Foreign Language Didactics at Cadi Ayyad University. How the University Language Center will enhance Students' Foreign Language Skills


Master's Thesis, 2016

83 Pages


Excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

DEDICATION

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

ABSTRACT

LIST OF FIGURES

INTRODUCTION
1. Statement of the problem and objectives
2. Structure of the study

CHAPTER 1 : REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
1.1 Foreign language didactics
1.1.1 Key concepts
1.1.2 Foreign Language Didactics and Pedagogy
1.1.3 Foreign Language Learning and Acquisition
1.1.4 Approach, method and techniques
1.1.5 Overview of major FL teaching methods and approaches
1.1.5.1 The grammar-translation method
1.1.5.2 The Direct Method
1.1.5.3 The Audio-lingual Method
1.1.5.4 The Cognitive Approach
1.1.5.5 Communicative language teaching
1.1.5.6 Eclecticism
1.1.5.7 Summary
1.2 Foreign Language Didactics at Cadi Ayyad university
1.2.1 Overview
1.2.2 The methods adopted by the university language teachers
1.2.3 The challenges
1.3 Cadi Ayyad University Language Center
1.3.1 How the Center is expected to enhance language learning
1.3.2 Two model university centers
1.3.2.1 The Stanford University Language Center
1.3.2.2 University of Cambridge Language Center
1.3.3 Conclusion

CHAPTER 2 : RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
2.1 Data collection methods
2.2 Questionnaire design
2.3 Sampling
2.4 Participants
2.5 Strengths and Weaknesses of the Methodology
2.6 Summary

CHAPTER 3 : RESEARCH FINDINGS & DATA ANALYSIS
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Data Analysis Method
3.3 Quantitative Findings and Analysis
3.4 Conclusion

CHAPTER 4: C ADI AYYAD LANGUAGE CENTER
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Language courses
4.2.1 Common European Framework of Reference
4.2.2 Course descriptions
4.2.2.1 Beginners levels
4.2.2.2 Intermediate Levels
4.2.2.3 Advanced levels
4.2.2.4 French and English for Business
4.2.2.5 Arabic for exchange students
4.3 Use of language labs
4.4 Blended Learning in foreign language teaching and learning
4.5 Tandem Language Learning Projects
4.6 Use of Content Language Integrated Learning
4.7 Limitations of the Center as a whole
4.8 How to address them the Center’s limitations

CONCLUSION
1. Why my research is important for researchers and practitioners
2. Limitations
3. Recommendations for future research

BIBLIOGRAPHY APPENDICES

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

First and foremost I would like acknowledge Professor Fatima-Zohra Iflahn who was not only my supervisor during my dissertation, but also my guide and model throughout my Master’s journey. There is no word which can truly describe my gratitude for her countless hours of continued support, motivation, constructive criticism and recommendations in and out of the Faculty. She unselfishly shared her remarkable level of knowledge on my project while asking for nothing in return except that I perform my best. She knew my strengths and my weaknesses as a student and she did not stop encouraging me. A simple “thank you” does not come close in expressing how grateful I am for her guidance. But it is a good way to start - Professor Iflahn, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank You Very Much”, I will never ever forget it.

Secondly, I would like to send a vote of thanks to all my professors who modestly answered my enquiries, motivated me and shared their knowledge with me. Without them this dissertation could not have been achieved. I would also like to extend my deepest appreciation to the language teachers and the students who provided the support and encouragement needed in completing this dissertation.

Thirdly, I would also like to thank my parents and my wife for their continued support throughout my MA studies. It was a long journey and I really appreciate their being there for me.

Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank God for everything he has given me in life. In particular, for giving me hope that greatness can be achieved - all you have to do is believe.

" L ogic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

~ Albert Einstein

ABSTRACT

This research paper is part of the Language Center Project that is conceived and designed, under the auspices of Cadi Ayyad University, by a team made up of professors from the English and French departments at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Marrakech. It investigates the field of foreign language didactics and analyzes Cadi Ayyad students’ needs in foreign languages. The research was carried out using questionnaires that were administered to a sample of 435 students from six faculties and ENS in Marrakech. The results revealed that the majority of the respondents are not proficient in foreign languages and that they are willing to learn another foreign language. The purpose of the paper then is to suggest practical strategies and techniques for Cadi Ayyad Language Center to implement with the aim of enhancing the University students’ foreign language skills.

Keywords: Cadi Ayyad University, Language Center Project, foreign language didactics, language skills, students’ needs, practical strategies

RESUME

Ce mémoire de recherche fait partie du projet du Centre de Langues qui est conçu, sous les auspices de l’Université Cadi Ayyad, par un groupe de professeurs qui viennent du département de langue et littératures anglaises et du département de langue et littérature françaises à la Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Marrakech. Il étudie le domaine de la didactique des langues étrangères et analyse les besoins des étudiants de l’Université Cadi Ayyad en langues étrangères. La recherche a été réalisée à l'aide des questionnaires qui ont été administrés à un échantillon de 435 étudiants de six facultés et de l’ENS à Marrakech. Les résultats ont révélé que la majorité des répondants ne maîtrisent pas les langues étrangères et qu'ils sont prêts à apprendre une autre langue étrangère. Le but de cette recherche est alors de proposer des stratégies et des techniques pour le Centre de Langues Cadi Ayyad Cadi pour les mettre en œuvre dans le but d'améliorer les compétences des étudiants de l'Université en langues étrangères.

M ots-clés: Université Cadi Ayyad, projet du Centre de Langue Center projet, didactique des langues étrangères, compétences en langues étrangères, besoins des élèves, stratégies et techniques.

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1. Languages studied at Cadi Ayyad University

Figure 2. Levels of Students in Foreign Languages

Figure 3. Objectives of studying foreign languages

Figure 4. How students find teaching methodology

Figure 5. How students find teaching materials

Figure 6. How students find the content

Figure 7. Weekly time allocation for foreign language modules

Figure 8. Weekly time allocation (+ 2hours) for languages

Figure 9. Extra time students allocate to learning a language

Figure 10. How the students improve their language skills

Figure 11. The use of ICT in the foreign language class

Figure 12. Willingness of respondents to learn another foreign language

Figure 13. Which foreign languages respondents would like to learn

Figure 14. Contents taught in the language class

Figure 15. Which contents respondents would like to study in the language class

Figure 16. Course interactivity

Figure 17. Strengths of the language course according to respondents

INTRODUCTION

Sayings such as “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” by Ludwig Wittgenstein, “A different language is a different vision of life” by Federico Fellini and “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” by the Psycholinguist Frank Smith show that mastering languages is always beneficial. It means expanding your horizons and enriching yourself, both personally and professionally. In a world where borders are fading, a second – or third, or fourth, - language provides greater understanding and tolerance of others. In an educational world that increasingly emphasizes 21st century skills like digital literacy, social and cultural skills, critical thinking and problem- solving capabilities, knowledge of a foreign language has become virtually indispensable. Indeed, learning a foreign language has a host of benefits to students. For instance, knowledge of another language builds the students’ overall language abilities and strengthens their skills in interpretation and understanding. Learning the grammar of another language, as well, is an important way to get a better handle on grammar in general. Moreover, expanding their foreign language vocabulary helps the students think about words and their meanings in complex ways. The new language deepens their capacity to communicate and to understand the challenges of all cross-cultural relations.

As countries become more and more interconnected, the ability to engage in cross-cultural communication will grow ever more important. In addition, studying a foreign language can pave the way for advanced study in a wide range of fields and give students a chance to build the kinds of expertise that someone without those language abilities would not be able to master. Furthermore, science has proven that multilinguals are better multi-taskers. Their brains are used to switching between different languages and, because of that, they are also able to switch between two different processes. Multilinguals are also more rational in their decision making. When people learn a language, they also learn the nuances between different words and have to think about which word to use and when. This competency aids decision making in difficult situations. Likewise, people who speak more languages observe their own surroundings better and they can distinguish relevant factors from side issues and recognize misleading information. In this connection, Vivian Cook makes the following statement in respect of multilinguals:

“ …a person who speaks multiple languages has a stereoscopic vision of the world from two or more perspectives, enabling them to be more flexible in their thinking, learn reading more easily. Multilinguals, therefore, are not restricted to a single world-view, i but also have a better understanding that other outlooks are possible. Indeed, this has always been seen as one of the main educational advantages of language teaching” 1 (Cook 2001).

In addition to the benefits of learning foreign languages that has been discussed above, the importance of being proficient in foreign languages on the labour market is incontrovertible. Language is an essential part of human capital and has an impact on labour supply and labour market allocation. The emphasis that job applicants put on their foreign language skills in their CVs clearly illustrates the importance that they attach to these skills. The demand for foreign language and communication skills has increased considerably in recent years. This development can be said to be motivated by the multilingual and multicultural environment in which companies of all sizes operate, the global competition that they face and their purpose to expand their market access. In short, knowing more than one language gives a job applicant or an employee the edge over one who knows one or none.

The above having been said, it must certainly be conceded that mastering foreign languages has become a vital asset for students to succeed in their studies, graduates to land rewarding jobs and employees to succeed in business. For this reason, countries around the world, including the United States which boasts the language of global business, science and technology, namely English, promote foreign language learning. For instance, the last decade has witnessed a rapid increase in interest in multilingualism in Europe. This increase is certainly linked to the commitment of the European Union to a multilingual Europe2. The language policy supported by the Council of Europe promotes teaching and learning of several foreign languages in the European educational context. As part of its efforts to promote mobility and intercultural understanding, the EU has designated linguistic diversity as an important priority and funds programmes like Erasmus+, Creative Europe3 and Lifelong Learning Programme4. Besides, every year on the European Day of Languages, September the 26th, the EU joins forces with the Council of Europe, the European Center for Modern Languages, language institutions and citizens around Europe to promote linguistic diversity and language learning through events and happenings. Multilingualism, in the European Union’s view, is an important element in Europe’s competitiveness. In accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR, 2001) it was proposed that EU citizens should be proficient in three European languages, their mother tongue and two other community languages, to ensure multilingualism as an essential characteristic feature of European identity. The EU supports the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML), whose mission is to encourage excellence and innovation in language teaching and to help Europeans learn languages more efficiently. The ECML’s main aims are to help Member States implement effective language teaching policies by focusing on the learning and teaching of languages, promoting dialogue and exchange among those active in the field and finally supporting programme-related networks and research projects. Today, the ECML runs four-year programmes to promote excellence in European language education. In addition to this, many European universities like the University of Cambridge, the Technical University of Munich and the University of Milan, to name but a few, have set up language centers to offer courses in different languages to their students.

As far as Morocco is concerned, it has made substantive strides in foreign language learning. The National Charter for Education and Training in articles 117 and 118 stressed the importance of mastering foreign languages and set guidelines for teaching them at elementary, secondary and tertiary levels5. It mobilized resources to this end and encouraged universities and higher education institutions to establish language courses in a systematic fashion and combine them with scientific, cultural and technical modules to give language learning a functional character. In this regard, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research incited Moroccan students to study English and voiced his support to move toward adopting English as a language of instruction instead of French6. Speaking about the importance of the English language as the world language for scientific research, he said that the Moroccan university will start recruiting engineers to teach science students, and that the most important criterion upon which teachers will be accepted is their mastery of English. He also stated that students who wish to defend their doctoral projects, starting from September 2017, must have at least one article written in English, part of their bibliographical references in English and an abstract in English.

In the same connection, Moroccan universities have opened language programs and more and more students opt for majors in English, Spanish, French and other languages. Cadi Ayyad University is no exception. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities, for example, offers BA’s and Master’s courses in French and English in addition to French, English, Spanish, German and Japanese modules in other undergraduate and graduate programs such as LEA Master’s and BA’s programs, Translation Technology and Specialized Translation Master’s program and Tourism Master’s program, to name but a few .

The six faculties we surveyed have language modules in many BA and Master’s programs, but some, as Master’s and BA’s programs coordinators admitted, are not taught for lack of language teachers although they are present in the programs’ specifications. Nevertheless, proficiency in these languages is still far from being fulfilled. This pushes the students to enroll in fee-paying language centers like CLC and ALC but they are not accessible to and within the reach of all of them. Therefore, to enable the students to catch up with the world, Cadi Ayyad University should set up a language center that is expected to offer language courses to its students and staff and thus make up for the deficiency of the faculties to produce graduates with strong language skills.

The current research paper is part of a project to which I have contributed and which aims at laying the groundwork for the Language Center that Cadi Ayyad University will set up in the near future. This project was designed and conceived by a team comprised of professors from the English and French departments of the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences and me as a trainee. This paper aims particularly at investigating the issue of foreign languages didactics at Cadi Ayyad University and suggesting practical ideas for Cadi Ayyad Language Center after analyzing the foreign language situation across the University. The ultimate objective is to make the project contribute effectively to producing efficient graduates.

1. Statement of the problem and objectives

This paper addresses the issue of foreign language learning and teaching at Cadi Ayyad University and suggests various courses and ideas for the Cadi Ayyad Language Center. It is mainly concerned with how this center will cater to the needs of students and staff. At first, it examines the concepts related to the field of foreign language teaching and clears up the misconceptions held about each one of them. It also spells out the different methods and approaches to foreign language teaching in order to show how languages have been taught over time.

The paper then investigates foreign language didactics at the University and the factors which contribute to the students’ low proficiency in foreign languages in spite of the host of resources available to them. It also examines the University Language Center project and its role in improving the language skills of students and making up for the deficiency of the University to produce students who possess language skills that enable them to enter the labor market, go for further studies and become independently-minded global citizens. The purpose here is to see how this center will address the shortcomings of the language programs offered by the University or how it will supplement them. International university languages centers are cited in the paper to show how their experiences can be beneficial to the Cadi Ayyad Language Center.

The paper analyzes the university students’ needs in terms of foreign language mastery through the questionnaires the team designed and administered to students in six faculties and ENS (Teacher Training College). It should finally help with practical and detailed suggestions to enable the University Language Center address effectively the different needs of students and staff alike.

2. Structure of the research paper

This paper is divided into four chapters with an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction outlines the research background, the aims and objectives of the research paper and summarizes its structure. Chapter 1 provides a review of the literature relating to the concept of foreign language didactics in general and at Cadi Ayyad University in particular. It also presents Cadi Ayyad Language Center project and its role in improving students’ language skills. The subchapters divide the literature review into three main sections. The first section (1.1) defines foreign language didactics and discusses its key concepts with a view to clarifying them so there should be no misconceptions as to the recurring terms throughout the paper. It also provides an overview of major foreign language teaching methods and approaches. Section 1.2 discusses the question of foreign language didactics at Cadi Ayyad University and explains different issues related to it. Following, section 1.3 addresses the importance of setting up of a university language center by Cadi Ayyad University to tackle the language deficit among the university students and explains how it should enhance language learning. It, as well, relates stories of international university language centers which are cited for benchmarking purposes. Chapter 2 discusses the methods and procedures employed in the study. It describes data collection methods and the questionnaire design. The sampling method is also described, followed by the participants. In addition, the chapter discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the methodology of this research.

Chapter 3 presents the results of the research method and provides a discussion and the drawn conclusions. It describes the data analysis method and discusses its strengths and limitation. Chapter 4 provides course descriptions for Cadi Ayyad Language Center and suggests teaching and learning methods to enable it to effectively address the pressing issues of foreign language mastery. It also introduces the potential limitations of the center and proposes ways to overcome them. The last section of the paper is a general conclusion which presents a summary of the research and describes its contribution to the field of language teaching and learning at the level of Cadi Ayyad University and nationally. It finally explains the limitations of the research as a whole and recommends fields for further research.

CHAPTER 1 : REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

The literature review will provide the context for the research by introducing the concepts of foreign language didactics and, in particular, how languages are taught at Cadi Ayyad University. It accounts for the need to establish a university language center that will cater for the needs of the university students and staff and presents Cadi Ayyad Language Center project. It will also highlight, for benchmarking purposes, two international university language centers that were established with the aim of improving foreign language learning.

1.1 Foreign language didactics

1.1.1 Key concepts

When I made up my mind to embark on this research project, I knew that I would encounter difficulties as to the concepts related to it, especially because some of them are used interchangeably and others are seemingly taken for granted by language practitioners and laymen alike. Such concepts as didactics, pedagogy, teaching and instruction, which are the fulcrum around which this study revolves, can hardly be said to be different one from another. Likewise, language learning and language acquisition are two terms that are thought of as synonymous. Similarly, approach, methodology and technique are terms that are often used to mean the same thing in spite of the subtle differences they bear. Therefore, understanding the finer nuances between all these terms is the first sound step to come to grips with overall purpose of this study. Likewise, I deem it appropriate to give an account of the most acclaimed methods and approaches that have shaped the language teaching and learning arena. In fact, I will not analyze them in an exhaustive manner as the scope of the paper would not permit.

1.1.2 Foreign Language Didactics and Pedagogy

When I was a teacher trainee back in 2006, I used to hear the term didactics on a daily basis and I learned in a simplistic way that all it meant was “teaching”. I had no intention of going beyond that handy definition. However, when my supervisor suggested that I do my research project about it, I realized that it was time to cease to take the term for granted and delve deep into what it actually means and what it implies or entails. Books and articles about it argue that it is derived from the Greek verb didáskein, which means ’teaching, presenting, clarifying’. The term didaktiké téchne (art of teaching) refers to the act of teaching, and a didactician is someone who used to teach young adults while very often being himself an actor or a poet, training other actors7.

Didactics is a pivotal part in education sciences and it is concerned with the study of teaching. It serves a two-fold function: normative and descriptive. By the former we mean that didactics proposes teaching instructions following the objectives of the curriculum, whereas, the latter concerns research on teaching. However, according to Uljens, descriptive didactics is not free from normativity which is about the axiological issues beyond the scientific theory, such as the knowledge interest represented by the theory8. Didactics is also the science of the teaching-studying-learning process that is culturally and historically situated and a theoretical framework for studying this process.

In harmony with Uljens’s definition, Seppo Tella presents a broadened meaning of didactics. According to him , didactics is a (1) a domain of science which studies teaching; (2) a science and a study whose target is teaching, studying and learning and (3) a doctrine which searches for examines teaching, studying and learning practices in order the learning objectives by means of teaching and studying. Put differently, didactics is concerned with developing and analyzing the content and the different stages of the teaching-studying-learning process. The key point is therefore that teaching, studying and learning form an integral entity, in which each of the three components supports each other.

A concept that is related to didactics and must also be explained is pedagogy. Although it and didactics are used interchangeably, they have nuances that have to be cleared. Etymologically, pedagogy comes from Latin and Greek, in which a pedagogue refers to a servant or a man who guards and supervises a child9. The Latin word paedagogus explicitly refers to a slave who looked after and supervised a child or a boy at home, but also accompanied him to school and from school. In ancient Greece, pedagogues took care of the education of pre-puberty- aged boys.

The concept of pedagogy is also problematic for two reasons. First, its meaning has changed over time and, second, it implies different things in different language areas. For instance, the concept of pedagogy has been used more frequently in German-language and Scandinavian literature than in the Anglo-American world, where it has not had an established meaning. Kroksmark considers the concept of pedagogy to be content wise very similar to the concept of teaching, and therefore not far from the continental European concept of didaktik or science of teaching. The continental European terminology defines pedagogy in a more extensive fashion, as it refers to both education and teaching though education is more underscored10.

1.1.3 Foreign Language Learning and Acquisition

In foreign language teaching, it is to be noted that a distinction is often made between “foreign” and “second” language learning. A second language implies that the learner resides in an environment where the acquired language is spoken. In the area of research, the term second language acquisition (SLA) is a general term that embraces foreign language learning and investigates the human capacity to learn languages other the first language once it has been acquired. However, for study purposes, this distinction is not important. For us, foreign language and second language learners learn these languages in pretty much the same way and use almost the same techniques.

Similarly another distinction has to be made between two concepts that are understood to mean one thing despite the variations in their meanings. These concepts are language learning and language acquisition. Stephen Krashen in his book “Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition” provides a clear explanation of them. Language acquisition, according to Krashen, does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drills. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language in which speakers is concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.11 The acquisition-learning distinction is the most important of all the hypotheses in his highly regarded theory of second language acquisition known as the Natural Approach.

According to Krashen, there are two independent systems of second language performance: “the acquired system” and the “learned system”. The “acquired system” which is also called acquisition is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. In support of this view, Chomsky says, “We are designed to walk….That we are taught to walk is impossible. And pretty much the same is true of language. Nobody is taught language. In fact you can’t prevent the child from learning it12. Language acquisition is therefore the natural assimilation that involves intuition and subconscious learning. It is the outcome of authentic communication between people in environments of the target language and culture. It is an approach that praises the communicative act and develops self-confidence in the learner and where fluency takes precedence over accuracy.

As for the “learned system” or learning, it is the product of formal and conscious instruction. It comprises a conscious process which culminates in conscious knowledge about the language like knowledge of grammar rules. Attention is focused on the language as such and the purpose is to get the student understand the structure and rules of the language, whose parts are analyzed. The form is of greater importance than communication. Language learning-oriented methods seek to transmit to the student knowledge about the language, its functioning and grammatical structures.

1.1.4 Approach, method and technique

In the nineteenth century, language experts and linguists sought to improve the quality of teaching by elaborating approaches to the design of language teaching programs, courses and materials. Applied linguists such as Henry Sweet, Otto Jespersen and Harold Palmer sought answers to questions regarding principles for the selection and sequencing of vocabulary and grammar, though their ideas could not be embodied in any existing method.

In describing methods, the differentiation between a philosophy of language teaching at the level of theory and principles and a set of derived procedures for teaching a language is of paramount importance. The American applied linguist Edward Anthony was one of the first applied linguists to make a distinction between the terms approach, method and technique as they apply to language teaching. For him, an approach reflects a theoretical model or research paradigm. It also describes the nature of the nature of the subject matter to be taught. It is the level at which assumptions and beliefs about language and language learning are specified.

A method, on the other hand, refers to a specific instructional design or system based on a particular theory of language and of language learning. It contains detailed specifications of content, roles of teachers and learners, and teaching procedures and techniques. It is relatively fixed in time and there is generally little scope for individual interpretation. Methods are learned through training. The teacher’s role is to follow the method and apply it precisely according to the rules. A technique in Anthony’s model is a specific classroom activity used to attain immediate objectives. Some techniques may be found in many methods such as dictation, listen and repeat drills and other techniques may, however, be specific to only one or two methods.

Richards and Rogers proposed a new framework for discussing language teaching methodology (see figure1). They use method as an overarching term that encompasses approach, design and procedure. The term approach is used in the same way as Anthony’s proposition, though in a more comprehensive and explicit manner. It includes theories of the nature of language (including units of language analysis) and the nature of language learning with reference to psychological and pedagogical principles. As for design in their framework, it entails curriculum objectives and syllabus types. It also includes learning and teaching activities and spells out the roles of teachers and learners. It also includes the function and form of instructional materials and their role in the teaching-learning process. As regards procedure, it refers to techniques, practices and behaviors observable in the classroom. It also comprises the resources used by the teacher and the interactional patterns that can be observes in the classroom. The strategies used by the teacher in the teaching process are part of the procedural component of the method.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Summary of elements and sub-elements that constitute a method (adapted from J.C Richards & T.S Rogers, 2001).

1.1.5 Overview of Major FL Teaching Methods and Approaches

I shall dedicate this section to an overview of the commonly adopted methods and approaches or the ones that used to be popular in foreign langue teaching. I shall highlight their strengths and their weaknesses and how the latter caused their demise and were finally superseded by new alternatives.

1.1.5.1 The grammar-translation method

The history of foreign language learning and teaching has been characterized by significant changes and shifts as a result of an ongoing search for more effective ways of teaching and learning foreign languages. The first conceptualizations of language teaching were based on teaching Latin. The method that was adopted then was the grammar-translation method. Language was analyzed and paradigms memorized to enable the student to read and translate literary texts and write similar texts.

This method hardly made use of the foreign language and no language communication skills were developed. It was believed that students would have a complete command of the grammar of the native language through the study of the grammar of the target language. Thus, this would help them speak and write better in their native language. Finally, it was thought that a) learning a foreign language would help students grow intellectually, and b) the mental exercise of learning would be beneficial although they would probably never use the target language. This method was highly criticized as it saw grammar as an end, not as a means and because it ignored the functional aspects of language.

1.1.5.2 The Direct Method

The Direct Method came as a reaction to the grammar translation method and it aims at teaching the target language the way we learn our first language. It is a shift from literary language to the spoken everyday language as the object of early instruction. In this method, the learning of languages was viewed as analogous to the first language acquisition, and the learning process involved was often interpreted in terms of an association’s psychology. Its proponents thought that the goal of instruction was solely communication. As opposed to the Grammar-translation method, the direct method allows no translation in the classroom and the meaning is conveyed exclusively in the target language through visual aids and demonstrations and grammar is taught inductively.

Similarly, this method emphasized the teaching of everyday vocabulary and sentences. Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized as well. Nevertheless, the use of this method raised two questions: one is how to safeguard against misunderstanding without translating (especially, some abstract ideas), without reference to the first language; the other is how to apply this method beyond elementary stage of language learning. Furthermore, this method requires teachers who are native speakers or have native-like fluency in the foreign language they teach, but in practice, it is difficult to meet these requirements.

1.1.5.3 The Audio-lingual Method

The 1950s witnessed the popularity of the audio-lingual method which promoted an imitation and practice approach to language development. Its psychological basis is behaviorism which interprets language learning in terms of stimulus and response, operant conditioning, and reinforcement with an emphasis on successful error-free learning. It was a descriptive approach to language combined with the belief that language learning was a culturally and socially determined activity of habit formation. It assumes that learning a language entails mastering the elements or building blocks of the language and learning the rules by which these elements are combined, from phoneme to morpheme to word to phrase to sentence. Therefore, it was characterized by the separation of the skills-listening, speaking, reading, and writing-and the primacy of the audio-lingual over the graphic skills. This method uses dialogues as the chief means of presenting the language and stresses certain practice techniques, such as pattern drills, mimicry and so on.

Although this method contributed greatly to language teaching by making language learning accessible to large groups of ordinary learners, it was highly criticized by Chomsky. In 1959, his review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior dramatically changed the way of looking at language by arguing that language was a rule-governed activity, not a set of habits. He argued that a mere stimulus-response psychology was by no means able to account for creativity in generating novel utterances by means of the internalized rules. He regarded language acquisition as an internal thinking-learning process and claimed that children are biologically programmed for language and have an innate ability to discover for themselves the underlying rules of a language system. This view heralded the end of structural linguistics, behaviorist psychology and the audio-lingual method of language learning.

1.1.5.4 The Cognitive Approach

This approach came as a result of the emphasis on human cognition or the thinking process learners go through to discover the rules of the language they are learning. Language is, therefore, no longer considered a product of habit formation. This approach sees learners as active participants in the process of learning and holds them accountable for their own learning. In the early 1970s the Cognitive Approach was of great interest and it was applied to language teaching. Most of the materials contained deductive (students are asked to apply the rules given to them) and inductive (learners themselves discover the rules from the examples and then practice them) grammar exercises.

This approach, although no new language method developed from it, remained an important reaction to audio-lingualism and a likely cause of new language teaching methods in the 1970s that were humanistically-orented and emphasized the impact of affective factors such as motivation, attitudes and language anxiety. Charles Curran, for instance, in his Counseling- Learning approach stressed the importance of group cohesiveness and trust between teacher and learners that is likely to install a favorable emotional climate where learners can be receptive to learning. Similarly, Caleb Gattegno predicates his Silent Way on the assumption that teaching should be learner-centered and should take the inner state of the learner into account. In the same vein, Georgi Lozanov, Suggestopedia’s founder, argues that learning can better take place is the learners are brought to a state of relaxation. Likewise, Asher’s total physical response attempts to get learners speak only when they feel ready to speak in a stress-free atmosphere.

1.1.5.5 Communicative language teaching

The communicative language teaching approach aims at making communicative competence the overall purpose of language instruction. The students are prompted to use the target language in a variety of contexts while emphasis is placed on learning the four skills-listening, speaking, reading and writing- in an integrated fashion. In fact, teaching these four skills simultaneously is of great importance since each one of them is integrative of the other skills. This approach encourages the use of activities that involve real-life communication and lead the students to carry out meaningful tasks.

According to Brown, communicative language teaching is based on the following tenets: the main aim of language teaching is communicative competence; teaching should be carried out through use of language; fluency as well as accuracy are developed; language teaching should lead to student autonomy; and finally, teachers are considered facilitators rather than holders of knowledge. Now taken as an umbrella term for a number of designs and procedures, the communicative approach comprises task-based language teaching and project work, content- based and immersion instruction, and Cooperative Learning, among other instructional frameworks. It is worth noting that the communicative approach is highly regarded and adopted, together with other methods and approaches, by most language centers and schools all over the world.

1.1.5.6 Eclecticism

Language teachers are often faced with the question of which method to choose. Making a choice becomes even more difficult when realizing that each method has strengths and weaknesses. Some teachers believe that there is some value to each method and they are against adopting or rejecting methods in their entirety as being suitable or unsuitable for a particular context. Instead, different methods, or parts of them, may be practiced in different contexts13. The teachers who subscribe to this view pick and choose from among methods to create their own blend which is said to be eclectic. Thus, they are creating their own method by blending aspects of others in a principled manner. Larson-Freeman and Mellow used the term principled eclecticism to describe a pluralistic approach to language teaching. This approach entails the use of a variety of language learning activities that may be motivated by different underlying assumptions. Nearly all modern language course books use a mixture of methods and approaches to enable the students to achieve the preset learning goals and objectives. This eclectic approach increases the likelihood of learning taking place and holds the learners’ attention for as long as the activities last.

1.1.5.7 Summary

Each of the methods and approaches discussed above -though a few more have not been mentioned for scope considerations- has contributed new elements and has sought to deal with some issues of language learning. What is certain now is that no single method could guarantee positive results. However, it should be noted that they appeared in different historical contexts, put emphasis on different social and educational needs and have different theoretical considerations. Consequently, if teachers are to apply these methods effectively and efficiently, they should always bear these questions in mind: who the learners are, what their current level of language proficiency is, what sort of communicative needs they have, and the circumstances in which they will be using English in the future.

1.2 Foreign Language Didactics at Cadi Ayyad University

1.2.1 Overview

Most language teachers at Cadi Ayyad University agree that there are no didactics being mentioned in the project of the University. The teaching of foreign language courses as part of Master’s and BA’s programs at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, for example, is left to the teacher's convictions and choices. This is the case of Spanish, German, English and even Japanese modules where teachers adopt and adapt the teaching methodologies that best suit their students’ levels and interests. There is no consensus on a specific teaching method. The same can be said about the other faculties where teachers who mostly teach part-time are not bound to use a particular method. However, most masters and vocational programs now have language modules particularly English and French. Teachers of these modules are free to choose the methods or approaches that they think will help their students fulfill the goals and objectives of the modules. I asked pedagogical staff members of the faculties and institutions under the auspices of Cadi Ayyad University about whether they conceive of workable plans to incorporate language modules with clear descriptions as to content and methodology in all the programs and they showed interest and anticipation, but their answers were not free from ifs and buts. However, most of them agree that one of the major impediments lies in the lack of language teachers.

1.2.2 The methods adopted by the university language teachers

Several language teachers at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, Faculty of Sciences Semlalia and Faculty of Law and Economics and Social Sciences confirm that they do not make use of one specific or agreed-upon method. Most of them prefer to resort to eclecticism. In this connection, a teacher trainer at the Teacher Training Center of Marrakech and a part-time English teacher at the Faculty of Economics prefers to talk about principles rather than methods or approaches. Among these, he uses task- based and content-based language teaching. He also uses as much project work, lexis and content related to students’ major as possible. In addition, he says that he teaches reading and listening followed by summaries, reports or discussions to integrate all the skills.

In the same vein, a French teacher at the Faculty of Sciences and Techniques asserts that she follows a project-based approach and an interactive approach to language teaching. The former, according to her, is a set of tools that enable the learners to acquire linguistic elements at the oral and written approach through the making of a project (presentations, mini-projects, visit reports). The latter, she says, is based primarily on the interaction or interactivity within a class. Oral communication constitutes a fundamental learning strategy. This can also be described as a communicative approach. This means that what is most important is that the learner expresses her message with the little linguistic means she could have. A part-time English teacher at the same of faculty, on the other hand, asserts that he does not fully adopt one method of teaching despite their importance. He says that follows an eclectic approach to satisfy the needs of his students. He asserts that what is important for him as a teacher is not only to teach his students English but also to teach them how to learn it.

When I asked another English teacher at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities about the methods she uses with the Masters ‘students, she said that she uses three methods, namely the communicative langue teaching , the structural approach and the grammar-translation method. However, the choice of the method depends on the kind of the training and the level of the students. She teaches content-related English in the masters’ programs such as tourism and general English in professional BA programs such as ADS (Agent de Développement Social). She uses a textbook and worksheets to achieve the objectives of the language module. As regards ICT, she makes use of it when the level of the students permits and when the ICT equipment is available. To assess the progress of her students, she uses diagnostic and summative tests.

A French professor at the same faculty, on the other hand, believes that the role of the teacher is to generate the interest of the students to learn the language. They are motivated to use their own learning styles with a view to attaining the goals of the course. When I asked her about assessment, she said that summative assessment is used to make sure the objectives have been met. However, in the case of the masters’ and Professional BA’s programs where the number of students and objectives is reduced , other criteria of assessment are taken into account such as participation in class, project work and good behavior. She thinks that there is no need to use textbooks as the content of the module depends on the set objectives. She teaches general French or professional French depending on the content of the course and relies heavily on ICT to deliver her lessons.

As far as I am concerned, when I taught the “Environment Economics Masters’ students at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Sciences, I used to follow a task-based approach to English teaching where students would work on tasks individually or in groups. The tasks were fraught with vocabulary related to environment and sustainable development. I also adopted a communicative teaching style to help the students communicate and practice in professional settings with confidence. Teaching the four skills was also emphasized.

It stands clear from the contributions of the aforementioned teachers that there are no agreed- upon approaches or methods being followed in the faculties offering language modules. Each teacher adopts the method or approach that matches his/her students’ capacities and preferred learning styles. However, clear language course descriptions and syllabi remain necessary for the teachers and the students to be aware of the learning objectives and work systematically on fulfilling them. Furthermore, due to time constraints, as most language modules should be covered in thirty hours per semester at most and language teachers have to teach each class only two hours a week, which is largely insufficient, the learning objectives can hardly be said to be fulfilled. Therefore, time allotment needs to be reconsidered to allow the students to make the most of each language class.

1.2.3 The challenges

Cadi Ayyad University faces enormous challenges in producing students who are competent in foreign languages. They have to do with the students' low standards in foreign languages at a time these latter are highlighted everywhere in the world as an economic lever. In addition, there is still extreme inability to communicate with the outside world which is characterized by tremendous free flow of information.

In the same vein, I think that one more factor that cannot be controverted is that language modules are still not given as much importance as other major modules. I have noticed this at the Faculty of Sciences and Techniques where language modules have a special department called “further education”. This leads the students to not take the modules seriously and therefore put little or no efforts in learning the programmed languages. In addition, I have been told that the rate of absenteeism of language teachers, who are mostly part-time teachers, exceeds that of the teachers of “scientific” modules which hurts the students’ achievement in languages. In addition, the allotted time to each language module and the lack of communication and cooperation among teachers and students alike, pose obstacles for teachers to teach effectively and for students to learn meaningfully.

1.3 Cadi Ayyad University Language Center

Creating a language center will be an important undertaking by Cadi Ayyad University to address the lack of proficiency in foreign language which is due to a cluster of internal as well as external factors. The language teachers at the university, for instance, do not follow clear and effective methods and strategies. In addition, the teaching of languages is done in a haphazard manner since no official course books are being used throughout the university. Moreover, the teaching hours devoted to languages are simply not sufficient to equip the students with the necessary language skills. By the same token, students’ level in languages is low before enrolling in the university given the poor language policy in primary and secondary public schools. These factors combined necessitate that Cadi Ayyad University address the foreign language issues in a comprehensive way.

As mentioned earlier, the new Language Center is a project that is designed by a group of language Professors from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Marrakech and is supported by Cadi Ayyad University. It will be an opportunity for the students to master the language skills required for an easy insertion in the labor market and for doing further studies through well-crafted languages courses, effective teaching strategies and methods and highly qualified language teachers. It should equip them for the endeavor of language learning with the necessary linguistic tools and cultural awareness to make it possible for them to understand and appreciate other people and cultures as well as to articulate their own thoughts and meet their specific goals. The University Center will also provide the students with clear syllabi and the modern facilities to make the language learning experience an effective one.

1.3.1 How the Language Center is expected to enhance language learning

Cadi Ayyad Language Center University should play an important role in language learning and make up for the inability of the University to satisfy the students’ ever-increasing desire to learn languages communicatively and use them effectively for academic, professional or personal purposes. Besides, the Language Center should be accessible to students irrespective of their majors, age or interests given the whole range of facilities it should provide that contribute to an effective language learning experience. It will also offer programs that cater for the specific needs of learners setting goals and adopting and adapting methods to better achieve them.

1.3.2 Model University Language Centers

In this section, I shall give two examples of international university language centers, for benchmarking purposes, which have been established to meet the needs of the students and staff in terms of foreign language skills. The language courses and methods used to teach languages in both centers are described.

[...]


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3 Supports literary translation with the aim of giving more people access to literary works and maintaining the cultural linguistic diversity in the EU.

4 A programme (2007-2013) that supported networks that contribute to the development of language policies as well as multicultural projects that developed language learning materials and made them available to large audiences.

5 The National Charter for Education and Training, Articles 117 and 118.

6 Daoudi, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research talked to Al-Yaoum 24 online newspaper on March 28th, 2014

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11 Stephen Krashen, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning, Oxford: Pergamon

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Title
Foreign Language Didactics at Cadi Ayyad University. How the University Language Center will enhance Students' Foreign Language Skills
Author
Year
2016
Pages
83
Catalog Number
V500510
ISBN (eBook)
9783346026880
ISBN (Book)
9783346026897
Language
English
Tags
foreign, language, didactics, cadi, ayyad, university, center, students, skills
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Mohammed El Moussaoui (Author), 2016, Foreign Language Didactics at Cadi Ayyad University. How the University Language Center will enhance Students' Foreign Language Skills, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/500510

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