Arab Learners Second Language Learning Motivation

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Arab Learners Second Language Learning Motivation

Arab Learners Second Language Learning Motivation


Acquisition of multiple identities to negotiate new forms of social participation and the concomitant attendant multiple languages and multiple cultures is sine qua non to success in English language learning classrooms. This study therefore, investigates how middle school Arab students reconceptualize their identities to negotiate English language learning that ensures the knowledge gained in classrooms prepares them for full participation in their classrooms and communities. 209 English Arab Learners in three middle schools in Los Angeles responded to a 31-item questionnaire about their identity and learning practices. Also, students wrote a short essay to provide biographical perspectives on their lives. An analysis of the data showed that the Arab Learners viewed their multilingual and multicultural backgrounds as an asset rather than a liability. The study recommends the need to understand how students construct their identities and how such self-defined images of self dictate how much students learn in English language learning classrooms.


Recent studies in SLA have focused attention on the need to better understand language Arab Learners' subjectivities - interests, motivation, expectations and needs (Norton-Peirce & Toohey 2001; New London Group 1996) as a basic requirement for an understanding of the educational implications of the cultural and linguistic differences that are increasing becoming part of the social features of life in the 21st century. At the core of the current thinking in language learning is the assumption that acquisition of knowledge should prepare Arab Learners for "new forms of social participation … and link our students' communities -- real, virtual, and imagined -- with those of their counterparts in other cultures and worlds" (Luke and Elkins 1998, p. 6). From this theoretical perspective, teaching ESL particularly in middle schools, raises two fundamental issues: the need to understand Arab Learners' needs, interests, preferences, values and desires on one hand and on the other hand, the need to reconcile these with the demands of the "New Times," (Luke and Elkins 1998, p. 4) characterized by global electronic forms of communication (Willis 2003) and intercultural texts and multiple languages (Luke and Elkins 1998).

With the ever-expanding capitalist, high-tech, computerized global market, there is a radical shift in the traditional demands of language learning -- from acquisition of appropriate rules of usage comparable to native speaker's competence to mastery of multiple discourses and texts (Luke 2000) or multiliteracies (New London Group 1996) -- language skills that are sociopolitically acceptable as symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1991) in situated social practices of a given community whether at schools, workplaces, laboratories, shopping malls or on the streets of Los Angeles. From this perspective second language teaching and learning in middle schools cannot escape from dealing with how the English language is implicated in "the construction of knowledge, power and identity" (Luke 1996 p. 7) in specific socio-cultural and economic contexts in which discourses and texts are used. Norton-Peirce (1995) rightly observes that students learn a second language as an ...
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