The Social Language Strategies of Saudi Students in Australian Universities
This study attempts to understand the strategies that international students particularly the Saudi Students employ in learning languages in their learning countries like Australia. In the current world, many students from various countries have enrolled as international students in developed countries (Ha, 2009). For instance, Australia being a well-developed country with some of the world’s best learning facilities, hosts a lot of international students from other countries including Saudi Arabia. Once these students arrive in their new learning institutions, communication is a crucial aspect, as they have to interact with the local people in their surroundings. There is a need for them to be proficient in a universal language so that they can freely communicate with other individuals. The international students, therefore, should apply various strategies for them to master quickly the English language to enable easy communication in their new environment. The common social language learning strategies employed include; asking questions, cooperation, empathizing, and listening, to others (Hurd & Lewis, 2008).
English in our Global World
English is one the widely used languages in the world. In the recent years, the number of people using and learning English has increased drastically. In most cases, the learners and users of English are those individuals who were previously known as non-native speakers. It is estimated that around 1.75 billion individuals worldwide use English as a medium of communication. This implies that in every four people, one of them speaks English. The statistics are expected to increase further in the coming years. Around 380 million individuals have English as their first language as compared to more than a billion people who use English as a second language. According to a report presented by the British Council, English has emerged as a new phenomenon that represents a triumph that does not impress the native speakers. In most parts of the world, English is considered the thought of leaders, the economic enhancer, and the mode of communication among key stakeholders that contribute to various countries‘ economies. In other words, English is the “operating system” that is crucial for global conversation (“British Council | United Kingdom,” n.d.).
The English language is a main economic contributor to the native countries like Australia. Many students from other countries jet into these countries contributing much to the economies of these countries through the tuition fees they pay and any other daily expenses. Besides, because of the interaction of people from different countries in the name of international education, they end up making long-term personal, professional and business relationships. This is a clear indication that English is highly contributing to the economies of various countries all over the world. In workplaces, English is highly needed for realization of the corporate expansion plans. Global organizations require employing a universal language that should be used at its branches in various countries. English being universal language is used as a unification tool thereby enhancing communications in various international organizations (Crystal, 2003).
Previous reports show that English makes a great contribution to global sustainable development. It enhances trade among countries that do not share a common language. Foreign companies in various countries engage in contracts by use of English as a communication tool. Moreover, it English that is used in enhancing dialogue and developing trust in situations that require an understanding of diverse key positions. For instance, in dispute resolution and peacekeeping talks, security forces from different origins use English as a unifying tool and a medium of communication. The world is prosperous and safer as a result of English being a lingua franca that unifies international debates and conversations on major issues like terrorism, climate, and human rights. Therefore, English has been a very active tool of development and globalization (Crystal, 2003).
International Education in Australia
Now that the study of the learning strategies is carried out on the Australian education program, there is a need for one to understand a few aspects of international education in the country. For years, Australia has been a destination for many students from other overseas countries. According to Adams (2007), Australia has about seven percent of the total number of international students all over the world. In 2014, it was reported that Australia enrolled more than 300,000 International students into their education system. The existence of these International students in Australia has positively contributed to the economy of the country. Australia obtains revenue of about $15 billion dollars annually from the International students. The revenue supports more than 100,000 workers in the academic field. Moreover, the local economy is enhanced through the creation of other 50,000 jobs annually (Adams, 2007). Therefore, the growth of International Education in Australia has highly contributed to the development of the country’s economy. On the other hand, International Education offers students an opportunity to live and encounter different cultural contexts. The students interact among themselves, with their teachers and the local surrounding thereby acquiring a variety of aspects of different cultures. The International students end up increasing their cultural awareness as well as tolerance that in turn lowers the tensions and uncertainties of cultures (Alqarni, 2011).
However, the success of International students’ sojourn in Australia highly depends on the adjustment to both social and academic environments. On arrival, the International Students encounter various cultural and lingual difficulties that impacts their experiences in Australia. The International students require mastering English language skills to succeed in their fields of specialization. Due to poor English command, for years the international students have been having difficulties in contacting the host individuals, and in the expression of their identities (Ha, 2009). The students simply lack self-confidence when dealing with people in their new environment. This is the main challenge that is facing international education in Australia. According to research, the approaches in the prior learning of International students are among the contributors of the challenges they face while studying in the Australian Universities. The students may have been only taught English grammar and simply how to apply for it in standard form. Majority of the International students lack confidence and experience of sharing ideas in an English-speaking context thereby ending up facing challenges in International education programs. In some cases, students may have a good English language command but lack sufficient knowledge and experience in English speaking context. The students will still contain difficulties in their knowledge acquisition (“Study in Australia,” n.d.).
Upon consideration of the total number of International students worldwide, it is clear that the English-speaking nations that include, Australia, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand hold fifty percent of the students. This establishment in International Education provides these countries with an added advantage as the English language has turned out to be the Lingua Franca of the entire global world. It is being used as a medium for diplomacy, business deals, and entertainment among others (Alqarni, 2011).
Saudi Students in Australia
Currently, Saudi Arabia is experiencing immense growth and development of its economy. The rapidly developing economies of most countries have boosted the International education sector through influencing overseas students’ mobility. Now that the economies require a number of skilled labor to keep their development paces, most countries including Saudi Arabia has opted to invest highly in international education for their citizens. In Saudi Arabia, as a strategy to fill the available gaps in the workforce, and to provide the required knowledge and experience to boost its economy, the King Abdullah Scholarship Program was introduced in 2005 (Bhandari & Blumenthal, 2011). The main objective of this program is to nurture the potentials of the Saudi students by increasing their personal and professional skills by leading them to International Universities. The program was initiated to aid qualified Saudi Students by providing them a full-fee scholarship to international Universities, which are well equipped in terms of technological facilities. The King Abdullah Scholarship Program is considered to be the among the largest fully financed government scholarship programs having over 120,000 students currently studying in various International Universities (Bhandari & Blumenthal, 2010).
Among the destination countries that KASP has chosen for the students is Australia. The recent influx of Saudi Students has made Australia be among the three main destinations of Saudi Students all over the world. The number of Saudi students moving into Australia in the name of education is increasing year by year. For instance, in the year 2007, 3,631 Saudi students were enrolled in the Australian education system. By 2014, the number had increased to 4861 students. The growth is a clear indication of the development of the two countries. The increment in the number of Saudi students in Australia means that even the number of students studying English also has risen in the recent times (Bhandari & Blumenthal, 2011). By the end of 2013, over 3000 students had commenced learning English in Australia. These students are too many to enroll for English in a foreign country. The number of students explicitly indicates how Saudi students are interested in knowing The English language that they opt to be of great significance in their lives.
Language Learning Strategies
Language learning strategies can be described as the specific thoughts, processes or behaviors that students use in enhancing their language learning. Any given learning strategy is always neutral i.e. it is neither good nor bad until one considers its context of use. Moreover, a learning strategy is usually of importance if it relates well to the language, it suits the student’s learning style, and if the student applies the strategy effectively by linking it to other strategies (Hye, 2004). Therefore, language learning strategies are meant to simplify the mastery and proficiency of the use of any given language. However, in the recent times, the teaching of foreign language is learner centered. The students are the one who initiates the teaching process, and the approach is usually directed towards the student’s learning strategy.
As earlier mentioned, the Saudi Students in Australia faces a lot of challenge during their early days of joining the Universities. These students may be knowing the basics of English language, but they lack sufficient vocabularies, confidence, and experience in an English-speaking context. For them to venture into their education, they first need to be conversant with English language as it’s the one to be used as a medium of communication in every endeavor. Therefore, the Saudi students use a variety of language learning strategies to enhance their knowledge acquisition. The strategies commonly used include; metacognitive, cognitive, affective, social, and memory among others (Chamot, 2004).
Metacognitive Language Learning Strategies
Metacognition is described as “thinking about thinking.” Metacognition involves activities such as planning on how to tackle a certain learning venture, monitoring the entire learning process and evaluating one’s progress towards attainment of the learning objectives. The Saudi students usually apply metacognitive strategies in knowing what they are supposed to do whenever they do not know as they learn English. The metacognitive strategies mostly ignite their thinking thereby improving their performance more particularly the slow learners. The metacognition strategies involve a good preparation for the learning sessions, proper selection and application of strategies, and monitoring of the applied strategies among others (Phakiti, 2003).
The Saudi students in Australia more than often pay much attention to key issues in English language as they carry out self-monitoring on their progress. They prepare for their English learning sessions well by availing all the required items and making key objectives. They further select the appropriate learning strategies like listening. Language being a spoken medium, there is a need for one to listen keenly to it. By listening, the students slowly start understanding what is being said. As the students keep listening to English, their brains start picking up some words from various contexts and make connections. They further keep monitoring their progress in mastery of English language. This process involves occasionally pausing in the process or writing or reading to ask themselves various questions on what they are doing (Hurd & Lewis, 2008). Additionally they develop the skills of connecting various strategies as they work towards their objectives. For instance the coordinating between listening and speaking. Finally, they usually evaluate the various strategies used to their effectiveness in learning English. If a strategy is not ideal, they immediately replace it with a more reasonable. Through metacognitive strategies, the Saudi students take a short time mastering the entire English concepts that improve the access of their education (“Annual review of applied linguistics – language learning strategy instructions – Cambridge Journals Online,” 2005).
Affective language learning strategies
Affective language learning strategies involves control of emotions, feelings, and attitudes. Once emotions have been controlled, learners are likely to concentrate and be motivated towards learning languages. Affect usually influences the way information is encoded in the brain and how it is subsequently recalled. The Saudi Students, therefore, uses affective strategies to regulate affect. The commonly used strategies are; reduction of anxiety, motivation, and monitoring of one’s emotions (Chamot, 2004).
Motivation involves developing creation of a positive attitude towards learning English and having the desire to learn. Learning English is a huge task for the Saudi Students in Australia. The students therefore fully understand what they want as International students. They hold a clear motivation towards learning English thereby avoiding chances of abandoning their education efforts. Once the students arrive in Australia and discover that they need to associate with the people they meet, they quickly develop a strong positive attitude towards English, as it is their medium of communication. It is through motivation, and anxiety reduction that they can learn the language as they avoid the temptations of abandoning their education venture. According to Gardner’s model, the students develop the goals for learning English, lay effortful behavior in reaching the goals, increase their desire to attain the goals, and develop positive attitudes towards learning English (Phakiti, 2003).
Its pays off to the Saudi students by exactly knowing why they decided to learn English. With a written motivation, the thoughts about all the process of mastering the English language are made clearer. It’s the language learning motivation that prevent the Saudi Students from the inevitable withdrawal from the education program. Therefore, through having a clear motivation in English, the Saudi students in Australia can master the aspects of the language very fast thereby pursuing their educational ventures in the country (Hurd & Lewis, 2008).
Cognitive Language Learning Strategies
Cognitive language learning strategies are other significant tools that facilitate language learning. They entail the utilization of one’s mind in solving difficulties that arise during the language learning process. In other words, they are procedural facilitators of mastering a certain language. They include; repetition, meaning summarization, guessing the meaning of some words, and the use of imagery for memorization among others (“Annual review of applied linguistics – language learning strategy instructions – Cambridge Journals Online,” 2005).
The Saudi students through implementation of cognitive strategies, they are able to learn although the failure of the outlined procedural step. For instance, the students use memorization by associating some words with the objects that they are familiar with. As a result of these, the students end mastering English within a short period (Chamot, 2004). Moreover, the students employ self-questioning strategies when reading various English comprehensions. The strategy highly facilitates the understanding of various English terms. It’s through these cognitive strategies that students remembers and put into practice various vocabularies, construct well-structured sentences and paraphrase various comprehensions. Therefore, cognitive strategies have highly aided the Saudi students in mastering English language in Australia.
Social language learning languages
Social strategies are the techniques that students employ in facing the opportunity of being exposed to the target language and put into practice the already gained knowledge. The social learning strategies are in most cases connected to affective strategies through the integration of their contents (Phakiti, 2003). The Saudi students in Australia undergo hard times learning English as their medium of communication. In order to quickly master the language, the students apply the following social language learning strategies alongside many others. According to Oxford, the social language learning strategies lies under the indirect strategies of learning languages. They include; asking questions, empathizing with other individuals, and cooperating with other people (“Language Learning Strategies,” n.d).
Currently, people live in a world of questions. For any individual to be able to speak of a conversation, at least one of the participants must ask a question to make the talk complementary. The Saudi students prefer working in groups composed of students from Australia so that they can have an opportunity to ask various questions whenever there is a need. In most cases, questions are asked as a way of clarification of an unclear phrase or word, or for correction purposes. In a dialogue context, the students are able to understand better as the two parties can use gestures for clarification. The more the Saudi students interact with the native students, the more they ask questions. In the process of asking questions, the students end up speaking much (“Language Learning Strategies,” n.d.).
Also, through cooperation, the students create good interpersonal relationships in their new environment. The Saudi students usually are aware of what they are doing in Australia, therefore, more than often they tend to cooperate with the other students as a strategy to copy communication skills from them. The native students who are more proficiency in the use of English are eager to assist them due to their humbleness. Through cooperation, the weaker students in English gain some linguistic skills from the advanced friends (“Social learning strategies. – PubMed – NCBI,” n.d.).
The Saudi students try their best to understand the feelings of others by tolerating different opinions, cultures, and thoughts. People who come from different environments and cultures usually differ in terms of behavior, feeling expression, and attitudes. As a result of the existence of variations, the students developed an interest in the culture of the Australian people thereby gaining motivation towards learning English. It is clear that the more one wishes to know what people are saying, how they are saying, and what kind of views they have, he/she will be propelled to keep learning the language. The students on arrival in Australia, they totally immerse into the Australian culture as a strategy to easily learn the people’s language (“Language teacher education in Finland and the cultural dimension” 2009).
English is a very useful language in the world. With the current trends of diversified use of English, in the coming years it may be the universal language used all over the world. It has positively contributed to the globalization as well as economic development of various countries. Australia being one of the countries enjoying the fruits of English, it obtains a lot of revenue from International students. However, International students in Australia do face challenges in trying to master English as their communication tool. Students from Saudi Arabia, who only contain basic information in the English language, face many difficulties interacting with people in Australia. However, the students through various strategies like metacognitive, cognitive, affective, and social language learning strategies have simplified the mastery of aspects of English. It is through these strategies that the Saudi students have managed to learn quickly English language and normally interact with other people.
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