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Teaching Arabic students

 
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eihpos



Joined: 14 Dec 2008
Posts: 206

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:48 am    Post subject: Teaching Arabic students Reply with quote

Hi,

I am hoping for some advice from the experts! I am not in the Middle East but my new class are going to be Arabic students (I'm not sure where they are from exactly) I will be preparing then for their IELTS exam in June.

I was wondering if anyone could offer any advice - such as their particular language difficulties. I have never taught Arabic students and am not sure what to expect, or what they will expect from me.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First off... they would be Arab students who are Arabic speakers. (Arab is the people, Arabic is the language) Cool

Will they all be one nationality or a mix of Arabic speakers? Are they streamed by level? Or are they just rather dumped into one test prep course?

I notice that you had been teaching in Asia/China. The students will be very different from Asians. Most Arab students will talk your arm off... listening skills at a similar level, but they will be very weak at reading and even weaker at writing. This is, of course, a generalization. I have had students who were high intermediate at speaking and listening, but low beginner in reading and writing.

Test prep courses tend to be mainly overcoming their fear of exams... getting them used to the format... and understanding where each individual's weaknesses are. I assume that you have a IELTS prep book that you will use?

VS
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9639
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught IELTS to Saudi students outside their natural habitat as well, and agree with VS. It's often difficult for them to write on topic, and they'll benefit from lots of practice tests. The IELTS materials give pretty good strategies for instructors, and if you're not familiar with the test, plan to study up a bit.

Keep in mind that these test results are often high-stakes for the students, and the results are quantifiable, so it's a chance for a teacher to really demonstrate effectiveness (or not!).

Another factor is whether you will have a mix of genders; this is something you'll want to develop some strategies to deal with in advance, as it may well be the first time they've had to share a classroom with the other gender.
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Daktari



Joined: 08 Mar 2010
Posts: 57

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:49 am    Post subject: yep Reply with quote

All the above advice is very sound, especially the stuff relating to reading/writing vs listening/speaking. Which IELTS are you doing general or academic? In my experience the reading paper's the killer. Time constraints and Arab learning experiences rarely fit hand in glove and let's face it, it's difficult. Give them as much timed reading skills practice as you can from day 1. With the writing they're not used to organizing discursive essays and they opt for simpler sentence constructions. Therefore you've gotta focus on sentences that score high on the coherence and cohesion and which are more complex, so teaching relative clauses (and others) and linking devices is crucial. We use Objective IELTS book A and B but there are many others. Giving full mocks is also essential, so get past papers.

More than anything insist on strict selection criteria if you can. IELTS and TOEFL are not a stroll in the park and getting 6.5 is hard for Arabs, whose domestic institutions are rarely up to scratch for one reason or another.

Re-the religious stuff just treat them like normal people but split the men and women up to start with, don't digress in to religion or politics and you should be fine. Oh and always hand them stuff with your right hand, don't ask the men about their mums and sisters and get them to put their phones on silent......good luck.


Last edited by Daktari on Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12904
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Daktari,

While I agree with almost all you wrote, I found this odd:

". . . always hand them stuff with your right hand . . . "

I spent nineteen years in Saudi and I am left-handed. Of course, at dinner parties, I always used my right hand, but in class, when I was handing out papers, for example, I always used my left-hand. No student ever showed any distaste for my doing do (and my left-handed students used to use their left hands to hand me things.)

Regards,
John
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:31 pm    Post subject: Re: yep Reply with quote

Daktari wrote:
With the writing they're not used to organizing discursive essays and they opt for simpler sentence constructions. Therefore you've gotta focus on sentences that score high on the coherence and cohesion and which are more complex, so teaching relative clauses (and others) and linking devices is crucial.

Be aware of the extreme rhetorical difference between writing in Arabic and English. Whereas in English, our goal is to say the most with the least words, in Arabic it is to say the least with the most verbiage. It is why Arabic seems repetitious to us because a good Arabic writer is one who can demonstrate his/her ability to really use as much of the language as possible.

A key difference... in Arabic, a proper sentence is one that we would define as a run-on or comma splice. They have no idea where to put that elusive full-stop. An untrained writer will hand in a one page essay... of one sentence. Cool The use of simple sentences flows from those that have the knowledge that they aren't sure where to end an English sentence.

Beware of linking devices. Another transfer problem is that they will just link a collection of phrases/clauses with "and" as is commonly done and proper in Arabic. Once you teach them linking devices, they will tend to use one in front of every clause. Be sure to emphasize that a one page essay will not have two dozen transition words. Laughing

VS
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9639
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Be sure to emphasize that a one page essay will not have two dozen transition words
.


But they've (often) been told that transition words get them higher scores Cool Laughing Yet another step further that they have to use them accurately!!
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was from the same teachers who tell them that spelling doesn't matter. Laughing

VS
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9639
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My goodness, the IELTS gods are picky types, aren't they?!

OP, one of the tactics I used to help with their writing was a text deconstruction sequence. Basically, I took one example writing task (about a band 7; better than what they needed to achieve but not glaringly so), and removed one paragraph, which they had to fill in, using logic and language that fit. I used the same text, and had them ultimately re-write each paragraph (no matter that they already know what the original says; it's about whether they can put the logic and the language in, whether it's similar to the original or not). Finally, I had them write the task description (which I'd never shown them). We did this over a few months with five or six examples; it seemed to be somewhat effective.
Did this among a number of other things, of course!!
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genericusername



Joined: 04 Dec 2012
Posts: 28
Location: Dubai

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know about Daktari's advice to not talk about mothers and sisters. In my experience, talking about family in a general sense is essential to forming a friendly report with Arabs. You certainly don't do the dozens, but asking about their families is not troublesome.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12904
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear genericusername,

You don't want to do that in Saudi, believe me.

Regards,
John
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

genericusername wrote:
I don't know about Daktari's advice to not talk about mothers and sisters. In my experience, talking about family in a general sense is essential to forming a friendly report with Arabs. You certainly don't do the dozens, but asking about their families is not troublesome.

As a woman... with a class of women, there are pretty much no limits as to family topics - in the classroom or in the office. Speaking to a male student in my office, the topic of the female members of his family is probably OK, but still not in the classroom. But, as a male teacher... definitely do NOT bring it up... in private or especially in the classroom. You can bring up fathers and brothers, but never the female members of the family.

I would say that this is true of all of the Gulf for sure... things are a bit more relaxed in North Africa and the Levant, but I would still tread very carefully. As to groups of students in an anglophone country, I would take care and let them decide what is covered in the classroom...

Have we scared eihpos away?

VS
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Daktari



Joined: 08 Mar 2010
Posts: 57

PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:27 am    Post subject: s'pose so Reply with quote

Yeah you're probably right John...I'm a lefty and maybe I overcompensate. I think a female teacher might, just might get away with it re the women issue but I just avoid that problem like the plague.

Going back to IELTS though and the reading in particular, what advice would you give him? It's a tough paper. No time to read and re-read stuff...different types of question etc. I think identifying key questions words and topic sentences is one strategy/tool....looking at concluding sentences of course...but it's the time factor. I don't like doing IELTS readings! And then you have those misleading paragraph headings, some of which are almost identical and there's always 1 floater :-)
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