Plurilingualism and monolingualism in foreign language classrooms: The perspective of EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia

Ali Alsaawi 1
  • 1 Majmaah University, , Saudi Arabia

Abstract

The idea of teaching a target language via a monolingual medium of instruction in the classroom has long predominated in the pedagogical context. In Saudi Arabia, excluding the students’ mother tongue (Arabic) in the foreign language classroom has been seen as a tool that accelerates the acquisition of the target language (English). This is widely viewed as the most practical and effective method of language learning, especially in the Gulf region, where English is a foreign language employed in the fields of economics and business. The recent academic argument that exploiting the students’ linguistic repertoire, including the mother tongue, in the target language classroom boosts and fosters the students’ learning cycle is still encountering huge resistance, especially among second/foreign language teachers. To explore this dispute from the perspective of English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers in intermediate and secondary schools, a case study was conducted with 34 teachers in the Qassim region, Saudi Arabia, through questionnaires and a focus group interview. The study found that most teachers believe that the policy of using the target language (English) only is the most effective method of language learning. They employed the students’ mother tongue (Arabic) on an ad hoc basis to ensure complete comprehension, organize classroom tasks or convey personal remarks. In addition, the study revealed that teachers’ understanding of plurilingualism was unclear and limited to the verbal use of two languages, and that EFL teachers need more clarification on its application in the classroom.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Barnawi, O. Z., & Al-Hawsawi, S. (2017). English education policy in Saudi Arabia. English language education policy in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Current trends, issues and challenges. English language education policy in the Middle East and North Africa (pp. 199–222). Cham: Springer.

  • Blommaert, J. (2010). The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Boeckmann, K. (2012). Promoting plurilingualism in the majority language classroom. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 6(3), 259–274. https://doi.org/10.1080/17501229.2012.725253

  • Chimbganda, A. B., & Mokgwathi, T. S. (2012). Code-switching in Botswana’s ESL classrooms: A paradox of linguistic policy in education. International Journal of English Linguistics, 2(2), 21–32. doi: 10.5539/ijel.v2n2p21

  • Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. The Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue Canadienne Des Langues Vivantes, 57(3), 402–423.

  • Cook, V. (2008). Second language learning and language teaching (4th ed.). London: Hodder Education.

  • Coste, D., Moore, D., & Zarate, G. (1997). Multilingual and multicultural competence. Strasburg: Council of Europe.

  • Dooly, M., & Vallejo, C. (2020). Bringing plurilingualism into teaching practice: A quixotic quest? International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 23(1), 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2019.1598933

  • Ekman, S. (2015). Teacher beliefs on using Swedish in the teaching of English. Lund: Lund University.

  • García, O., & Otheguy, R. (2020). Plurilingualism and translanguaging: Commonalities and divergences. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 23(1), 17–35. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2019.1598932

  • Habbash, M. (2011). Status change of English and its role in shaping public education language policy and practice in Saudi Arabia: A postmodernist critical perspective [unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Exeter, Exeter.

  • Haenni Hoti, A., & Heinzmann, S. (2012). Foreign language reforms in Swiss primary schools: Potentials and limitations. In K. Braunmüller, & C. Gabriel (Eds.), Multilingual individuals and multilingual societies (pp.189–205). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Iannacci, L. (2008). Beyond the pragmatic and the liminal: Culturally and linguistically diverse students’ code-switching in early-years classrooms. TESL Canada Journal/Revue TESL Du Canada, 25(2), 103–123. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v26i1.132

  • Jiménez, A. D., López-Gopar, M. E., & Morales, N. J. (2014). Critical classroom practices: Using “English” to foster minoritized languages and cultures in Oaxaca, Mexico. In D. Gorter, V. Zenotz, & J. Cenoz (Eds.), Minority languages and multilingual education: Bridging the local and the global (pp. 177–200). Dordrecht: Springer.

  • Lamb, T. (2015). Towards a plurilingual habitus: Engendering interlinguality in urban spaces. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 10(2), 151–165. https://doi.org/10.1080/22040552.2015.1113848

  • Lüdi, G. (2020). Plurilingual speech as legitimate and efficient communication strategy. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 23(1), 36–48. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2019.1600471

  • Marshall, S., & Moore, D. (2018). Plurilingualism amid the panoply of lingualisms: Addressing critiques and misconceptions in education. International Journal of Multilingualism, 15(1), 19–34. https://doi.org/10.1080/14790718.2016.1253699

  • Moore, E. (2016). Conceptualizing multilingual higher education in policies, pedagogical designs and classroom practices. Language, Culture & Curriculum, 29(1), 22–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/07908318.2016.1132652

  • Ò Laoire, M., & Singleton, D. (2009). The role of prior knowledge in L3 learning and use: Further evidence of psychotypological dimensions. In L. Aronin & B. Hufeisen (Eds.), The exploration of multilingualism: Development of research on L3, multilingualism and multiple language acquisition (pp. 79–102). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

  • Pennycook, A. (1995). English in the world/the world in English. In J. W. Tollefson (Ed.), Power and inequality in language education (pp. 34–58). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Piccardo, E. (2019). “We are all (potential) plurilinguals”: Plurilingualism as an overarching, holistic concept. OLBI Working Papers, 10.

  • Selamat, J. T. (2014). Code switching in the Malaysian ESL classroom [unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Otago, New Zealand.

  • Vallejo, C., & Dooly, M. (2020). Plurilingualism and translanguaging: Emergent approaches and shared concerns. Introduction to the special issue. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2019.1600469

  • Zafer, A. (2002). A survey of Saudi schools’ teachers and college professors’ perspectives on topics and roles to emphasize in English as a foreign language in teacher preparation course [unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.

  • Zaid, M. A. (1993). Comprehensive analysis of the current system of teaching English as a foreign language in the Saudi Arabian intermediate schools [unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search