Challenges Faced by Saudi ESL Students in the US in English Writing
Saudi Arabian students just like any other ESL student, studying in the United States of America faced writing problems (Al-Shawairkh & Bradford, 2014). In addition, they also experienced various challenges such as cultural, political, as well as personal challenges. Notably, one of the reasons behind Saudi Arabian students having trouble when it comes to English writing is because of the big difference in regards to the writing of English and writing Arabic. The differences between writing English and Arabic are very diverse because it spans through nearly all the aspects of writing. These writing aspects include word structures, styles, and the organization in general (Al‐Mubarak & Adamchak, 2013).
Another reason behind struggling by the Saudi Arabian while English is their uniqueness in embracing oral communication than the written communication. This is because most of the Arabs prefer to speak than to write (Watson & Wolfel, 2012). Therefore, they find it very difficult to learn a new language such as English by both writing and speaking it. Moreover, Saudi Arabian students studying in the American universities have trouble when it comes to English writing because of their unique culture that embrace oral communication (Al-Shawairkh & Bradford, 2014). Consequently, they would rather listen and talk as opposed to writing and read.
Challenges Faced by Saudi ESL Students in the US in English Writing
The research study has come at a critical time when the American colleges and universities are experiencing an influx of ESL students, including those from the Saudi Arabia (Al‐Mubarak & Adamchak, 2013). Unfortunately, American universities and colleges offering the ESL academic programs have come under scrutiny because reports have emerged claiming that the ESL international students are experiencing learning difficulties (Kukulska-Hulme, 2003). Most of the learning difficulties that the international students face while undertaking their learning at the American colleges and universities can be blamed for their inability to read and write English as expected (Al‐Mubarak & Adamchak, 2013). This is evident from the writing samples they do submit with the application. As a result, this research study may come as a sign of relief for both the universities and the students because it may try to identify and address the reasons behind failure of the ESL students, particularly those from the Saudi Arabia from writing English as expected. Therefore, the purpose of this study will be to identify and address the English writing challenges faced by Saudi ESL students in the United States in English writing.
It can be argued that the United States of America has the best higher learning education system in the whole world (Al-Shawairkh & Bradford, 2014).. This lures the international students to migrate to the US in search of quality higher education. As a result, many colleges and universities in the US have a population of students from numerous cultural backgrounds including Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, these international students have faced diverse challenges as they strive to acquire education at the higher learning institution in America. (Pennington & Hoekje, 2010).There have been arguments that have tried to explain the underlying causes behind the inability of the Saudi Arabian ESL students from writing English effectively (Kukulska-Hulme, 2003). One of such arguments claims that Arabians are good talkers than writers. According to this argument, Arabs have the culture of talking and listening as opposed to reading and writing. Therefore, they experience a conflicting cultural practice in their host country that embraces reading and writing. This clash in culture makes learning quite difficult for the Saudi Arabian students undertaking higher learning in United States of America universities (Al-Jarf, 2006).
Another argument that has emerged and has tried to explain the reason behind the struggling of the Saudi Arabian students in writing English is the differences when it comes to the English language and the Arabic language. These two languages are so different in nearly all the aspects. This is to say that they are structured, organized and styled (Al-Shawairkh & Bradford, 2014). Therefore, Saudi Arabian students find it very difficult to learn the new language, English. In this case, it is expected that the college and university administrators should come up with the program that institute offering English lessons for the Saudi Arabian students that face writing difficulties. This would ensure smooth language transition from the Arabic language to English as a language (Ardis, 2009).
Another argument that can explain why the Saudi Arabian ESL students experience English writing problems is the manner of which English is taught in their native country. In Saudi Arabia, English is taught as a second language where spellings and pronunciation are not emphasized at the elementary level (Al-Jarf, 2006). Consequently, the Saudi Arabian students tend to experience both written and spoken difficulties when they pursue higher learning education in America. Therefore, the Saudi Arabians in their country are not giving writing and reading the English language the seriousness, it deserves. Additionally, most of the American professors that teach the Saudi Arabian have noted that most of the students tend to think in Arabian but write in English (Ardis, 2009). As a result, they end up distorting the meaning of what they intended of writing. In this regard, the best solution for this is to give recommendations to the implementers of the education curriculum of the Saudi Arabia to revise their curriculum with the objectives of addressing the above-discussed shortcomings at the earlier stages of education (Watson & Wolfel, 2012).
This research study is important for not only the Saudi Arabian students but also other ESL student studying in the United States of America. In addition, this study would also be beneficial to the American colleges and universities offering the ESL programs to the international students. The fact that the study has identified and tackled one important challenge that is writing English would be crucial to the American colleges and universities in devising ways of assisting the ESL students to overcome this challenge. Moreover, this study would also assist the ESL international students specifically those from the Saudi Arabia on ways that they can employ to overcome the English writing problem (Al‐Mubarak & Adamchak, 2013). To understand the above-mentioned arguments better, two theories will be discussed namely the cultural competence theory and cultural shack theory.
Cultural competence theory
Cultural competence theory can be used to explain how individuals can coexist harmoniously in a multi-cultural environment just like in the case of the American universities. It is important to note that there are four components of the cultural competence theory. They include awareness of an individual’s views of the world, the individual attitude in regards to the differences in cultural practices, the skills of individuals in dealing with the cross cultures, and awareness of different cultural practices around the world (Watson & Wolfel, 2012). As a result, for the individuals to survive in a culturally diverse environment just as in the case of Saudi Arabian students’ in American universities, they must exhibit a combination of these components of the cultural competency theory. In particularly, Saudi Arabian students must be ready to embrace aspects of other cultures especially reading and writing English to cope up and overcome the challenge of English writing (Leavitt, 2010).
Cultural shock theory
Cultural shock theory tries to explain social difficulties that an individual can experience because of visiting or migrating to another nation. The main reason behind the cultural shock is the sudden change of environment by the affected individual (Winkelman, 2014). The new environment brings with it new challenges such as new culture, new climatic conditions, and new social stratification. According to the cultural shock theory, human beings are adaptive creatures. As a result, they tend to readjust to their new surroundings within a very short time (Winkelman, 2014). Psychologists have attributed the overall success of this theory to the tendency of human beings to readjust their behaviors in accordance to their surroundings. Consequently, this theory has tried to explain how individuals can survive in a new surrounding with very new cultural practices. On the same note, cultural shock theory can be used to explain why a section of the international students from Saudi Arabia has successfully overcome the problem of the cultural difference in the America. Therefore, it provides the vital hope that the ESL Saudi Arabian students can also overcome their writing problem. Consequently, this theory could be very helpful in motivating the Saudi Arabian ESL students who experience challenges related to the English writing (Peacock, 2012).
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