Lecture: Orientations and Motivations of Arabic Learners in Jordan
What are the reasons and motivations for studying Arabic in Jordan? Is there a difference between those who study colloquial Jordanian Arabic and those who study Modern Standard Arabic? In my master thesis, I examined these questions using a mixed methodology approach.
Motivation plays a major role in foreign language acquisition as many studies state that motivation is the most important and most influential aspect in learning a foreign language. However, a considerable amount of literature published about motivation in foreign language acquisition has been about English as a foreign language and has tended to geographically focus on East Asia, the United States, and Europe. The aim of this study is to investigate motivations and orientations (i.e., reasons, interests, and attitudes) of non-native Arabic learners in Jordan. Moreover, a comparison between learners of colloquial Jordanian Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic in terms of orientations and motivations is made. In this study, a mixed methods study was conducted. The mixed methodology approach consisted of four interviews (qualitative method) and an online survey (quantitative method), in which 105 participants took part. The descriptive statistical analysis of the survey data was calculated and evaluated with RStudio.
Results show that the mere interest in Arabic, Arabic culture, and in languages in general play a decisive role in studying Arabic as a foreign language. Moreover, orientations related to integrativeness (i.e., an openness toward the Arab community, Arabic language, and languages in general) are more important than reasons of instrumentality (i.e., practical, functional, or professional reasons). Regarding motivation, the survey participants are generally motivated to study Arabic and have a stronger desire to learn or to be able to speak the language rather than to expend the actual effort to reach this desire.
Furthermore, learning colloquial Jordanian Arabic is more important than Modern Standard Arabic for communicative reasons. Therefore, it seems likely that the participants mainly learn colloquial Jordanian Arabic for speaking and understanding everyday conversations. In turn, Modern Standard Arabic plays a more important role in understanding media and news, religious texts (e.g., the Qur’an), university studies, and literature. Moreover, participants who were studying both varieties (i.e., colloquial and Modern Standard Arabic) demonstrated the highest motivation toward studying colloquial Arabic. An explanation of this finding is that colloquial Arabic is more rewarding, satisfactory, and linked to a greater enjoyment than Modern Standard Arabic because the awareness of progress and the realization of reaching an advanced Arabic level is very motivating.
In conclusion, a simultaneous commitment to two Arabic language varieties, may be linked to stronger and broader reasons, interests, or attitudes that are more distinct than reasons of learners who only study one language variety. A commitment to two Arabic varieties indicates a higher motivation to study the varieties, with learners having a greater motivation towards one variety, as it was the case with colloquial Arabic.
This work has demonstrated that learning a colloquial Arabic variety is an important and motivating aspect regarding Arabic foreign language acquisition. Hence, colloquial Arabic study should receive more attention in theoretical scientific research. Further, learning a colloquial Arabic dialect should also be considered as a more practical way of studying and teaching Arabic. Thus, universities and language schools worldwide should offer Arabic dialect courses, in addition to their MSA programs.