Approximately 175 million people around the world speak Arabic. (See Reference 3.) As more and more Arabic speakers move to English-speaking countries, it is vital that English teachers understand how to teach English to this specific language population. The key to teaching English successfully to Arabic students lies in understanding the Arabic culture and language. Spend time learning about your students' backgrounds and about potential problems that may arise as your students learn English so that you are better equipped to help your students through them from the beginning.
Begin by teaching students the English alphabet. Teach sounds and how to write each one. Understand that Arabic has no vowels, but uses diacritical marks instead, and that it is written from right to left. (See Reference 2.)
Create practice exercises that focus on word order in English. Arabic students are likely to place words in a sentence in a very different order than one would see in English. For example, "'That's the teacher whom I met.'" may become "'That the teacher whom I met him.'" (See Reference 2.)
Use English in all of your lessons as far as is possible. Show students every-day objects to explain the meanings of words and concepts. As students' vocabularies grow, define new words using words that they already know. Limit the use of English-Arabic dictionaries.
Know potential pronunciation difficulties that Arabic speakers will have when they use English words. For example, Arabic speakers often find it hard to distinguish between the /p/ and the /b/ sound. (See Reference 1.) This can help you develop activities to help your students listen for and produce correct pronunciation.
Be aware of common stereotypes that Arabic speakers may hold about Westerners in general -- for example, that all Americans have a lot of money. In addition, be aware of stereotypes that you may hold about Arabic speakers. Become aware of cultural differences between your own culture and that of your Arabic-speaking students. Although most of your Arabic-speaking students may be Muslim, many are not. Copts, Kurds, Druze and Assyrians are just a few non-Arab ethnic groups that may speak Arabic. (See Reference 2.) Learn about the culture in general of your students' countries as well. This can help you to avoid or carefully treat sensitive cultural, religious and political topics in your lessons.
- arabic tile image by Jennifer Stone from Fotolia.com