Academic journal article International Education Studies

The Presentation of EIL in Kuwait: Students' Expectations and Needs

Academic journal article International Education Studies

The Presentation of EIL in Kuwait: Students' Expectations and Needs

Article excerpt

Abstract

The teaching of native-like accents has been the aim of many EFL educationists long ago; however, this concept is heading towards a major change. Hence, the idea of this paper is based on Jenkins' (2000 & 2002) theory of English as an International Language (EIL). Jenkins' theory analyses the use of English by non-natives speakers (NNS) where the interlocutor is also a NNS; and hence designs a Lingua Franca Core (LFC), that she proposes as a foundation of EIL courses. This study attempted to apply LFC in an EIL classroom in the College of Basic Education in Kuwait, with English major students who are either taking part in a conversation class or a phonetics class. The researcher first selected parts of LFC applicable in the Kuwaiti context, in terms of consonants, vowels, word/syllable stress and connected speech. This choice was based on six hours interaction with both groups. The students were given a questionnaire investigating students' preferences and reflection of the use of Kuwaiti-English exercise tapes and had a group in-class discussion. After the analysis of the questionnaire feedback, the author found that the majority of students would prefer to be exposed to RP or GA, yet be free to use their own Kuwaiti-English dialect. The author later proposes a method of working with the students' abilities and preferences.

Keywords: EFL/ESL, native speaker, accent, English, pronunciation, EIL

1. Introduction

1.1 Significance of the Study

21st century studies have shown that Received Pronunciation (RP) is spoken by a mere 3% in the world (Agha, 2007). Strangely, this dialect has been the target dialect of English language teaching for foreign learners (EFL) for decades worldwide. Later, General American (GA) was also added as the "correct English dialect" to be taught in an EFL context. This idea has spread in Kuwaiti public schools as well. Kuwaiti intermediate and secondary public schools taught Oxford textbooks-accompanied by recordings in RP for listening and speaking exercises. In late 1993, the textbooks were changed to locally-designed ones and English was introduced in primary schools; however, the recordings were also in RP. The effect of the accent was later clear in the attitudes towards accents by college students.

14 years ago, when one of the researchers started teaching in Kuwait University, she asked the students to present an oral presentation; the first question she was asked was "in British or American English?" The question at the time was very strange bearing in mind that using an accent is "normally" not a matter of choice at that stage. However, the concept of "accent choice" seemed to be a cultural aspect, where the author found that after a decade she would be asked the same question by a very different group of students. After 10 years, the researcher entered a 'Phonetics and Phonology' class, and asked her students to transcribe one-syllable words such as 'put', 'hat' and 'buy', and she was asked the same question. Usually, every time the researcher was asked that question, the answer was "Speak in an English language I can understand". Yet, the real question was "what is the English that can be understood?" These incidents ignited the search for basic rules that make language "understood". To start the search, one should address the reason the speaker needs to use the language, and the places this language is used.

Most often, people learn a language to communicate internationally, and rarely with native speakers (NS). Most Kuwaitis are interested in learning English to communicate with NNS in restaurants and shops. They also travel around the world, to non-English-speaking countries, and need to use their English (Al-Darwish & Taqi, 2015).

In the case of the College of Basic Education (CBE hereafter) English language students, their interest-added to the above mentioned reasons-is to be able to teach the language to primary school students whose L1 is Arabic. …

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