The American Arabic Student: Observing Social and Cultural Variables in Cross-Cultural Communication

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The American Arabic Student: Observing Social and Cultural Variables in Cross-Cultural Communication
Murphy, SaRanda
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Subjects / Keywords:
College students ( jstor )
Denial ( jstor )
Foreign language learning ( jstor )
Language ( jstor )
Learning motivation ( jstor )
Native languages ( jstor )
Nonnative languages ( jstor )
Pragmatics ( jstor )
Speech acts ( jstor )
Students ( jstor )
Arabic language
Arabic language--Study and teaching (Higher)
Arabic language--Study and teaching--English speakers
College students
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


This case study focuses on cross-cultural communication of American university students studying Modern Standard Arabic as a second language. This research investigates the ways in which the discourse of native speakers of American English who use Arabic as a second language differs from that of native Arabic speakers. There have been a plethora of studies investigating second language (L2) speakers of English, while much less has been done to analyze American college students’ integration into an L2 community's linguistic norms. Since little has been done to investigate this particular demographics' socio-cultural framework in L2 acquisition of Arabic, the topic is of interest. This paper seeks to uncover very basic things about American students' experience with the Arabic language as well as gain insight into how these students are operating cross-culturally. How are students communicating beyond grammar and phonetics? How would native Arabic speakers gauge learners' communicative competence in the language? The study will investigate students' motivations and experiences in language learning, L1 (first language) to L2 sociocultural transfer (ST), and linguistic patterns exhibited in the realization of requests, apologies and refusals. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Arts; Graduated May 4, 2010 magna cum ladue. Major: Anthropology
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Advisor: Virginia Locastro
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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright SaRanda Murphy. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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Abstract This case study focuses on cross-cultural communication of American university students studying Modern Standard Arabic as a second language. This rese arch investigates the ways in which the discourse of native speakers of Ameri can English who use Arabic as a second language differs from that of native Arabic speakers. The re have been a plethora of studies investigating second language (L2) speakers of English, while m uch less has been done to analyze American college students’ integration into an L 2 community’s linguistic norms. Since little has been done to investigate this particular demogra phics’ socio-cultural framework in L2 acquisition of Arabic, the topic is of interest. This pa per seeks to uncover very basic things about American students’ experience with the Arabic lan guage as well as gain insight into how these students are operating cross-culturally. How a re students communicating beyond grammar and phonetics? How would native Arabic speakers gauge learners’ communicative competence in the language? The study will investigate studen ts’ motivations and experiences in language learning, L1 (first language) to L2 sociocultural t ransfer (ST), and linguistic patterns exhibited in the realization of requests, apologies and r efusals. The Arabic Language Student: Motivation In their analysis of language needs in America, Jackson and Malone (2008) report that there are a very small number of students studying “critic al languages.” American policy makers along with the U.S. Office of Education have defined a cr itical language as one that, despite the need for competent speakers in the country, severely lac ks proficient communicators. Yet, for more than 50 years, there has been and still remains a lack of Americans with sufficient skills in these critical languages. Jackson and Malone (2008) add that cr itical languages are also


“linguistically and culturally very different from Engli sh” (p. 4). Arabic is one of these languages. Of those students who choose to study a critical language, relatively few continue to do so for more than two years, which is not sufficient t ime for most students to develop even a modest level of functional proficiency in these languages. In 2006, it was found that only 11% of the 23,921 students enrolled in Arabic courses were enrolled i n a non introductory course. Jackson and Malone note that “languages (and cultures) tha t are very different from English take longer to learn for English speakers than do Western Eur opean languages. This is so regardless of the teaching method used” (Jackson and Malone p. 11). They envision the end-goal of foreign language education to be more than fluent L2 acquisition. Such education should lead to competence of communication on a global level (p. 19). Many studies have demonstrated the role that attitude and mo tivation play in language learning. Attitude can be loosely defined as “object specific ” and motivation as “goal specific” (Baker 1992). Some suggest that attitudes are self descriptions or self perceptions (Bem 1968). Thus, “language attitudes may be constructed through inspection of one’s own actions (Baker 1992).” This study will focus on the motivational dimensi on of attitude, those self-reported elements which motivate behavior and have an existing and i nitial drive state (p. 14). One of the methods for this study is a free response section on a survey in which potential participants define and articulate their goals and reasons for studyi ng Arabic. Sociocultural Transfer The American Arabic language student is not only required t o deal with a number of unfamiliar phonetic and syntactic features, s/he must a lso be aware that the style of communication of many native Arabic speakers (NAS) is li kely to be different.


Sociocultural transfer (ST) occurs when one transfers elements of his or her first language, as well as cultural patterns of communication, to their second language. Thus, people from different backgrounds evaluate speech based on their native language and cultural (C1) paradigms. Past studies have attested to this phenomenon at the discourse level. As a result, ST has inexorably led to a significant degree of miscommunica tion between speakers. Kasper (1992) uses the term pragmatic transfer to describe “t he influence exerted by learners’ pragmatic knowledge of languages and cultures othe r than L2 on their comprehension, production, and acquisition of L2 pragmatic information (p. 207). Examples of negative pragmatic transfers are demonstrated by Blum-Kulka and O lshtain (1986) in their study of L2 Hebrew learners. The researchers concluded that learne rs of Hebrew, regardless of their linguistic background, “tend to embed their requests in lengthy explanations and justifications which in turn create undesirable effects if inappropriately used” (1986, p. 26). Research has shown repetition, indirectness, elabora teness, and effectiveness to be among the most reported features of NAS’s communicative styl e in any language (Feghali 1997). These features, which shall be discussed at length as they pertai n to the results, show evidence of ST that NAS tend to make. It is important to note that thes e features may conflict with the styles of other language speakers and cause breakdowns in communication. Studies such as this one that investigate L2 learners pragmatic and discourse knowledge are said to be concerned with interlanguage pragmatics Thomas (1983) uses the term ‘sociopragmatic failure’ to desc ribe such disparities in communication that result from ST. She states that so ciopragmatic failures occur when, crossculturally, different assessments are made “withi n the social parameters affecting linguistic


choice, size of imposition, social distance between speaker and hearer, relative rights and obligations, etc.” (p. 226). Sociopragmatic knowledge, on the other hand, is closely related to people’s cultural and personal beliefs and values (Kasper 1998) It is therefore safe to say that one must be aware of the cultural climate of a message in addition to its language. According to Blum-Kulka (1983), a successful speech act com munication requires linguistic, social, and pragmatic knowledge (p. 37). Investi gating speech acts will provide us with valuable information about participants’ awareness o f the sociocultural framework governing the communicative behaviors exhibited by NAS. In Al-Issa’s study (2003) comparing the refusal strategies im plemented by students from Indiana University and Cairo University, it was found tha t Jordanian students made frequent STs in their English refusals. Al-Issa suggests that “lear ners’ pride of L1, learners’ perception of L2, and religion possibly motivated sociocultural transfer (p. 595).” Such transfers, for example, manifested themselves in “choice of refusal strategy, l ength of response, and content of the chosen semantic formula (p. 595).” The current study explores the motivations of students’ s tudy of Arabic as well as the kinds of STs made by NES in Arabic, their L2. Moreover, the methods attempt to uncover the cultural acceptability of the various responses and hypothe tical interactions as evaluated by NAS. Research Questions This pilot study is designed to explore a small portion o f the population of American students studying Arabic at the university level. Since there has been little and possibly no work done to explore communication patterns of these students in their L2, no direct hypotheses are tested. The study, however, attempts to use the insights provided by previous studies as a


framework for inferring the possible difficulties these s tudents may experience in using their L2 with native speakers. This case study aims to answer the fo llowing questions through the tasks that the students will be asked to perform: 1. What are the expectations and goals that students have to ward learning Arabic as a second language? How have they pursued the use of their L2 (o utside of the classroom)? 2. Are there observable sociocultural transfers in the A merican studentsÂ’ Arabic that is observably different from native speech communitiesÂ’ n orms? 3. How might these STs affect studentsÂ’ Arabic use? Do the y lead to pragmatic failure or miscommunication/misunderstanding when presented to native Arabic speakers? How might students differ in their interaction with native speakers? Methodology An initial survey (Appendix A) was distributed to twenty st udents enrolled in the University of FloridaÂ’s Advanced Modern Standard Arabic cla ss during Fall 2009. The surveys included several questions about the studentsÂ’ history in langua ge study and international experience. The surveys also inquired of the studentsÂ’ mo tivations and goals in studying Arabic as a second or other language. These responses were collec ted and are analyzed in a brief summary of the Arabic Language student in the Results sec tion. The survey also served as a way to control for certain variables in the selection of students to participate further in the study. The ideal candidates for this case study were native speakers of American English who were first introduced to the study of Arabic in college. Students witho ut advanced to native proficiency in another language were sought as this would limit the numbe r of languages and cultures influencing oneÂ’s acquisition of Arabic. The case study focused on four participants chosen from t he same Arabic class. The


students chosen as participants were selected based on th e initial survey distributed to the thirdyear, or “advanced”, class in Modern Standard Arabic. Of the seven students that were selected as potential candidates for further participation in the case study, four responded in full completion. Each participant is a native speaker of Am erican English (hence NE in their assigned identities) and described their only nationality as “American”. Each of them also began their study of Arabic at the University of Florida. Those selected for the case study were then given cert ain tasks that required them to use the Arabic language in various "real-life" contexts (Appen dix B includes a full English version of the testing instrument). This set of tasks was done by compiling a Discourse Completion Test (DCT). The DCT is composed of several social situation s in which the test-taker is required to produce a certain speech act in response to a hypothetical interlocutor. The test was made so that each participant would be required to produce the speech acts of apology, refusal, and request. The tests contained scenarios similar to those found i n Al-Issa (2003) and Osman and Stevens (2004) because their studies have already yielded som e implications for the crosscultural communication between American students and NAS Each item on the assessment explains a situation in terms of the place, interlocut or, and manner of the interaction that the test taker is to have with the interlocutor. After a short description of each scenario, the participant is then prompted to respond with a written speech act (and gi ven ample space to do so). The participants were given a maximum of one hour to complete the test. An example DCT item resembles the following: nrrr rrr r rrrr!You refuse by saying :


" Past studies (Al-Issa 2003; Osman & Stevens 2004; Al-Eryani 2007; Ghawi 1993) carry implications for the NAS L2 English learner in the pr oduction of English refusals, requests, and apologies. The current study looks at these three speech acts as elicited of NES in their L2. The DCT will consequently incorporate items similar to those used in the above mentioned studies. The DCT is used as a tool to have the students respond to pe ople in various hypothetical contexts. Though this instrument of data collection has i ts limitations, such assessments allow the researcher to control for different variables wit hin a situation such as age, gender, social distance, etc. of the interlocutor as well as setting (Olshtain & Blum-Kulka, 1985). The DCT is a particularly useful tool to use as most NAS come from wh at Hall (1982) would call a “high context” culture, implying that most of the meaning of a m essage is “embedded more in the context rather than the code…thus the listener must un derstand the contextual cues in order to grasp the full meaning of the message (Zaharna 1995 p. 242).” Th us, the DCT is an appropriate instrument to use when intentionally manipulating the soc ial environment in which the testtakers find themselves. The DCT was distributed to the NES participants as well as to each individual in the control group of NAS. The control group consisted of a gro up of five native Arabic speakers from the University of Florida’s English Language Institut e. NAS participants in the control group were comparable to the NES participants in number of participants, age, and sex. The group consisted of four females and one male student. The international students lived all of their lives in Saudi Arabia save for the time they had b een in the states (for many, this was less than a year). Each studied Modern Standard Arabic for a nu mber of years and only reported English as a second language.


# Table 1: Summary of the Survey data for NAS group Assigned Identity Sex Born/raised in Arabic speaking country? Years spent in country of birth? Other languagesSelf assessed proficiency* NA1 F Yes 21 English-Advanced NA2 F Yes 18 EnglishAdvanced NA3 F Yes 23 English-Advanced NA4 F Yes 22 EnglishIntermediate NA5 M Yes 24 EnglishIntermediate *All participants studied and used MSA in grade school and/or beyond Once DCT results were collected from both groups, follo w-up interviews were conducted with three NAStwo international students studying Engli sh from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and a Palestinian student at the University. During the course of these interviews, the NAS informants were asked questions about the comprehensibility meaning, and appropriateness or politeness of the responses of the NES group in light o f the responses of the control group. The informants were encouraged to speak freely about the acc eptability of each response and were often asked more probing questions based on their commentary Approval from the University of FloridaÂ’s Institutional Review Board was sought before any of the said methods were carried out. Each person wh o took the survey and/or the DCT was approached to sign an informed consent form. Results The Students Twenty students from the University of FloridaÂ’s Advance d, or third year, Arabic class were initially surveyed. This group was comprised of twelve females and eight males.


$ Seventeen of the twenty were native speakers of Amer ican English. With the exception of three heritage speakers in the survey group, all of the students began their study of the Arabic language at the University of Florida. The majority of st udents reported that they have studied at least one other language besides English or Arabic. Six students reported that they have studied two or more languages other than English or Arabic and eig ht claimed advanced to native proficiency in at least one other language. Each student reported one or more reasons for studying Ar abic on the initial survey instrument. Over half explained that their reasons for studying Arabic included a general or personal interest in the language. Two-thirds of the student s reasoned that their studies would play a vital role in their future career or job marketa bility. Five also listed academic reasons (i.e. pursuing the Arabic Language and Literature minor, increasi ng literacy skills, research purposes, etc.), as well as other reasons. The students’ goals an d expectations for future language reflected this reasoning. Twelve plan to be able to use Arabic in thei r life and work. Some specified that they intended to live and work in an Arabic speaking country while others listed that they will use it in specific fields such as government and law. Eig ht wanted to achieve fluency or greater proficiency in the language and six intended to use Arabic in their further academic endeavors. Nine of the twenty-two students had already worked, studi ed, or lived in an Arabic speaking country for a period(s) of six weeks or more. Four hav e international experience in other parts of the world and eight have never studied, lived, or worked out side of the U.S. Thirteen students described their nationality solely as Amer ican while five described themselves as having a different nationality in addition to American (e.g. Hispanic, Italian, Egyptian, and Syrian American). Two students listed other countries which they identify without specifying “American” as one of their nationaliti es.


The following is a short review of the survey informati on of the four students who agreed to participate in the case study: Table 2: Summary of the Survey data for NES case study participants Assigned Identity Sex Reasons for studying Arabic Goals/Expectations Other languages Self assessed proficiency* Experience Abroad NE1 F Personal interest, better understand Islam and Muslims Fluency, unsure of future use of the language Spanish-Beginning None NE2 M Fun, perhaps job Travel, prefer a different job [using the language], if possible No other formal Studied Arabic in Morocco, 2-3 months NE3 F General interest, research interest Plan to study Islam in graduate school Spanish-Beginning Religion/Women’s Studies in India, 2 months NE4 F Job marketability, general interest Fluent by graduation, plan to use Arabic in future career SpanishIntermediate Italian-Beginning FrenchBeginning Volunteer work in Costa Rica, 2 weeks; Studied Arabic in Morocco, 6 weeks *All of these languages reported were studied during high schoo l. Each student completed the nine-item DCT (Appendix B) and h ad his or her responses reviewed by native speakers of Arabic. Refusal This speech act proved to be the most differentiated in th e way in which it was realized by the NES and NAS groups. In response to Situation 4, refus al of a student’s suggestion to take a certain course with a certain professor, participants ’ strategies consisted of three major components. The number following the description of the key components in parenthesis indicates the number of those in the NES group who used it 1) offering a “thanks”, “thanks, that’s good” or “no thank s” (3)


2) Direct refusal, stating that they did not want or like t his professor or subject (2) 3) A reason for their decision (e.g. I have many classes, I want to take a different course) (1) 4) Asking for another course suggestion (1) NE5, however, did not use any of the above formulas. The speaker responded to the prompted refusal with: nr *‘Maybe. I think he will’. The speaker’s response was intended to be something like ‘maybe, I will think about it.’ Spelling and/or grammatical errors aside, the use of the verb ‘azhunu’ gives more of the meaning of ‘assume’ instead of ‘to think about’ as a contemplative act. NAS participants comme nted that this response did not seem like a refusal. It should also be noted that this participa nt used the exact same response in Situation 6 in response to a person with a higher status. One NAS c ommented that this response does not indicate a refusal. Another suggested that this seems too “ short” and that it does not show that one has answered or really acknowledged the advice given by the other student. This may be deemed a pragmatic failure from the perspective of all th ree NAS informants. Situation 6, in which the academic advisor suggests a certa in class, elicited similar refusals from the NES participants. The following su mmarizes the pattern of their responses: 1) “Thanks [but] no thanks” or “thanks” (2) 2) Acknowledgement of a good suggestion, “I know that this cl ass is good” (1) 3) Refusal, “I don’t want to take this class”, “I want to t ake a different course” (3) 4) Suggest something different “I like the professor and I wil l study more in the future” (1) The responses to this hypothetical situation are similar to those in Situation 4, but it is worth noting that those two students who included dislike for the instructor or course in their response did not use this as part of their reasons for re fusing their advisor’s suggestion.


In Situation 7, where students were made to refuse a frie nd’s offer to pay their bus fare, two of the responses included a word of thanks and mentioned t hat they would pay their own fare. One response was more profuse in that it went on to explain “I must return my apartment from my money before I go to the old center”. The la nguage here is not clear in that it contains some unexpected grammatical forms (‘min’ translated here as ‘from’ and a misspelling of a word translated here as ‘old’). The response from NE2 was unique in that he did not offer an expression of gratitude; instead, the speaker replied “No, n o I’m fine. I will go another way, maybe I will walk.” Apology The DCT contains two scenarios in which an apology was warr anted. The first was Situation 1, in the public library. In this apology, each student began this speech act with “I’m sorry” or “I’m very sorry”, except in one case where t he first word, exclamatorily written by NE2, does not have a clear meaning (or is severely misspel led). In this unclear response, the student, however, goes on to explain, “that was an acc ident.” All four apologies include an offer to pick up the books that have been dropped by the older man in the library. The second apology scenario, Situation 5 (in the unive rsity’s cafeteria), is more embarrassing in that coffee is spilled on the ground and o n the young woman’s clothes as a result of an accidental collision. Three of the four students said that they were “very sorry”. They each completed the apology by offering “help (in general) wit h the coffee”, offering to clean up the coffee and the floor, or offering to buy a new cup. One apology, offered by NE2 does not include the first element in the expected semantic patter n. The entire apology states, “This is not good. Come with me and I will buy you the new coffee.” Interviews with native speakers


revealed that NE2 “really should have said sorry.” Th e NAS informants acknowledged that this student could have meant well, but regret clearly needed to be expressed, even with the minimal expression of “asif”, or “sorry” preceding his response. Request In response to Situation 2 (phone request to change a sche duled doctor’s appointment), NES requests may or may not have included a greeting. Due to the nature of the question, one could assume you had already greeted the secretary, so we will not consider initial greetings in this analysis (i.e. Hello, Peace be upon you, etc.). T he responses of the NE students varied in the verb tense used. For example, some students indicated t hat they missed their last appointment while others informed the secretary that they would not be able to attend the appointment that they had already determined. Despite this discrepancy, t hree out of the four students submitted a short explanation of their situation and a coherent r equest to reschedule their appointment. Some added a final “please” or “thank you very much”. NE2 offer ed a response that was deemed “confusing” and difficult to understand by native speakers, s aying “I don’t remember my appointment. Please I go in another time again.” Nativ e speakers commented that the use of the language was unexpected and one would likely not be able to ma ke sense of this request without seriously reading into it or asking for clarification. Situation 8 (request to miss an academic meeting) elicit ed similar discrepancies in tense used by the participants. Half requested that the advisor ex cuse already missed absences while the other half requested that the advisor permit a future a bsence. The responses offered varied considerably, especially in the excuses or reasons giv en for the absence. They are translated below:


Table 3: Summary of Request (Situation 8) Participant Request NE1 “Salaamu ‘alakum, I was not able to attend the next meeting and I know that it is very important, and I ask that you permit my absence. Tha nks.” NE2 *“Please I was sick these [past?] days and it is necessary to have a meeting like this in the future.” NE3 “I will not be able to attend the meeting. Will you grant m y absence. I will attend with you if I need to, please.” NE4 “I am interested in this program but I am not able to att end the next meeting because I work at the same time. May I participate in the progra m?” ungrammatical In comparison to the four out of five native Arabic speakers who asked their professors permission to be absent because of an unspecified “emergen cy situation (which is out of one’s control)” or “personal reasons”, the responses from t he NES group are varied indeed. NA4 simply stated that she would not be able to attend the me eting and asked to be granted her absence. When interviewed, NA4 explained that she expecte d the advisor to ask her to explain her reasoning behind such a request. She also commented that asking permission for an absence because of a personal emergency is the only acceptable rea son by which one would not need a further explanation or reason for missing such an import ant meeting or occasion. Evidence of ST The L2 learners’ speech mainly differs due to the abs ence of certain elements found in native Arabic speaker’s speech acts. Review of the NES responses showed the absence of certain elements that past studies (as well as the cont rol group) have shown to be characteristic of NAS speech. These differences can be attributed to soc iocultural transfer as the absence of such elements has been shown to be characteristic of NES speech act formation strategies when


similar tasks have been required of NES in English ver sions of similar DCTs (used as control responses in studies such as Osman & Stevens 2004, Ghawi 1993, A l-Eryani 2007, and Al-Issa 2003). The following is a summary of some of the most not able differences in the responses of the two groups that are all likely motivated by ST. Define the relationship (DTR) is a semantic formula often employed by NAS as it, according to Al-Issa (2003), reflects a native Arab cultura l norm. This formula is typically found in response to an interlocutor of a higher status. NAS i nformants commented that it is always best to acknowledge the interlocutor’s position or the wei ght of their advice (in the case of the following example), as significant. The following shows some differences in the refusal strategies of the two groups. Table 4: Refusal of a suggestion by advisor (Situation 6) American Students Native Arabic Speakers NE 4 “I don’t want to take another course I like the teacher and I will study more in the future.” (DTR absent) NA2 – “Thank you for your valuable advice, but I do not desire to take this additional course.” (DTR present) NE1 “No thanks, I don’t want to take another course in writing. Maybe I will take classes about another subject.” (DTR absent) NA 3 Thank you my dear professor for the advice, but I do not prefer to take this class.” (DTR present) NE 2 Thanks [but] no thanks. I know that this class is good, but I want to take another class.” (DTR absent) NA1 I do not think that I will take another course in writing, I think that one is enough.” (DTR absent) The NAS speakers were more likely to acknowledge the pos ition of the interlocutor and/or esteem his/her suggestion as valuable before rejecti ng it. When asked about responses like NA1’s, the Saudi informant replied that such responses, devoid of DTR, probably express a strong opinion and a more casual relationship between the i nterlocutors. Table 5 contrasts the responses of the same participants when a peer is maki ng a similar suggestion:


Table 5: Refusal of a suggestion by a fellow student (Situation 4) American Students Native Arabic Speakers NE 6 “Thanks you but I took a class last semester with the professor and I don’t like him. Maybe another subject.” NA2 “Excuse me, but I don’t want to take this class.” NE1 “This is good, thanks for the suggestion, but I cannot take this class. I have many classes.” NA 3 “Thanks for the advice, but I prefer the class with another professor.” NE 2 – “No thanks. I don’t want this professor. Is there another class without her?” NA1 “Thanks for the advice but I prefer to take this class with another professor.” The refusals between NES and an interlocutor of roughly t he same status seem to be more elaborate. The same length of response is not ob served in NAS data. The apology in Situation 1 (elderly man in the library) also yielded some instances of DTR. NA1 follows an immediate apology with “ya ‘am” ( literally “uncle”), a form of address much like “sir” while NE1 uses the formal form of this a ddress, referring to the interlocutor as “ya sayyid”. NE1, however, uses “ya said” and “ya sayyida ”, or “sir” and “ma’am” respectively in contests other than those with a higher social sta tus. She proceeds to use this strategy in Situations 1, 2, 5 and 7. NE1 does not, however, use the form of address in the same way that a native speaker would; she uses it in the less-formal s ituations with those who could be considered friends, acquaintances or peers, and fails to re serve it for higher-status individuals, thus rendering her use of this term unspecific. Return favor is another strategy employed by NAS, as referenced in pr evious studies, which reflects a native cultural value in Arab society In refusal situation 7, three of the fours NES participants offered thanks for the gesture, but none offered to return the favor. Upon


" thanking his hypothetical interlocutor in the same situati on, NA5 submitted that he would ask to return the favor by paying the interlocutor’s bus fare as w ell. Refusals performed by NES in the same situation wer e deemed appropriate to indirect and unrelated. While two of the participants refused sayi ng, “thanks but no. *I will pay myself, thanks” and “thanks a lot but I have money to pay”, the other two went around the offer by saying they needed to go another place or would prefer to trav el by another means. Perhaps this indirect way of refusal was an attempt at a polite ref usal. Of the later responses, one informant commented, “it’s not obvious that you don’t want the payme nt…just say yes or no”. The informant indicated that such indirectness could result in misunderstanding of the refusal. He further remarked that, though expectations may vary by reg ion, it is common in Arab countries that “one friend pay for the other, and the recipient m akes it up later.” Excuse and explanation differed greatly between the two groups. The array of excu ses and specificity provided for each can be seen in Table 3 in the results section. NESs might submit that the “personal issues” or “emergency situatio ns” offered by NAS as the only justification for an absence as vague. As Al-Issa (2003) noted in his study, NAS explanation and excuses tended to be less specific in regards to place, ti me, and parties involved (p. 592). The NES requests featured much more specificity in their reques t strategies, as this is perceived as an acceptable appeal to request absence in American culture. Speech act components found in apologies of the two groups also reflected those in Ghawi’s 1993 study. He found NES used more direct apologies a nd a higher rate of repair in apologies similar to those given in this study. The cur rent study suggests the same to be true of the NES participants in their use of Arabic. In the fi rst apology situation, 3 of 4 NES used clear and direct expressions of regret. Two explained that it was an accident or unintentional, but all


# four offered to repair the situation (in this case, offe ring help with the fallen books). In the NAS group, all five participants expressed regret, four made a st atement of the accident being unintentional and only two offered a repair strategy. In the second, more embarrassing situation in which participants were prompted to apologize, 3 of 4 NE S expressed regret and all four offered to repair the situation (here, offering to buy a new coffee or clean the spilled beverage). One student even offers more expressions of regret upon her repair. In the NAS group all five expressed regret. Upon this first reaction, three of t he five went on to explain that the collision was an accident and/or ask for the interlocutor’s forg iveness (or to be excused). The three that did not offer such explanations added an intensifier to t heir apologies to express “deep regret” for the situation. Only one (NA1), however, offered to “repair” the situation by saying “let me bring you some napkins.” These results are consistent w ith Ghawi’s conjecture that native Arabic speakers use more explanation strategies, perhaps in compensation for the fewer apologies and repair (p. 47). It seems, however, that in their L2, NES apologies were more like those of their L1’s communities’ norms. Conclusion In a few instances, grammar, word choice, and other lingu istic errors proved to be a barrier to effective communication at some points in t he use of Arabic by NES. Despite the variability in speech act realization, this study has i ndicated a few notable differences in the common strategies used by native speakers of Arabic and by Ame rican students as L2 learners of Arabic. As other studies have shown ST to be the “additio n” of semantic formulas to L1 Arabic speakers’ speech acts in English, this study suggests the “ subtraction” or omission of such formulas in the L2 Arabic speech act production of Americ an students. In most cases, American


$ students’ speech acts did not display every element obse rved in NAS speech act in similar social contexts. There was also a degree of specificity and in directness in some of the NE speakers’ responses that was not observed in the responses of the NA speakers in the corresponding social contexts. The analysis of NES use of Arabic resemble d the way in which NEs used English when they were given similar DCTs in English. These findings are consistent with the implications suggested by Al-Issa (2006), Ghawi (1993) and Al-Eryani (2007). Though these studies focused on ST as it relates to NAS in English, this research has demonstrate the reverse of the above mentioned elements, concerning features that are omitted by NES using Arabic. In some cases, such omissions can lead to sociopragmatic failure. Avenues for further research might include the motiv ation for ST in NES responses. In this case, one might give the same DCT in English to m onolingual NES and make them a third group for analysis and comparison in such a study, much li ke Al-Issa did in 2006. Limitations This study was only intended to scratch the surface of pot ential social and cultural use of the interlanguage of Arabic language learners in the United States. As the number of participants in this study was small, the results cannot be generaliz ed. The study is also not proportionate in its ratio of males and females, so it lacks any solid i nsight about gender and language. I feel that the further investigation of students studying Arabic and othe r “critical languages” is called for as the age of globalization has dawned and cross-cultura l communicative competence is essential. Acknowledgements


I wish to thank Dr. Virginia Lo Castro of the Universit y of Florida for supervising and guiding this research. I am also indebted to Arabic Languag e professors Esam Alhadi and Dr. Youssef Haddad who have been gracious in volunteering thei r time and expertise on this matter. IÂ’d also like to acknowledge and thank all of the participan ts and informants that cooperated with me to make this research possible


References 1. Al-Issa, A. (2003). Sociocultural transfer in L2 speech beh aviors: evidence and motivating factors. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 27 581-601. 2. Al-Eryani, A. (2007). Refusal Strategies by Yemeni EFL Lea rners The Asian EFL Journal Quarterly. 9, (2): 19-34. 3. Baker, C. (1992). Attitudes and Language Clevedon, England: WBC Print. 4. Blum-Kulka, S (1983). Interpreting and Performing Speech Acts in a Second Language-A CrossCultural Study of Hebrew and English. Sociolinguistics and Language Acquisition Pp. 36-55. 5. Blum-Kulka, House, Kasper (Eds.). (1989) Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Requests and Apologies Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. 6. Blum-Kulka & Olshtian (1986) (as in Blum-Kulka, House, K asper (Eds.)). (1989) Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Requests and Apologies. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publi shing Corporation. 7. Feghali, E. (1997). Arab Cultural Communication Patterns. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 21, 245-378. 8. Ghawi, M. (1993). Pragmatic Transfer in Arabic Learners of English. El Two Talk 1(1), 39-52. 9. Hall, E. (1982) (as cited in Zaharna, R.S. (1995). Understan ding Cultural Preferences of Arab Communication Public Relations Review 21(3): 241-255). 10. Jackson, F. & Malone, M. (2008) Building the Foreign Language C apacity We Need: Toward a Comprehensive Strategy for a National Language Framework. University of Maryland. final040509_combined.pdf 11. Kasper, G. & Blum-Kulka, S. (Eds.). (1993). Interlanguage Pragmatics Oxford: Oxford University Press. 12. Kasper, G. (1992). Pragmatic Transfer. Second Language Research. 8:3 203-231. 13. Kasper, G. (1998). Interlanguage Pragmatics. In H. Byrnes (Ed .), Learning Foreign and Second Languages: Perspectives in Research and Scholarship (183-208). New York, NY: Modern Language Association of America. 14. Osman, M. & Stevens, P. (2004). Politeness and Pragmatic Fa ilure: Speakers’ Intuitions and Hearers’ Perceptions in L2 Apologies. In N. Kassabgy, Z. Ibrahim, & S. Aydelott (Eds.), Contrastive Rhetoric (155-169). New York, NY: American University in Cairo Pres s. 15. Olshain, E., & Blum-Kulka, S. (1985). Cross-cultural Studi es and Testing for Communicative Competence. Language Testing 2, 16-30. 16. Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics 4, 91-112. 17. Thomas, J. (1984). Cross-cultural Discourse as ‘Unequal Enc ounter’. Towards a Pragmatic Analysis. Applied Linguistics 5, 226-235.


18. Zaharna, R.S. (1995). Understanding Cultural Preferences of A rab Communication Public Relations Review 21(3): 241-255.


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