The English Language in Saudi Arabia

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The place of the English language in the world has changed among other languages which are considered national and international. Al-Shehri (2020) states that the number of English language speakers has increased over the past decades. Over 350 million people speak English as their fast language, with an additional 250 million being their second language (Al-Shehri, 2020). Numerous interactions, especially between persons of different nationalities, are facilitated through English because many non-native speakers have learned the language.

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Al-Shehri (2020) states that, in the education sphere, English is used to teach technology, business, and science. It is a language that is spoken by a population of different races, cultures, and religions. Saudis and other non-English speakers in different parts of the world have experienced certain challenges regarding their language acquisition (Aljasir, 2020). Furthermore, the kingdom has embraced English in its educational institutions in schools, universities, and colleges.

Research Objectives

Farah (2020) states that numerous studies have been conducted in the past concerning the perception of Saudi people as far as the acquisition of the English language is concerned. Notably, the outcome of the research conducted in this regard confirmed that the community is gradually and positively embracing the study and the use of the English language in their society (Farah, 2020). The purpose of this study is to establish if Saudis’ positive change of attitude is constant in 2020. Additionally, the paper will also determine if gender is an essential element that determines the kind of beliefs and attitude concerning the English language in Saudi.

Significance of the Proposed Research

The previous studies in relation to the Saudis’ attitude as far as the English language is concerned were anchored on students’ reaction, which does not reflect on the whole society (Alnasser, 2018). This research is aiming to fill the existing literature gap by involving the concern of the whole Saudi society. Moreover, Alnasser (2018) stated that the elderly population showed some level of resistance to English. The paper will also seek to determine if gender influences the views of Saudi people concerning English. Hence, the study will include the views of younger and older populations to assess the attitude change of Saudi people.

Literature Review

Many societies across the world that are non-English ones have accepted and embraced the use of the English language in the land. Alnasser (2018) stated that the benefits and importance of accepting the language in the societies could not be underestimated since it has facilitated the spirit of unity among different nations. The government of Saudi Arabia has also embraced the use of English in the country in order to cement its relationship with other foreign countries that do not speak Arabic (Alnasser, 2018).

Notably, English is used across the world as a lingua franca, therefore teaching the language in the country will allow people to freely interact with the rest of the world. Moreover, the government of Saudi is welcoming investors from other countries that do not speak Arabic in order to increase economic opportunities for its people (Alnasser, 2018). The common language that can facilitate communication between the local community and the foreigners in the land is English, hence increase the need to teach and speak the language among the Saudi people.

The opposers of the English language in Saudi Arabia are believed to base their arguments on protecting culture and sense of identity. Most importantly, individuals use language to not only express but also transmit cultural values. Cultural identity is associated with a negative attitude towards the use of English among the Saudi people (Al-Shehri, 2020). It is worth noting that identity refers to how various people understand their relationship to the world and how it is developed across space and time in relation to cultural development and continuity (Al-Shehri, 2020). Language is a vital part of culture, and culture has a considerable effect on how human beings think; it is, therefore, necessary to initiate certain behaviors to protect that which is considered a vital asset in society (Al-Shehri, 2020).

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Moreover, cultural rigidity to new languages, particularly that poses a severe threat to societal beliefs, can be a barrier to the acceptance of the English language to the Saudi population. Farah (2020) asserts that the English language is heavily associated with Western cultures, therefore introducing it to non-indigenous society attracts some form of resistance. The English language is also perceived as the embodiment of Judeo-Christian cultural values and Western civilization (Farah, 2020). Non-English speakers in Saudi Arabia associate English with various images, both positive and negative, therefore affecting the level of acceptance and its use. Farah (2020) states that the introduction of English in primary schools in Saudi Arabia attracted adverse reactions and heated debates among different groups. People were divided on whether to embrace the language or discard its teaching in the schools.

English was not readily embraced by most Saudis based on cultural and religious factors. According to Sabani et al. (2020), the people of Saudi Arabia understand the role of language in society and culture, hence associated English with Western ways of praying, interacting, and general ways of life. Arabians were also concerned about diluting as well as losing their unique identity and Islamic cultures to westernization that is carried in the English language (Sabani et al., 2020). Sabani et al. (2020) found that Saudi Arabian culture is a significant inhibitor to teaching the usage of the English language in the kingdom.

Traditionally, there is a stigma that is associated with losing a local cultural value as well as traditions (Sabani et al., 2020). Moreover, Saudi Arabia also has a strong culture, which bears a significant influence on the overall way of life, education, and work.

The negative attitude on teaching and learning English have been associated with the community, particularly with the older generation that feels it is their duty to protect cultural and religious values. However, the study conducted has revealed that university students and the youthful population are readily embracing English learning in the region (Irawan, 2020). Furthermore, 1,176 Saudi university students across all the higher learning institutions indicated positive feedback concerning the English language in relation to the previous researches (Irawan, 2020). Moreover, young people understand that the knowledge gained from learning a foreign language is key in empowering them to become more active in different sectors, such as religious duties (Irawan, 2020). In addition to this, learning English among young people exposes them to the outside world and gives them the opportunity to communicate with their colleagues in non-Arabic nations.

Notably, the modern environment as far as international communities relate in terms of the economic partnership has erased the traditional boundaries. People move freely from one country to another in search of better employment opportunities as well as a good life (Farah, 2020). Farah (2020) found that English plays a significant role in facilitating international movement for the populations that are not contented with opportunities within their borders; therefore, necessitating its learning is useful to the Saudi community. Saudi Arabia is not left behind in empowering its citizens to communicate using the English language.

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Alnasser (2018) states that identity has played an important role in influencing positive attitudes among the youthful generation. Furthermore, young people are in the stage of their life where the urge to explore goals, objectives, interests, and talents with respect to their own identities (Sabani et al., 2020). Additionally, young people in Saudi Arabia are struggling to negotiate with their social environment as well as standards.

The attitude of Saudi people has improved over the past year, and many of them are beginning to accept the fact that English is equally essential for their future growth and development. Remarkably, Faruk (2014) found that the Saudis were more positive towards English in the 2000s than they had been in the 1990s. Different factors have contributed to the attitude change from negative to positive ones, such as government policy and public engagement concerning the use of the English language in the region (Kaid Mohammed et al., 2019).

Moreover, over ten million non-Arabic are living in the kingdom, and the language barrier is a common phenomenon, particularly between the foreigners and the older generation (Kaid Mohammed et al., 2019). The elderly people who opposed the teaching of English in their schools are beginning to recognize that society needs English knowledge to improve their communication and economy.

The policy that assists in implementing the English language is anchored within the values and norms of Islamic. The state is careful to protect the interest of the Islamic religion as well as the Muslim role in the policies they make to enable English learning (Sabani et al., 2020). Nevertheless, barricades to English in Saudis are unavoidable due to the Islamic culture’s nature (Alsaawi, 2020). A significant portion of young people is not yet ready to accept English because it is associated with Christianity as well as colonialism (Alsaawi, 2020). The affirmation factors are critical and must be addressed through the right channel to achieve the full support of the English in Saudi (Sabani et al., 2020).

The fear of losing the Arabic language in the future is also a problem that needs constant address from the stakeholders in the region (Alsaawi, 2020). As mentioned earlier, the people of Saudi value their language not because it the basic form of communication but its role in writing holy books (Sabani et al., 2020). Losing the language will mean losing religion and cultural values, which is not acceptable among the young and older generations (Sabani et al., 2020). Over the years, the education stakeholders have discarded the fear by emphasizing and demonstrating the importance of the Arabic language and culture to the region.

Negative belief has been the greatest debilitative to English in Saudi. Beliefs that learners and the community hold concerning language determine its acceptance level (Faruk, 2014). The change of attitude in recent times among the young and the older people is helping the society to overcome challenges faced before, hence sustaining necessary motivation for language use and learning (Kaid Mohammed et al., 2019). Furthermore, the difficulty associated with learning a foreign language is among the negative belief that education stakeholders have continued to address to eliminate anxiety as well as poor performance in English (Alnasser, 2018).

Moreover, the research has established that learners who expressed their fear of foreign language as difficult to understand and speak performed poorly (Alnasser, 2018). In contrast, the group that indicated easiness in learning language recorded a better result. Notably, the government has spent time and resources to establish the beliefs of students and community towards the English language, therefore applying relevant mechanisms to resolve the challenge.

Examining the influence of gender in relation to the English language in Saudi has gained interest among many researchers. Alnasser (2018) stated that numerous studies regarding gender views in Saudi Arabia as far as English is concerned indicated that both male and female holds the same beliefs. Moreover, both genders, according to research, established the importance of the English language in society, especially in school environments (Kaid Mohammed et al., 2019).

Daif-Allah and Aljumah (2020) found that females in Saudi Arabia have stronger beliefs in learning the English language compared to their counterparts. Males are reluctant to make the decision on whether to embrace and advance foreign language (Daif-Allah & Aljumah, 2020). However, Farah (2020) suggested that both genders reveal varied interactive patterns. Men express a direct style of interaction, while women adopt an indirect pattern of engagement. Notably, the existing studies have not extensively established gender views of English in Saudi; therefore, this paper will try to fill the gap.

Research Methodology

The current study will employ the use of quantitative as well as qualitative methods regarding data collection. The research’s context was to establish if Saudis’ positive change of attitude in learning and English usage is continuous in 2020. The study will also determine if gender is an essential element that influences beliefs and attitudes concerning the language. The data collection was done in various regions and included young people, the elderly, males, and females.

Furthermore, the study will use critical theory to analyze the data and put them into context. Critical theory is essential in understanding complex issues such as how why people behave in specific ways, how society perceives their culture and values, among others (Daif-Allah & Aljumah, 2020). Thus, the theory is instrumental in determining the attitude of Saudi and their consistency in learning English. The paper formulated research statements and questions to assists in the data collection (See Appendices A-I).

Online Survey

The research will use an online survey through Google operative survey technique, published via email and social media. After the publication of the survey, the two-week period was allowed to send responses. Moreover, the survey had an introduction statement, which informed the public of the purposes and the scope of the research. Additionally, the background was also included to inquire about age, gender, expertise, and the respondent’s region. Another segment containing five statements in which the Likert scale was employed: agree, strongly agree, disagree, somewhat agree, and strongly disagree. The aforementioned statements measured responses concerning attitude and gender-related questions. Notably, all participants were mandated to respond to all the sections.

Participants

The target for the research was a larger group, the young and elderly population. A total of 228 responses were received from members of the Saudi people, 100 males and 128 females. They were of different ages; 100 people were young people for less than 39 years while the rest of the participants were above 40 years. Additionally, the participants were from different regions with different academic levels.

Results

The results from the survey were presented, as well as analyzed. It is important to note that the key thrust of the research consists of attitude and gender difference. Furthermore, the study examined and analyzed data according to the response given in relation to age as well as gender groups. Additionally, the findings were discussed in detail and presented in percentages, as indicated in appendices.

Discussion

All the participants were asked whether English is the century’s language and learning it becomes inevitable, and 50% strongly agreed. Additionally, 26.3% of the participants also agreed that teaching-learning English is essential. 19.7% of the participants were not sure whether English should be learned. On the other hand, 2% disagreed that English should be learned, and an additional 2% strongly disagreed on the importance of learning English in Saudi Arabia (See Appendix A). Furthermore, the research established the significance of drawing the distinction between Western culture and the English language. 47.8% strongly agreed that it is essential to avoid any trace of Western culture whenever the schools are teaching the English language. 29.8% agreed on the separation between English and Western cultures, while 18% were not sure of the differences.

Those who strongly disagreed and greed were 1.4% and 3%, respectively (See Appendix B). Moreover, 50.9% strongly disagreed that they view learning English as a waste of time. In addition to this, 43.9% disagreed that learning English is time wastage, while 3.2% were not sure whether it is time wastage. On the contrary, 1.5% strongly agreed that learning English in Saudi Arabia is a wasted effort, supported by other 0.5% (See Appendix C).

When asked whether the people who speak English daily in Saudi Arabia are more intelligent and knowledgeable, 47.8% disagreed with the statement. Another 21.1% also disagreed that speaking the language means one is intelligent and knowledgeable. Additionally, 18.9% indicated that they were not sure whether speaking English implies an individual is more intelligent, while 8.3 participants agreed that English speakers in the region were more intelligent and knowledgeable. On the other hand, the people who strongly agreed that individuals who speak English are more knowledgeable and intelligent were 3.9% of the total participants (See Appendix D).

50% of men and women strongly agreed that it is necessary to learn the English language. Additionally, 26.3% of them agreed that English is the language that people worldwide should get the knowledge of, while 19.7% were not sure about the value of learning the language. On the contrary, 2% of the genders strongly disagreed that English should be learned in Saudi, supported by other 2% who disagreed with the learning of English as necessary to society (See appendix A). When asked whether learning English is a waste of time in Saudi, 50.9 of women and men strongly disagreed, while 43.9% disagreed with the statement.

On the other hand, 1.5% strongly alluded that teaching English in Saudi is time wastage, backed by 0.5% of the genders who agreed with the statement (see Appendix B). Notably, when questioned if gender determines the beliefs, attitude, or views regarding the use of English, 51.8% strongly disagreed, and 42.5% disagreed with the statement. Nevertheless, 3.7% of them agreed that gender influences views concerning English use, and 2% strongly agreed with the idea (See Appendix I).

Conclusion

It is important to note that the study established that most of the Saudi Arabia population have a positive attitude towards learning English in 2020. The majority demonstrated that English is an international and crucial language that should be used by the Saudi people. Nevertheless, Saudi people believe that the education sector should draw a clear boundary between teaching the English language and Western culture. Moreover, the population showed their concern regarding the importance of protecting their indigenous values and cultures. The attitude toward English is positive across people of different ages; both young and older individuals established that it is useful to learn English.

In regards to gender beliefs and foreign language, the study found that there are no significant differences. Both genders believe that the English language is important to society and does not destroy Arabic culture and religion. They believe that learning English is beneficial to society; hence people should acquire its knowledge. Both genders have a positive attitude towards learning English. They believe that a foreign language will not interfere with Arabic culture and values.

This study is crucial for the Saudi people and the education sector in particular. The research will help the Saudi population to revise and design the current cultural policies that relate to the teaching of English. The research will also provide a clear roadmap on the steps that Saudi society has achieved in learning and teaching English and its acceptance for the purposes of future planning.

References

Aljasir, N. (2020). Identity negotiation and construction among Saudi learners of English as a second language. BAU c, 2(1), 7. Web.

Alnasser, S. M. N. (2018). Language use by staff members in Saudi English higher education departments: Beliefs and gender differences. International Education Studies, 11(9), 22-35. Web.

Alsaawi, A. (2020). Plurilingualism and monolingualism in foreign language classrooms: The perspective of EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Language and Cultural Education, 8(1), 15-29. Web.

Al-Shehri, S. (2020). Transforming English language education in Saudi Arabia: Why does technology matter? International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 15(06), 108-123. Web.

Daif-Allah, A. S., & Aljumah, F. H. (2020). Uncovering Saudi English language majors’ cognitive beliefs about learning English literature. English Language Teaching, 13(4), 114-126. Web.

Farah, R. R. (2020). Muslim students’ attitudes and motivations towards English learning in Indonesia: Highlights on cultural teaching. Journal of Asia TEFL, 17(2), 724-732. Web.

Faruk, S. M. G. (2014). Saudis’ attitude towards English: Trend and rationale. Professional Communication and Translation Studies, (7), 173-180. Web.

Irawan, Y. (2020). Situating Islamic values in English language teaching. Islamika: Jurnal Ilmu-Ilmu Keislaman, 20(01), 95-103. Web.

Kaid Mohammed Ali, J., Shamsan, M., Guduru, R., & Yemmela, N. (2019). Attitudes of Saudi EFL learners towards speaking skills. Arab World English Journal (AWEJ), 10(2), 253-364. Web.

Sabani, N., Jimmie, A., & Hasnor, H. N. (2020). English and Arabic language learning environments: Islamic universities undergraduates’ experiences. In Global perspectives on teaching and learning paths in Islamic education (pp. 178-204). IGI Global.

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