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Attitudes of Kuwait University students towards Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

Abstract:

This research work endeavors to examine Kuwait University language students' attitude towards Modern Standard Arabic under the spread of English as a dominant language. It attempts also to examine differences between males and females' attitudes towards English as medium of instruction as opposed to Modern Standard Arabic. The undertaken study reveals that students hold more positive attitudes towards Standard Arabic as compared to English. It also showed that females hold higher positive attitudes towards MSA as a medium of instruction as compared to males.

Key words: globalization--language attitudes--Modern Standard Arabic --English--Kuwait University.

Introduction

In recent years, the study of languages has become an essential topic of investigation in social science studies. Globalization has resulted in tremendous changes in different aspects of life such as media, education, finance and business. With the rise of English as a worldwide language, linguists of different languages have become aware of the threat of English on their languages. Standard Arabic is one of those languages that is claimed to be a restricted language used in certain domains.

Language attitude is one of the recent and important discussed topics in the field of sociolinguistics. It is indicated by many linguists that learning a language is strongly related to attitudes that reveal the speaker's cognitive, feelings and behaviors towards the learnt language. With the global need to master the global language, learning English, the language of education, technology and employment, has become a fact that everybody must accept.

The present study deals with Kuwait University students' attitudes towards the use of MSA (Mother Standard Arabic) and English. It is believed by many researchers such as Watfa (2013) who examined the status of MSA at Kuwait University that students are paying great attention to English as compared to MSA, whose position may be affected among its speakers. In fact, many researchers such as Mallah (2000) and Al-Bustan and Al-Bustan (2009) who have examined the status of English at Kuwait University found that nowadays students are developing a positive attitude towards English and its use. Some studies about languages attitudes at Kuwait University claim that students are becoming more aware of the importance of English as a global language, an issue that affects their attitudes towards their mother tongue, while others affirm that Kuwait University still praise and promote the use of MSA.

Appel and Muysken (1987) found that English-speaking Canadian students regard their language as prestigious and more beautiful than French as they showed negative attitudes towards Canadian French.

In a study conducted by Abidin, Mohammadi, &323 Alzwari (2012) on a secondary Libyan school to measure gender differences towards English, results showed that female students have higher positive attitude towards using English as opposed to males.. In addition, in a study among Flispanic male and female students to investigate attitude towards their language (Spanish) in relation to nationalistic ideology, Schwieter(2008) found that females have less negative attitudes towards Spanish as compared to males.

Similarly, Guessas (2012) conducted a quasi-experiment to change negative language attitude among secondary schools students and professional training students in Tiaret (Algeria) to overcome language conflict. Results indicated that females displayed more positive attitudes as opposed to males towards using MSA and French while both males and females indicated that Berber and Algerian Arabic received less positive attitudes.

Assaf's (2001) study of attitude towards dialectal Arabic and MSA in terms of setting and speaker's educational level indicated that highly educated students prefer to use MSA in formal situations whereas less educated ones prefer to use the Palestinian dialect in formal situations. Similarly Ibrahim, Zakaria Fikri, Abdelwahab & Wan (2012) investigated Malaysian students' attitude and motivation towards learning standard Arabic. Results showed that students in the language center have a positive attitude towards learning Arabic not only for academic purposes but also for obtaining a better job and tourism in the Arab area.

Al-Nofaie's (2010) study in a Saudi intermediate school indicates that students as well as teachers have positive attitude towards using Arabic as an intermediate language in the EFL classroom where students feel much comfortable when Arabic is used to explain lessons in the EFL classroom.

Ennaji's (2005) study of the Moroccans' attitude towards MSA, Berber, French and English resulted demonstrated that English is the language preferred among Moroccans due to its status as a dominant language. Moroccan native speakers hold negative attitudes towards Moroccan Arabic and regard it as a corrupted version of MSA and "associated with illiteracy" (p. 65)

Liu (2009) reveals that Chinese students hold positive attitude towards English and they feel proud when speaking English. Thus, they are motivated to learn English for personal, academic and professional purposes. Holtzhausen (2011:276) indicates in a study that UAE students prefer to be educated in English for obtaining a better job since most jobs in UAE require proficiency in English.

Abu-Melhim (2009) states that Irbid University students' positive attitude towards English is increasing and found that students believe that learning English is a fact that everybody must accept. In addition, Salameh (2011) discovered that students who opted to study English literature in the Hashemite University conceptualize English as a perfect global language to be learnt. Moreover, students hold a highly positive attitude towards learning English though the learnt culture (western) has affected the social structure of the Jordanian society.

Finally, Karahan (2007) showed that 8th grade students in the Turkish community hold slightly positive attitudes towards the English language despite their lack of awareness of its importance. The study also showed that girls hold more positive attitudes than males towards the language and its use.

Our study aims at investigating Kuwait University students' attitudes towards MSA and attempt to discoverer students' attitude towards English as opposed to MSA, and how students feel about English as opposed to MSA as a language of instruction, and finally whether there are any different attitudes towards the two languages in relation to gender.

In the light of the previous description, our main study seeks to answer the following questions:

1. What are the attitudes of Kuwait university students towards English as opposed to Modern Standard Arabic?

2. Are there any gender differences among Kuwait University students' attitudes towards the use of English as a medium of instruction as opposed to Modern Standard Arabic?

Method and procedure:

Sample

A convenience sample was used in this study. The convenience sampling has been selected to execute this research because it is purposive and time saving. The initial sample consisted of 180 undergraduate students; however 22 participants were discarded and excluded from the research analysis because they did not consider the questionnaire properly (missing responses, incomplete information). The final sample comprised 158 informants, of whom 73 were males (46.2 %) and 85 females (53.8%).

Instrument:

With reference to the many studies relevant to the attitudes towards language, we have prepared a series of potential scale items covering relevant aspects of attitudes towards MSA and English. Then, we have reviewed and refined the items; a preliminary 30-item scale was further screened by three college members who are experts in test designs at the college of Education (Kuwait University) and psychology department (Tlemcen University).Following their recommendations, some of the items were reworded to simplify the language, and others were discarded for not being directly relevant to what is meant to measure in this study. In total 10 items were thrown out.

The 20-item final version of the scale is designed in a 5-point Likert scale format: strongly agree (SA), 2-agree(A) 3-neither agree nor disagree (undecided), 4- disagree(D) and 5-strongly disagree(SD). the students' linguistic behavior. The domains of the questionnaire are as follows:

1. Students' attitudes towards English consisting of 3 items.

2. Students' attitudes towards Arabic consisting of 4 items.

3. Students' attitudes towards English as a medium of instruction consisting of 7 items.

4. Students' attitudes towards Arabic as a medium of instruction consisting of 6 items.

--Reliability and Validity of the questionnaire

To measure the reliability of the research instrument, we have used Cronbach's Alpha coefficient of reliability test. In the present study The Cronbach's Alpha coefficient for internal consistency in the designed instrument has reached 0.67 which is considered as acceptable and valid for carrying this research. To measure the validity of the research instrument, three interjudge raters (proof judges) were consulted about the validity of the instrument.

Procedures:

The questionnaire was presented to students in Arabic, their mother tongue. Since the language of performance may affect their responses, it was felt important to allow them to use their dominant language. The questionnaire was also translated into English and was revised by 2 specialists in translation

After collecting the completed questionnaires, item responses for all participants were converted into numerical form assigning to each of the five responses depending on the nature of the item. The analysis of the questionnaire was conducted with the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) version IBM 22.

Results

An initial yes/no question was used to extract some background about the students' linguistic behavior profile. Table 1 indicates students' preferred medium of instruction: 63.9% of the informants preferred their lectures to be delivered in MSA, while 36.1% of the informants disagreed with that.

1-To answer the first question of the study (What are the attitudes of Kuwait University students towards English as opposed to Modern Standard Arabic?) percentages were used for both domains:

A. Domain for students' attitudes towards English, B-Domain for students' attitudes towards MSA.

A. Domain for students' attitudes towards English,

Three items are listed in this domain to indicate students' attitudes towards the language on a five-point scale. Table. 2 shows that they think of English positively and there is a clear degree of positiveness (36.9%) towards English as compared to the degree of their negativenss (29.1%), Students either strongly agree or agree that English is a delicate language and admire hearing people speaking it. However, item 20 indicates that despite the fact that students possess a positive attitude toward English, only 13 informants preferred English as the language of the distributed questionnaire. On the other hand, the results obtained show that almost one third of the informants (33.7%) feel unsure about their attitude towards English.

B. Domain for Students' attitudes towards MSA

A domain of four items was formed to investigate their attitude. Table 3 shows that 90 of the informants believe that MSA holds a higher position as compared to English and 74 feel proud when they speak MSA or hear it spoken by others. In sum results indicatesthat the degree of positiveness towards MSA (72.75%) is higher as compared to the degree of positiveness towards English (36.9%) and the degree of negativenss towards MSA (22.45%). However, almost 25 informants (14.4%) felt unsure about their attitude towards MSA.

2. Are there any gender differences among Kuwait University students' attitudes towards the use of English as a medium of instruction as opposed to Modern Standard Arabic?

To investigate if there are any significant gender differences among Kuwait University students' attitudes towards the use of English as medium of instruction as opposed to standard Arabic, we have performed a t-test. In our study, results show that the Sig. 2-tailed value (.687) is higher than the value of the t-test (.404) .This indicates that there are no significant differences between males' and females' attitudes towards English as tool of instruction. On the other hand, the results of the second domain showed that the value of Sig. 2-tailed (.001) is less than t-test value (3.449), which indicates a clear significant difference between the males' and females' attitudes towards MSA as an instruction tool. The means shows that the female's attitude towards MSA as an instruction tool (18.3425) is higher than the males' one (15.4706). Moreover, the whole Sig. 2-tailed value of the scale has reached .035, which is less than the value of t-test (2.131); this also indicates that there are some significant differences in males' and females' attitudes

Discussion of the results

The main results of the present study indicate that students hold positive attitudes towards MSA (72.5%) as compared to English (36.9%). despite the fact that students hold a positive attitude towards English and the people who speak it, 75 of them either strongly disagreed or disagreed on item 20 (T wish that this questionnaire was done in English'), which strengthens the fact that students still feel comfortable with MSA. The present results are in contrast with Ahmed's (2010:197) study which claim that "Arabic has been taking a back seat" with the up-rise of English as a language of finance, business, education, science and technology. They also negate Malallah's(2000) results that reveal Kuwait university students' positive attitude towards English as well as learning the language and the people who speak it. Similarly, our results contradict Abu-Melhim's (2009) study at Irbid University which asserts that students' attitudes towards English is increasing. They also contradict Salameh's (2011) study at The Hashemite University that indicates students' highly positive attitude towards learning English though the learnt culture (western culture) has affected the social structure of the Jordanian society. However, on the other hand our results agree with Mesbaah and Mutawa'a (1988) study in maintaining that Kuwait University students think highly of MSA as compared to English, most probably as a result of the prestige ascribed to Standard Arabic as a language of religion and of a great bulk of literature ,though they praise English for occupational and personal purposes.

Our results have also revealed that MSA is still the preferred medium of instruction at Kuwait university than English, which denotes opposite results of Al Jarf's (2004) study on the use of MSA at the University of Jordan and King FahadAbdl-Aziz University as a medium of instruction.

We can conclude that there are significant gender attitude differences towards English as a medium of instruction as opposed to MSA. Moreover, the males' level of positiveness (48.9%) is higher than their negativenss (36.9%) due to the fact that male students regard English as the language for better employment, technology and tourism and they need to master it. In contrast, the females' highly positive attitudes towards MSA indicate the fact that they usually seem to preserve their national language, which reflects their nationality and belonging to their nation. The present finding seems to agree with Schwieter's (2008) study which indicates that Hispanic female students have less negative attitudes (used less negative adjectives to describe Spanish) towards Spanish as compared to males.

Results also indicate that females (59.8%) have more negative attitudes towards English as medium of instruction as compared to males (36.9%), a result which agrees with Al-Bustan's and Al-Bustan's (2009) survey study at Kuwait University about English majored students' attitudes and preferences towards learning English which states that female students have negative attitudes towards studying English.

In conclusion The study of language attitudes may take different dimensions based on the measuring tool. From the previous discussion, it is noticed that students of Kuwait University praise their language more than English. It is also believed that females usually possess higher positive attitudes towards their language than males, whereas males often look forward to mastering English for technology improvement, tourism and occupational reasons. However, our study has revealed that one third of the selected sample were neutral which did not help precisely in determining students' attitudes. As a conclusion, this study has led to the feeling of a kind of relief that MSA is still considered as more esteemed to Kuwait University students than English despite the prestige ascribed to the language of globalization.

References

Abidin, M. J., mohammadi, M. P. & Alzwari, H (2012). EFL students' attitudes towards learning English Language: the case of Libya secondary school students. Asian social sciences. 8(2), 119-134.

Abu-Melhim, A. (2009).Attitudes of Jordanian students towards learning English as a foreign language. College Student Journal. 43 (2).

Ahmed, K. (2010) The Arabic language: challenges in the modern world. International Journal for cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education. 1 (3)

Al-Bustan, S.A. & Al-Bustan, L. (2009). Investigating students' attitudes and preference towards learning English ay Kuwait university. College student journal. 43(2).

Al-jarf, R.S.(2004) Youth's Attitudes towards the use of Arabic and English languages in education. Retrieved on 14/01/2014 http://www.diwanalarab.com/ spip.php?article748

Al-Nowaife. M.(2010).The attitudes of teachers and students towards uising Arabic in EFL classrooms in Saudi public schools--A Case study, Novitas Royal, 4(1) 64-95.

Appel, R. & Muysken, P. (1987). Language contact and bilingualism. Hodder & Stoughton: UK.

Assaf, A. S. (2001). Palestinian students' attitude towards modern Standard Arabic and Palestinian city Arabic.RELC journal.32(2) 45-62

Ennaji, M. (2005). Multilingualism, cultural Identity, and education in Morocco. Springer: U.S.A.

Guessas, A. S. (2012). Change in language attitude in language conflict: implications for language planning.(MA, thesis). University Es-Senia, Oran.

Holtzhausen, L. (2010). I'm an Arab but I live in an English world: teaching social work in the United Arab of Emirates. Journal of Social Work. 11 (3) 268-286.

Ibrahim, S.A., Zakaria, O., Fikri ,B., Abdelwahab, A.,& Wan. A.N. (2012). Students Attitudes towards learning Arabic language at the Language centre International Islamic University of Malaysia https://www. academia.edu/4155358/

Karahan, F. (2007). Language attitudes of Turkish students towards the English language and its use in Turkish context. Journal of Arts and Sciences. 7

Liu, Meihua, (2011). Current language attitudes of mainland Chinese University students. College Student Journal. 45(4).

Malallah, S. (2000).English in an Arabic Environment: Current Attitudes to English among Kuwait University Students. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 3(1), 19-43.

Mesbaah, A.A. & Mutawa'a, N.(1988). Arabization and the problem of using English language as a Medium of educational communication in the faculty of sciences ,Kuwait University , Educational Journal 4(15)

Salameh, F. A. (2011). English language and culture through the eyes of short story students in Jordan: a corpus- driven research. International Forum of Teaching and Studies.7(1).

Schweiter, J. W. (2008). Descriptors and nationalistic ideologies. www.bjll.org(accessed on May 2nd 2014).

Watfa, A. (2013). Arabic Language between the expansion and the decline at Kuwait University, Arabization Review, 120, 44-69

DJILALI BOUHMAMA

Kuwait University

SOUMIA BOUHMAMA

Tlemcen University
Table 1 language preference as a medium
of instruction.

                               Valid    Cumulative
        Frequency   Percent   Percent    Percent

Yes        101       63.9      63.9        63.9
No         57        36.1      36.1       100.0
Total      158       100.0     100.0

Table 2. students' attitudes towards English

Items                                 SA         A       Undecided

13. I think English is a delicate     13         66         55
language and easy to use            (8.2%)    (41.8%)    (34.8 %)

14. I admire people when they         24         44         51
speak in English                    (15.2%)   (27.8 %)   (32.3 %)

20. I wish that this questionnaire    13         15         54
was done in English                 (8.2 %)   (9.5 %)    (34.2 %)

Items                                  D          SD      Total

13. I think English is a delicate      10         14       158
language and easy to use             (6.3%)     (8.9%)    (100%)

14. I admire people when they          22         17       158
speak in English                    (13.9 %)   (10.8 %)   (100%)

20. I wish that this questionnaire     30         45       158
was done in English                 (19.0%)    (28.5%)    (100%)

Table. 3 students' attitudes towards M

Items                                     SA         A      Undecided

1. I feel proud when I hear people        71        28         24
speaking in standard Arabic             (44.9%)   (17.7%)    (14.2%)

2. I believe that standard Arabic         90        44         18
holds a higher position than English     (57%)    (27.8%)    (11.4%)

7. I feel proud of myself when I          77        47         20
speak in standard Arabic                (48.7%)   (29.7%)    (12.7%)

8. I usually avoid using Standard         71        16         31
Arabic                                  (44.9%)   (10.1%)    (19.6%)

Items                                      D        SD      Total

1. I feel proud when I hear people        26         9       158
speaking in standard Arabic             (16.5%)   (5.7%)    (100%)

2. I believe that standard Arabic          4         2       158
holds a higher position than English    (2.5%)    (1.3%)    (100%)

7. I feel proud of myself when I          10         4       158
speak in standard Arabic                (6.3 %)   (2.5%)    (100%)

8. I usually avoid using Standard         54        49       158
Arabic                                  (34.2%)   (31.0%)   (100%)

Table 4 gender differences

Domains                            Gender   N     Mean     t-test

3. Attitudes towards English as a   Male    73   23.0822    .404
medium of instruction              female   85   22.9059

4. Attitudes towards Arabic as a    male    73   15.4706   3.449
medium of instruction              female   85   18.3425

The scale                           male    73   38.5528   2.131
                                   female   85   41.2484

                                         Sig.2
Domains                            df    tailed    Significance

3. Attitudes towards English as a  156    .687    Not significant
medium of instruction

4. Attitudes towards Arabic as a   156    .001      Significant
medium of instruction

The scale                          156    .035      Significant
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Author:Bouhmama, Djilali; Bouhmama, Soumia
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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