The paper “ Attitudes of Students and Lecturers towards the English Language in Saudi Arabia” is a motivating example of a research proposal on English. This research proposal focuses on the study of attitudes of students and lecturers regarding the English language in Saudi Arabia, a rarely conducted study of the cross-cultural aspect of studying and teaching English as a second language in Saudi Arabia. This study further narrows down to understand whether English is perceived as a western product that should be avoided or an international language with no cultural, hegemonic baggage.
Only a few studies have so far being conducted focusing on such a specific topic. Studies have found that English was majorly taught to the expatriates’ children in Saudi Arabia in the beginning, but due to globalization and increase in business with the western world, the need to learn English as a second language became prominent, which resulted in the spread of the language in the country. Further, many students also started going to universities in the US and the UK and therefore it required them to have fluency in the English language (Hendrickson 2007).
Thus, the government also focused on providing quality English language training to the students. However, the government also emphasized that the institutes and schools should maintain and protect the Islamic values while teaching English to the students (Hendrickson 2007). Later, the English language also became a part of the school curriculum in Saudi Arabia despite many Islamic scholars opposing such a decision as they feared introducing English in such an early stage of education would create western influence on the children. However, gaining mastery over English by Saudi Arabia students of English as a second language (ESL) was not easy due to the dominance of the native language and limited chances to use English in daily interactions.
Various studies have been conducted to understand the kinds of common mistakes being made by the Saudi Arabia students of ESL (Elyas 2008; Al-Hazmi & Scholfield 2007; Ibrahim 1983; Mukattash 1983; Suleiman 1983). Although most of these studies emphasized that the failure to master the language by the students was mostly due to the lack of proper infrastructure, methodology, and initiation on the part of the students, none of the studies focused on understanding the perceptions of the students or lecturers regarding the English language. The relationship between culture and language is a complex one.
As per Ronald Langacker (1999), language is seen as an essential tool and integral part of a culture, which is being reflected through the linguistic structure. Further, linguists such as Lakoff and Johnson (1999) also suggested that cultural impact could be found in the various idioms and metaphors used in languages. Thus, as per most linguistic theorists culture has an implicit impact on the development and learning of language (Goldberg 1999). Although significant studies focusing on the relationship between cultural perceptions and the English language in Saudi Arabia are not conducted, generic studies on the subject of culture and its impact on language can be found in ample.
Prof. Farzad Sharifian is one such scholar who is an expert in the field of studying the influence of culture on learning English by non-native learners. Sharifian (2003) emphasized on the concept of cultural conceptualization in many of his works and stated that it is this concept that enables a cultural group to formulate a singular opinion, which forms a major impact on learning or teaching language as well.
As per Sharifian (2009a) cultural concepts have an immense impact on the linguistic devices and features, which he underlines through the study of the English language spoken by several non-native speakers. Similarly, in earlier work, Sharifian (2007) studied how English is being impacted due to cultural changes in China, Japan, and Africa.
Al-Hazmi, S.H. & Scholfield, P. 2007, ‘Enforced Revision with Checklist and Peer Feedback in EFL Writing: The Example of Saudi University Students’, Scientific Journal of King Faisal University, 8(2), 237-258.
Elyas, T. 2008, The Attitude and Impact of the American English as a Global Language within the Saudi Educational System, Novitas Roral, 2 (1), 28-48.
Goldberg, A. E. 1999, The emergence of the semantics of argument structure constructions, In MacWhinney, B. (Ed.) (1999), The Emergence of Language, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hendrickson, P.B. 2007, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Educational System, University of North Texas, 6-12.
Ibrahim, M. 1983, ‘The Role of English Departments in Arab Universities,’ In Dihayat and Ibrahim (eds.), Papers from the First Conference on the Problems of Teaching English Language and Literature at Arab Universities, University of Jordan, Amman-Jordan.
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. 1999, Philosophy In The Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, New York: Basic Books.
Langacker, R.W. 1999, A view from cognitive linguistics, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22, 625-625.
Mukattash, L. 1983, ‘The Plight of difficulty in foreign language learning’, In E. Dahiyat, and M. Ibrahim (eds.), Papers from the First Conference on the Problems of Teaching English Language and Literature at Arab Universities, University of Jordan, Amman-Jordan.
Sharifian, F. & Palmer, G. B. (eds.) 2007, Applied cultural linguistics: Implications for second language learning and intercultural communication, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
Sharifian, F. (ed.) 2009b, English as an International Language: Perspectives and pedagogical issues, Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 195-200.
Sharifian, F. 2003, ‘On cultural conceptualizations,’ Journal of Cognition and Culture, 3 (3), 187-207.
Sharifian, F. 2008, ‘Cultural schemas in L1 and L2 compliment responses: A study of Persian-speaking learners of English,’ Journal of Politeness Research, 4(1), 55-80.
Sharifian, F. 2009a, On collective cognition and language, In H. Pishwa (ed.) Language and social cognition: Expression of social mind, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 163-182.
Suleiman, S. 1983, ‘Teaching English to Arab students at the university level,’ In Dihayat and Ibrahim (eds.), Papers from the First Conference on the Problems of Teaching English Language and Literature at Arab Universities, University of Jordan, Amman-Jordan.