Date of Award

9-16-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michael M. Williamson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gary J. Dean, Ph.D.

Abstract

The present study attempted to understand how the backgrounds and current experiences of a number of Saudi Arabian EFL professionals in graduate school in the United States have influenced their English literacy development. The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain the Saudis’ perspective on what helped or hindered them in acquiring and developing English as their second language, both in their home country and in the countries where they pursued advanced degrees in English, as well as how they view the needs of Saudi Arabia’s educational system in regard to improving instruction in English as a foreign language. To achieve this purpose, I interviewed six Saudi graduate students and one Saudi visiting scholar individually, then held a focus group interview with five of the seven participants. All but the visiting scholar were pursuing doctoral and master’s degrees in the English Department of a university in Western Pennsylvania. A review of the transcript interview data revealed the Saudis’ stories of learning English at home and abroad; the influence of their religious background/culture and family literacy on their own literacy development; their personal initiative to become proficient in English beyond classroom instruction; their vision and ideas for having a direct role in reforming English instruction in their country; their extraordinary efforts to overcome the difficulties and challenges of becoming proficient in English; and the cultural implications of expanding the use of English in Saudi Arabia’s society. The findings of this study have positive implications for improving the methods of English instruction throughout Saudi Arabia’s educational system, especially to prepare students both for studying English in higher education and for functioning in English-speaking environments in many areas of their society, as well as in the global community where English has become the predominant language. However, further studies are recommended to assess the social, economic, cultural, and personal implications of English literacy on Saudi culture and traditions.

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