For my last observation, I decided to observe an Arabic class because I know Arabic, my native language, and I wanted to see how teachers in a college EFL setting teach it. Thus, I sent an email to one of the instructors to see if I could observe her class. She welcome me and we agreed on a day. The course is ARAB 002, so they learned the alphabets some vocabulary in ARAB 001, and this course is more about vocabulary and grammar. The class meets five days a week: Monday through Friday. There are 3 sections, the instructor teaches two of them. They use a textbook as the basis for the the class curriculum; it has a DVD with it, where you could read and listen to vocabulary and sentences. There many dialects in Arabic, interestingly, the textbook follows the Egyptian dialects, I think because it is well known.
The day that I came to observe they were starting a new unit. The instructor was in very early to set-up and opening the DVD for the unit's vocabulary . She began the class by saying "good morning" in Arabic. Then, she went over the new vocabulary of the unit. About half an hour passed by going over the vocabulary. She would say each word three times and the student had to repeat them after her. In Arabic, the on vocabulary has different forms (e.g., singular, two-form, plural, feminine and masculine). Thus, the student repeated some words that have same meaning but different forms. To be honest I became bored. It is more like an audio-lingual approach, which I do not like. I asked the instructor, why she does the repetition, she said, for pronunciation because many English speakers have difficulty with pronunciation in Arabic. I also noticed that the DVD has only Arabic texts, no English translation. I learned later that the book has the translation of all the words, so the teacher does not need to go over the meaning.
After they finished repeating the vocabularies, the instructor asked if they have any questions about these words. There was only one student who asked a question about one of the words. Then, she asked every student to say the words, not all just the one he or she come across in turn. The students, in my view, did very well and pronounced the words correctly, some had hard time with words that has sound not in Arabic. Lastly, she let the DVD read questions that include the vocabulary they learned for that day. She would let the DVD repeat the question 3 times. The student had to respond with the correct answer form of each question. I was fascinated to see how good the student are doing, they were able to answer the questions effectively. At the end of class, she reminded them of them of the homework, said, "good bye" in Arabic :)
Overall, there was not much interaction between the teacher and the students, where she repeat the words and the students had to repeat as well. There were questions and answer, but not as much as it should be. The class is very quiet, where there is not much interaction between students as well. During my observation, the teacher did not implement any activities. I wondered if that the case only for some days or all the time. Also, I wonder how the teacher plans to teach these lessons and are they restricted to the curriculum. Maybe, I should observe a different teacher to see how they both differ. I wanted to meet with the instructor to answer these questions, but, unfortunately, she is busy and won't be able to meet with me.
I have learned something new from this course, where teaching a foreign language is very challenging, especially, if you have a strict audio-lingual curriculum. I teach young kids (K-1st graders) Arabic, and I can see how frustrating for them to sit and repeat each letters (we just go over the alphabets in this age and some vocabulary). Thus, I developed and found "Arabic Alphabets games," which was fun for them and they learned the alphabets faster than the previous semester. I cannot imagine how am I going to teach Arabic for undergraduate students without some sort of activity that help them learn effectively. This class reminded me of my experience learning English back home, EFL, the same idea and structure was followed, but I learned very little. Is it because of its Arabic as a Foreign Language (AFL) context they do not have activities? Are all Foreign language education is similar to this one and my own experience?