Improving the Writing Skills of Saudi Students in English-Speaking Colleges
Learning a foreign language and using it to enhance a traveling experience is one thing, but using a second language for studies in higher education is truly difficult. Those who are able to accomplish their academic goals in a language that is not their first language achieve something quite remarkable. The purpose of this study is to explore the differences in Saudi students writing in Arabic and English, to research the perceptions of Saudi students regarding their experiences studying abroad and any effects on their writing in English that they attribute to living in an English-speaking country.
While there are many different aspects of English language that make reading, speaking, and writing difficult for students whose first language is not English, one of the most troublesome is cohesion. This paper will explore the concept of cohesion as it impacts the study and utility of English language by students who speak Arabic as a primary language. The focus of the paper is on cohesion in English language writing and reference is made to the taxonomy of coherence markers as described by Biber, et al. (1999) and Dilin Lui (2008).
Halliday developed an internationally recognized model of language the referred to as a systemic functional linguistic model. It stands to reason that the two primary attributes Halliday focused on are the semiotic system of meaning: 1) The meaning potential that enables people to exchange meanings through language, 2) the systemic attributes of language as a network consisting of interrelated options that may be employed to create meaning, and 3) the functional basis of language that is observed according to how language serves to communicate meaning, and so efficiently "reflects the multidimensional nature of human experience and interpersonal relations" via its multidimensional architecture.
The literature suggests that four primary drivers contribute to the poor English writing skills of Saudi students studying in the United States. These drivers have been identified as educational background, grammatical weakness, knowledge and understanding...
The educational background of Saudi students may be inadequate to higher order use of English leaving Arab students with only rudimentary knowledge of English despite the formal English language instruction they have received. Similarly, Alhaysony (2012) argued that Saudi students seldom practice using their English when writing either for their academic coursework or for personal reasons. Accordingly, the Saudi students don't have sufficient occurrences to put into practice the grammar rules for which they have received classroom instruction.
A common error that occurs is the writing of Saudi students for whom English is a second language is the misuse or absence of linking adverbials. Linking adverbials are intended to establish semantic connections between varying lengths of discourse. Conjunctions and linking adverbials differ primarily because conjunctions serve to make semantic connections at or below the level of the clause, whereas, linking adverbials serve to make semantic connections at several levels of language, including clause, sentence, and paragraph. It is apparent that the utility of linking adverbials is sufficiently great to locate them as necessary grammatical tools to be used for enhancing understanding and meaning in speaking, reading, and writing of the English language.
Cohesion falls within the broader construct of coherence and is generally referred to according to two distinct types of linking that can occur in a sentence or in a text: 1) Grammatical linking, and 2) lexical linking (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). Cohesion is what holds a text together and enables the reader, speaker, or writer to attribute meaning to the text (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). Grammatical cohesion is an artifact of structural content (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). Lexical cohesion is accomplished through background knowledge and lexical content. At least five general categories of cohesion can be used to create cohesive text: Conjunction, ellipsis, lexical cohesion, reference, and substitution (Halliday & Hasan, 1976).
Dilin Liu (2008) utilized a simplified version of Halliday and Hassan's (1976) original four-way classification system that included the following categories of linking adverbials (Las): 1) Additive -- emphatic, appositional, and comparative; 2) adversarial -- proper adversative, contrastive, correction, and dismissal; 3) causal -- general causal, causal conditional; and 4) sequential. Lei (2012) studied…
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