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Title: The role of motivational factors in the apparent lack of success in English language learning in Arab-speaking countries, particularly Oman and the United Arab Emirates
Author: O'Sullivan, Kathy
Awarding Body: University of Portsmouth
Current Institution: University of Portsmouth
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis examines the degree to which motivational factors influence the successful acquisition of English as a foreign language in female Emirati and Omani learners. The research participants were female third-level students taking foundation English and English for Specific Purposes courses in a university in the United Arab Emirates and a teacher-training college in Oman, both of which are based on an American model. Problems frequently occur when learners similar to those described in this study go through higher education, particularly when the institutions in question are based on a Western model. Such problems may include reluctance to assume responsibility for their learning (Ali, 2003) and a perceived lack of successful language acquisition. Undoubtedly, high school education with its traditional emphasis on rote learning and memorising exam questions plays a role (Canning & Bornstein, 200 I), as does the sociocultural context, which means that students have almost no opportunity to socialise outside their family environment. However, in the wider context, Western culture is having an enonnous impact on the entire region, primarily due to the media's reporting of regional and political affairs. Such reporting has also resulted in heightened tension in the region, which have been the subject of demonstrations on university campuses and anxiety in some language classrooms where English language teachers are for the most part native speakers of English. It is against such a background that changes are taking place in the educational systems across the region, with English assuming more significance as a language of instruction. Arabic is being phased out as the primary language of instruction in many instances. This has an impact on the learners' motivation to study the English language. Studies have suggested that motivation to learn a foreign language may be affected by attitudes towards the target language community and fears of loss of identity (Lambert, 1979; Pool, 1979; Williams, 1994; Costelloe, 2001; Kharbat, 2002), thus indicating that the macro-context may be one of the motivational factors involved in successful language acquisition. Some recent studies have also focused on the role of power in language learning, arguing that it is one of the factors that affect motivation (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991; Lightbrown & Spada, 1993; Norton, 2000). In English language education, studies have been conducted on linguistic imperialism (Philippson, 1992) and resistance to such imperialism (Canagarajah, 1999) which refer to the impact that underlying political, religious and socio-economic issues may have on motivation to achieve a higher level in the English language. The results of the study I have undertaken similarly show that participants' acquisition of the English language was affected by a number of motivational factors, including the macro-context of power relations and culture, as well as the micro-context of the classroom, where the teacher, curriculum and materials all had a role to play. Many of the participants appear to have a clear grasp of how both the macro and micro contexts influence their motivation to study English and achieve a high level in the language. These findings suggest that in order for learners to achieve a higher level in the English language, language planners and policy makers need to be aware of how both the macro and micro contexts influence language acquisition. The research emphasizes a necessity for both administration and for instructors in higher education institutions in Oman and the UAE to conduct needs analysis amongst the learners so that their needs, as well as those of other stakeholders, can be catered to. Such measures should support the learners as they strive to achieve a measure of success in English language acquisition. The findings of this research propose that a greater understanding of the role of motivational factors may conceivably have a valuable part to play in raising standards of English language acquisition in Arabic-speaking countries.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available