquisition such as age, order of acquisition, country of residence, language of greater exposure and degree of bilingualism18. Therefore, it is expected that the Kindergarten students with English knowledge will score higher in English phonological awareness and oral proficiency. Also, it is predictable that there will be a significant difference between both groups for the oral proficiency test, indicating that students with English knowledge are better in comprehending and expressing concepts in English that the non-English students.

In conclusion, the development of English increases with the level of students, therefore, opening room for future investigation on the stability of such gains over time.

Reference list

Al-Rasheed M. History of Saudi Arabia. Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press. 2002. Web.

Barik, C.H. and Swain, M. Three-year evaluation of a large scale early grade French immersion program, The Ottawa study. Language Learning, Vol 25, no. 1. 2002, pp. 1-30. Web.

Bialystok E., Luk G. and Kwan E. Bilingualism, Biliteracy and learning to read: Iteractions among languages and writing systems. Scientific Studies of Reading, Vol 9, no. 1, 2005, pp. 43-61. Web.

Hansen G. F. “Visual word recognition in Arabic: Towards a language specific reading model. Center for contemporary Middle East Studies’ working paper series”, 2008. Web.

Khattab, G. “VOT production in English and Arabic bilingual and monolingual children”. Nelson, D and Foulkes P (eds) Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics 8, 2000, pp.95-122. Web.

Krashen S. “The input Hypothesis Nodel of L2 Learning and Production”. 2011. Web.

Mumtaz S. and Humphreys W.G. The effects of bilingualism on learning to read English: Evidence from the contrast between Urdu-English Bilingual and English Monolingual children, Journal of Research in Reading, vol 24, no. 2, 2001, pp. 113-134. Web.

Silverman, D. Doing qualitative research, London, Sage, 2010. Web.

Tabors P.O. One child, two languages: A guide for preschool educators of children learning english as a Second Language, New York, The Guilford press, 1997. Web.

Ziegler C.J. and Goswami, U. Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia, and skilled reading across language: A psycholinguistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 131, no. 1, 2005, pp. 3-92. Web.

Footnotes

1 M. Al-Rasheed. History of Saudi Arabia. Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press. 2002, p 189.

2 P.O. Tabors. One child, two languages: A guide for preschool educators of children learning english as a Second Language, New York, The Guliford press, 1997, p. 237.

3 S. Krashen. “The input Hypothesis Nodel of L2 Learning and Production”. 2011. Web.

4 Krashen.

5 Krashen.

6 E. Bialystok, G. Luk and E. Kwan. Bilingualism, Biliteracy and learning to read: Iteractions among languages and writing systems. Scientific Studies of Reading, vol 9, no. 1, 2005, p. 45.

7 Ibid., p. 50.

8 S. Mumtaz and W.G., Humphreys. The effects of bilingualism on learning to read English: Evidence from the contrast between Urdu-English Bilingual and English Monolingual children, Journal of Research in Reading, vol 24, no. 2, 2001, p 116.

9 G. F. Hansen. Visual word recognition in Arabic: Towards a language specific reading model. Center for contemporary Middle East Studies’ working paper series, 2008, p.24.

10 C.J. Ziegler and U. Goswami. Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia, and skilled reading across language: A psycholinguistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin, vol 131, no. 1, 2005, p 5.

11 Hansen., p. 30.

12 Zigler and Goswani p. 10.

13 Hansen., p.35.

14 C.H. Barik, and M. Swain., Three-year evaluation of a large scale early grade Frech immersion program, The Ottawa study. Language Learning, vol 25, no. 1,2002 p. 20.

15 Barik and Swain, p. 26.

16 D, Silverman. Doing qualitative research, London, Sage, 2010, p.50.

17 Silverman, p. 60.

18 G. Khattab. “VOT production in English and Arabic bilingual and monolingual children”. Nelson, D and Foulkes P (eds) Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics 8, 2000, p. 122.