The following information is intended to assist teachers understand the background of a typical adult ESL learner in Saudi Arabia.
Saudis study at least seven years of English before graduating from high school, from grades 6-12, attending at least two classes a week during those years. Some Saudis attend private schools where English learning begins earlier or classes are provided more often. Some government schools have begun an initiative to begin ESL instruction in grade four.
This is mentioned in the Saudi Ministry of Education’s 2008 National Report on Development of Education:
Commonly, the English classes in Saudi Arabian schools involve a non-native English speaking teacher, usually a Saudi national. The teacher is usually not very skilled in English communication skills. This results in the class focusing entirely on reading and writing. Furthermore, the reading and writing skills have a very limited focus – The teacher explains English vocabulary, phrases, and entire passages in Arabic and the students memorize these translations. Evaluations are based heavily on this.
In general, memorization is over-emphasized in Saudi examinations in all subjects at all levels.
Quite obviously, this results in a number of weaknesses in the students ESL acquisition:
Extremely poor pronunciation
Little to no fluency
Heavy dependance upon the first language to understand English grammar and concepts
Interesting. There are also specific problems found by Arabic speakers, namely certain pronunciation issues and sounds in English which do not occur in Arabic. There are also issues with tenses and so on.