Academic journal article International Education Studies

What Arab Students Say about Their Linguistic and Educational Experiences in Canadian Universities

Academic journal article International Education Studies

What Arab Students Say about Their Linguistic and Educational Experiences in Canadian Universities

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this inquiry, I examine the cross educational experiences of ten Arab undergraduate students in two English-language universities in Montreal. Participants were from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco and have been in Canada for three to seven years.

Classic qualitative methodological tools of in-depth interviews, participant observation and document analysis were employed to record, analyze and interpret the experiences of these students. In order to give voice to these students' insights and experiences, a narrative approach is used in presenting and interpreting the data.

Three themes identified as educational issues emerged from the analysis: Student-Teacher Relationship; Teaching Methodology; Teaching and learning foreign languages and Examinations. The analysis revealed differences in culture, language, and social and educational systems between these students' countries of origin and Canada as the major sources of these students' positive and negative experiences. The study concludes that Canadian educators can assist these students by becoming aware of their home culture, different learning styles, frustrations in adjusting to school life and in overcoming cultural shock; and by helping them adjust to Canadian educational system and learn about the Canadian culture.

Keywords: teaching methods, language proficiency, cultural influences, memorization, learning style, learning experience, foreign students

1. Introduction

Many studies have been conducted to investigate the experience of immigrants in Western host societies, such as USA, Canada, Australia and Britain (e.g., Tran, 2013; Watkins, Razee, & Richters, 2012; Bista, 2012; Chuang, 2012). However, to date, a search of the literature has yielded only few studies on Arab communities in North America. Those that do exist have focused exclusively on Lebanese and Syrian communities (e.g., Haddad, Smith & Esposito, 2003; 1996; Fahlman, 1983; Haj-Yahia, 1997; Abu-Rabia, 1997) or other non-Arab Islamic populations such as Iranians, Pakistanis and Malaysians (e.g., Yousif, 1992; Hofman, 1990; Talbani, 1991; Qureshi & Qureshi, 1983). Research-based evidence of Arabs' adaptive experience is rather limited, and much of it tends to explore only certain aspects of their problematic relationships with the host society.

This study examines some of the cultural-linguistic challenges facing ten Arab students (four women and six men) from four different areas of the Middle East and North Africa (i.e., Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco) attending English-language universities in Canada. Despite the existence of a substantial Arab population in the USA and Canada (Haddad, Smith, & Esposito, 2003), there is a lack of research on their educational and linguistic experience in these societies in general. Scarcity of educational research on Arab Muslim immigrants have compelled and inspired me to conduct an in-depth examination of the issues of adaptation and integration identified by Arab Muslim students in Canada. I expect that my findings will contribute positively to the discourse on cultural adaptation, specifically as it pertains to the adaptation and integration of Arab Muslim students.

This study does not aim to make generalizations about a people that constitute about two hundred million and live in twenty-two Arabic countries or alternatively about 31 million Canadians of diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds. The experiences and perceptions of the ten students in this study are but a window on the "types" of experiences, expectations Arab students might bring with them to their Canadian classrooms. The major research question for this study is: how do Arabic students describe their learning experience in Canadian universities?

2. Language and Adjustment

One factor closely related to social adjustment is the language difference between mainstream and minority groups. Language is both the symbol of ethnic identity and the most profound expression of culture (Watkins, Razee, & Richters, 2012; Kuo, 2011; Phakiti & li, 2011; Geertz, 1973). …

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