Language, like other academic disciplines, aims at finding solutions for the post-millennial state of current societies through the shifting of traditionally-established paradigms. Competencies in the English language have become a global necessity (Crystal, 2012). Its application in the learning process and work environment is a reflection of its importance as an international lingua franca. Several studies have highlighted how English language learning can make a positive contribution to the lives of individual learners both locally and globally (Crystal, 2012). In recent years, there has been a growing interest from many experts and researchers in the extent to which the English language can create social integration (Crystal, 2012). The research interest in the area has been motivated by a growing population of English speakers among second and additional language users, surpassing the native speakers. The existing literature review examines several issues including English learning practices for non-native speakers, English as a global language, and English in Saudi Arabia.
The literature review first outlines the global growth of the English language, then follows with an emphasis on learning English as a foreign language (EFL). This order has been chosen to specifically focus on the field and learning of English in Saudi Arabia. It considers the literature on the impact of out-of-class activities on students in terms of EFL learning. Furthermore, the review concentrates on understanding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of learners and their use of ‘out-of-class activities in the process of learning English in their daily lives. The review of the literature will also evaluate the approaches to learning English as a foreign language within the Saudi Arabian context to understand the possible implications of adopting out-of-class activities within the English language learning environment.
1.2. English as a Global Language
English language competency has become a necessity for almost everyone around the world due to its status as the international lingua franca. Crystal (2012) notes that English has earned its status as a global language: it is now recognized as the preferred language to acquire as a foreign or second language in around 70 nations worldwide, including Nigeria, Ghana, India, Singapore, China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Çelik and Aytin (2014) also note that around 400 million individuals communicate in English as their first language and that more than a combined total of one billion people use English as a foreign or second language. The spread of English as a global language has led to a situation where speakers of English as a second language outnumber speakers of English as a first language (Çelik&Aytin, 2014). This demonstrates the importance of learning English to enhance an individual’s career (Mitchell &Alfuraih, 2017). Despite the similarities among humans, such as shared values, there are significant variances in languages. The use of English as the standard language in most education programs and many career environments helps address the issue of language variances that make communication at workplaces challenging. Several theories have been developed to explain the extent to which language unites societies.
The cosmopolitan theory has been applied to the idea of human beings coexisting in a single community, sociocultural backgrounds and affiliations notwithstanding (Alhabahba, Pandian & Mahfoodh, 2016). This can be perceived from different perspectives, such as moral norms and/or relationships, and shared markets, as well as in the form of cultural expressions, among others (Crystal, 2016). Some versions of the cosmopolitan theory envision a universal community of world citizens ( Pandian & 2016). These, however, vary according to the concept of world citizenship that they imply. Thus the philosophical interest of cosmopolitanism lies in the challenge it poses to the common recognition of attachments that people have with one another, local states, and cultures that are shared parochially (among other aspects), hence its application in the use of English as a universal language ( Pandian & 2016).
There is no doubt that common languages played significant roles in the historical formation of modern states. For example, Indonesia developed a common language known as Bahasa Indonesia to address its traditional multilingual culture. The language helped overcome the hundreds of languages that the people spoke when the nation was formed (Paauw, 2009). Hindi is another example. Before the independence of India, English was the official language used for administrative and higher education purposes. In 1946, the issue of the national language was a sharply challenging subject in the procedures of the Constituent Assembly of India. This issue has been floating and unresolved for years. Eventually, a decision was made with Hindi in the Devanagari script to be the official language of the union; however, the English Language continued to be used for all the official purposes of the nation for fifteen years after the commencement of the Constitution (Benedikter, 2009).
Yet, current debates on the effects of globalization on nations hardly address the issue of language, other than it being regarded as a mere superficial aspect. This is even though the ever-soaring numbers of English speakers in the last few decades, as well as other changes in the notion of global English, can be seen to exhibit significant social implications for communication (Ives, 2009). According to Shaw (2016), most literature on globalization and cosmopolitanism neglects the implication of the English language on social integration. The findings, however, can be seen to go against the evident acceleration in transnational mobility, as well as the processes of globalization, coupled with the extensive use either of digital communication technologies that all work independently or collectively towards the generation of an unprecedented interconnection between people and places (Shaw, 2016).
The challenges of globalization, digital communication technologies, and cosmopolitanism in terms of limited influence on the global population and their languages have necessitated the need for language experts of English to look into ways in which the changes in socio-cultural matrices can be applied to literacy studies pedagogically (Crystal, 2016). Therefore, a language like other academic disciplines may shift from traditionally established paradigms as well as the associated frameworks to establish, answers for the post-millennial state, which is the current situation (Crystal, 2016).
Shaw (2016) explores cosmopolitanism in the twenty-first century by addressing the ways through which its values can be applied in the provision of academic content and the acquisition of English. He affirms the importance of acknowledging traction in gains related to global learning in various curricula, ranging from primary to tertiary levels. Furthermore, Shaw (2016) argues that cosmopolitanism provides a direct response to ways of living in a society with others from different backgrounds to achieve cultural convergence. From the author’s perspective, a common language can be developed for a variety of languages through cosmopolitanism. Shaw (2016) further argues that cosmopolitanism relates to interdependence and interrelationships between people in modern society.
Global learning has influenced educational institutions to adjust their mission statements to capture their extensive commitments to global awareness, with the focus being on the English language. The focus on the English language is due to its vast usage and potential to have the international community establish a common language (Shaw, 2016). Globalized learning also considers the conceptual framework guiding global learning activities, with close regard to its motives and ambitions (Crystal, 2016). It does this in recognition of the sociocultural dynamism of modern communities and the need to have a common language that unites people from different cultural backgrounds.
The global learning of English can be perceived from various rationales, all directed to serve numerous possible ends (Shaw, 2016). For instance, the rationale for neo-mercantilism lays its emphasis on the global learning and teaching of English on vocational and market-friendly perspectives that, nevertheless, are narrowly set (Shaw, 2016). The internationalist rationale envisages global learning and the teaching of the English language as being aimed at the cultivation of cross-cultural awareness as well as competencies (Shaw, 2016). All the rationales are essential for an approach that would see a realization of a larger ethical dimension in the new century where the English language is continuously being embraced as a lingua franca in most countries across the globe (Crystal, 2016). The extensive dimension can be attributed to the idea of English’s status as the most powerful language, and with measures to incorporate it into education curricula coupled with efforts by governments that back its establishment through policies that support its learning and development (Crystal, 2016).
Despite the widespread use of English as a lingua franca and an ever-growing number of EFL speakers, there are still challenges in communication among people from different countries. For instance, Saudi Arabians may still find it difficult to communicate in fluent English despite the language being recognized as the standard tool for communication in learning and work as well as in other social environments (Khan, 2011). The increasing number of foreign workers and the influence of globalization made it necessary for Saudi Arabia to embrace English as the common language for uniformity in communication (Khan, 2011). The difficulty is based on the fact that English is not indigenous to the country and as such not part of the culture (Khan, 2011). Crystal (2016) has highlighted that people utilize English as a foreign language, but that they can face difficulties communicating with others competently. Dutta (2015) noted another concern, stating that people generally communicate through their national language within a particular country, however, in a global context people need to be familiar with English, as it is not only the main medium of exchange globally but increasingly a medium of instruction (EMI). Therefore, English is a form of linguistic capital in the current global context.
1.2.2. Linguistic Capital
Linguistic capital is described as a form of cultural capital that involves the accumulation of an individual’s linguistic skills. Capital predetermined an individual’s position in society. Flynn (2013) examined linguistic capital from the perspective of the linguistic field for teachers who are not accustomed to linguistic differences. According to the study, a complex mix of experiences appeared to rely on assumed pedagogical norms and professionally assimilated external pressures. They argue that linguistic capital is a factor in assumed pedagogical norms that describe the way of life for a specific goal (Tosky King & M. Scott, 2014). External pressures such as immigration and emerging trends in the field of teaching English also present a significant influence on language teaching. Hannum and Cherng (2014) argue that linguistic capital as a component of a country’s dominant language helps in creating culturally competent countries and effective interrelationships. According to the authors, linguistic capital plays a significant role in the process of social stratification and movements.
Moreover, linguistic skills are considered an important aspect of linguistic capital (Tosky King & M. Scott, 2014). The skills are critical in the development of the linguistic capital of a population. A student’s linguistic capital captures their skills in writing, speaking, and listening to various languages. Concerning the English language in Saudi Arabia, the linguistic capital captures the skills that learners in the country possess concerning the dominant language. In Saudi Arabia, the dominant language, which is Arabic, makes up a significant portion of the individual learners’ language acquisition process (Fang, 2011). The teaching of the English language contributes to the development of linguistic skills that support the learning process and acquisition of knowledge within and outside the classroom. The use of English as a medium of instruction in institutions of learning helps in building linguistic capital.
According to Sah and Li (2018), the English Medium of Instruction (EMI) within the framework of Nepali instruction did not seem to aid either content learning or English acquisition. The content teachers heavily relied on code-mixing and translation and used this approach ineffectively, as they were not trained enough to conduct their job well. Code-mixing is the process of mixing two or more languages in a speech or scholarly work. The content teachers did not have enough time and expertise to teach the English language in content classes, which further disadvantaged the students in three ways: (1) their opportunities for interaction—which were significant for developing their critical thinking skills—were “silenced”; (2) they could not make full use of learning materials, like textbooks, to enhance the content knowledge; and (3) they could not express what they knew in their examinations, which were set in English, leading them to either fail or underperform. Therefore, the introduction of EMI was merely a strategy to sell the tag of EMI education in the linguistic market (Bourdieu, 1977) dominated by English as a lingua franca. This example reveals how language skills do not necessarily equate to linguistic capital, as English language competency is more than just a set of skills such as grammar and vocabulary.
Moreover, teachers in bilingual and language learning settings may need to be conscious of the difference between linguistic capital and knowledge capital. For instance, sometimes students possess enough knowledge concerning the topic of discussion in a classroom but because of their lack of language ability, they cannot argue (Aliakbari&Khosravian, 2014). Therefore, there is a need for English teachers to take the issue of linguistic capital and knowledge capital more seriously and understand the difference for better teaching of EFL students.
Linguistic capital is a form of cultural capital that involves the accumulation of skills related to a language. It is important in determining an individual’s position in society. The linguistic capital of learners is affected by several factors. These factors influence the extent to which learners can acquire new language skills and communicate more effectively in a learning environment. As a first language, native English speakers build the specific language’s capital from the moment they start speaking or listening to words. For example, when EFL individuals develop their writing and speaking skills in the language, they develop capital. However, in a country like Saudi Arabia, where English is a foreign language, the development of linguistic capital may be complex. Therefore, the dominant or native language is the main factor that influences the development of linguistic capital in most societies ( Pandian & 2016).
Arguably, the first language that one acquires may affect the learning process for other languages, and subsequently, the linguistic capital acquisition process. For instance, since Arabic is considered the native language for Saudi Arabians, learning English as a foreign language may be considered the adoption of a different culture from the native one. (Alhabahba, Pandian &Mahfoodh, 2016). Teaching English to Saudi Arabian students affects the linguistic capital of the student population. The learners acquire the relevant skills that build their linguistic skills, positioning them for global opportunities related to work and other opportunities such as further studies.
The socio-cultural background of an individual also affects the development of the linguistic capital of an individual or group of learners. The socio-cultural environment defines the characteristics and behaviors of a population (Tosky King & Scott, 2014). It also influences social orientation. In an environment where English is not considered a primary language, the social and cultural factors have a greater impact on the learning outcomes compared to other regions (Alhabahba, Pandian & Mahfoodh, 2016). For instance, Saudi Arabian students may find it difficult to build an expansive linguistic capital in English due to the influence of the social and cultural environment. Cultural practices define the behaviors of individuals, thereby affecting their learning experiences. For example, since Saudi Arabians are culturally defined by Arabic as their native language, learning a foreign language may be challenging ( Pandian & 2016).
The dynamism of the learning environment presents varied characteristics that affect individual learning behaviors (Tosky King & Scott, 2014). Most teachers recognize that diversity in the classrooms makes it difficult in teaching the English language. The cultural diversities create varying expectations and learning capabilities of learners in a classroom. While EFL may exhibit interest in learning, EFL often exhibits a poor attitude. This is due to the perception of English as a foreign culture. The diversity makes teaching difficult due to the variances in attitudes and interest in learning the language.
Moreover, linguistic capital is determined by the resources that a country provides to support the development and learning of a language among its students. These resources include teachers, learning materials and facilities, and financial support. The distribution of these resources may also affect the development of linguistic skills among learners (Alhabahba, Pandian & Mahfoodh, 2016). Teachers play an important role as a resource in the learning of a language. Particularly, in teaching English in countries where it is not the dominant language like Saudi Arabia, the teachers play a critical role in the development of linguistic capital through interactions between teachers and learners influencing the acquisition of linguistic capital over time. For instance, where there are regular interactions, students tend to learn English quickly (Alhabahba, Pandian & Mahfoodh, 2016). Saudi Arabian classrooms are generally teacher-centered and interactions are less regular. Additionally, relationships and interactions with other students in the learning environment influence the accumulation of linguistic capital. In environments where there are expansive interactions among the learners, there is a fast-learning process, thereby affecting the acquisition of linguistic capital.
Although English has been adopted as a lingua franca in nearly all countries, it is considered foreign in several countries. The ability to fluently speak a foreign language influences the acquisition of linguistic capital. However, the learning process is more complex for students who consider a language foreign ( Pandian & 2016). The ability to speak good English may provide expansive linguistic capital in Saudi Arabia. It provides an edge in securing a job. Other scholars such as Bourdieu, (1977) have linked linguistic capital to human and cultural capital, symbolic capital, and economic capital. A good education is a factor of human and cultural capital and involves the employment of good teachers with the capacity to properly teach the language and help learners achieve better outcomes and acquire skills in speaking, listening, and writing (Tosky King & M. Scott, 2014). Gaining prestige through learning English is considered to be symbolic capital, which is critical in the development of linguistic capital in most countries that consider the language as foreign (Tosky King & M. Scott, 2014). Economic capital comprises the ability to secure a good job in multinational companies for well-paying salaries. The economic condition of the population also influences the development of linguistic capital in society. Saudi Arabia has positioned itself and declared itself wanting to create an ideal environment to support education. Through the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, the government has reaffirmed its commitment to creating capital to support learning (“Full text of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030”, 2016). It is anticipated that students will have an ideal environment to learn English and become more competitive for job positions at the international level; thus, furthering Saudi Arabia’s standing globally.
The importance of learning EFL is increasing globally, which provides opportunities for individuals in developing their living standards (Enever et al. 2009). Enever et al. (2009) further provide an example of continental Europe, where parents are so anxious for their wards to develop a competitive advantage that they encourage mandatory learning of EFL from a young age, and even pay for extra classes outside the regular curriculum. The global growth of international schools can also attest to this, including in the Middle East (Reid and Ibrahim, 2017).
1.3. Learning English as a Foreign Language
Learning and teaching English can be different in terms of the context and students’ composition and cultural backgrounds. Different approaches are used in different contexts according to the literature. To begin with, it is vital to explore the difference between English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL). ESL is teaching or learning English in an English-speaking country where the learning process occurs among different learners from varied backgrounds. In comparison, EFL is the teaching or learning of English in a non-English speaking country where the first language takes precedence and where English is not commonly used (Wright, 2010). This section discusses the motivation, literary sponsors, and pedagogy as relevant items in learning a foreign language. It is important to understand the motivation behind learning a foreign language in countries that consider English as a second language. As previously highlighted, globalization and technological improvements are making it necessary that ESL to learn English as a foreign language.
In terms of motivation, EFL learners usually have a low intrinsic motivation level. According to Brown (2001), students may often study the English language as a compulsory part of the curriculum; it may not seem like a part of their daily lives. EFL students often do not have enough chances to practice English in their daily lives, and even though they might have the same reasons to learn English, their lack of motivation can endure because its application in their daily life is minimal (Krieger, 2012). In comparison, ESL students are more likely to have higher intrinsic motivation. By being in the target language of the community, they have a wide range of opportunities to use English throughout their daily lives (Krieger, 2012). Other motivating factors that impact the efficiency of EFL delivery are the influence of a student’s native language and attitudes towards the English language (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014).
Partnerships between teachers and/or instructors with the government’s efforts to promote the learning of English as a foreign language should be synchronized to allow an easy flow of directives to facilitate what works, and the readjustment of what doesn’t work in teaching, and the learning of students (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). Students often become unmotivated by teaching procedures, which as of late have become an increasing concern, notably among EFL students (Al-Khairy, 2013). The students’ lack of interest in the learning process may imply that they may not understand how important it is to gain English as a skill. Al-Khairy (2013) suggests a solution to this concern stating that motivating learners can visibly increase the outcome of any teaching approach. If this is true, then understanding how English is acquired is critical.
In an ESL context, Krieger (2012) notes, students are eager to learn English for personal reasons; to communicate with a variety of people from other countries, for instance, or to get a better job for professional reasons. Additionally, EFL classes often include large numbers of students and a limited amount of time, which makes learning English more of a challenge (Al-Asmari & Khan, 2014). Differences among EFL learners then emerge through other factors, such as literacy sponsors.
18.104.22.168. Literacy sponsor
Literacy sponsorship has attracted a different understanding from various scholars. Deborah Brandt defines it as “any agent local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, recruit, regulate, and suppress literacy to gain an advantage of it in some way.” It covers the structures and systems that are in place to support or prevent the advancement of literacy among a population. Literary sponsorship is also critical in the development of reading and understanding of a language (Brandt, 2001). Learning the English language involves the structures and support systems that help learners develop linguistic capital in the English language.
The method and practice of teaching the English language is also an important aspect of learning the language, particularly for ESL learners. Brown (2001) states that “it is useful to consider the pedagogical implications for a continuum of contexts ranging from high visibility, ready access to the target language outside the language classroom to no access beyond the classroom door” (p. 116). In each situation, various approaches are utilized to address the students’ needs due to the different language contexts in which learning English is being undertaken (Brown, 2001). Access to the target language outside the common classroom and its application outside the context of the classroom is also important. The method of teaching English, particularly for EFL learners, has a significant impact on learning outcomes. The variances in the context within which the language is taught affect the acquisition of skills that contribute to the accumulation of linguistic capital. For instance, in countries where the English language is foreign, most students are unlikely to show interest compared to a situation where the language is taught in an environment where it is considered a first language. The differences relate to its necessity in different areas, such as workplaces and social gatherings. Therefore, it is important to understand the teaching and learning context.
22.214.171.124. Whole Language Approach
In line with the guiding principles of the whole language approach proponents of this approach opine that its characteristics are intertwined with each other in terms of functionality (Al-Asmari and Khan, 2014). The argument is that students should be provided with the opportunity to utilize all aspects of language such as listening, writing, talking, and reading simultaneously in the realization of meaning, functionality, and cooperation in their activities (Al-Asmari and Khan, 2014). This is because such activities revolve around topics borne from students’ prior knowledge and interests. In the application of the whole-language approach in learning English as a foreign language, contextualized language obtained from student engagement in projects, portfolios, and observation is employed in the determination of realistic perspectives of student language, rather than the use of standardized tests as proposed by the skill-based approach (Al-Asmari and Khan, 2014). Under the skill-based approach to learning the English language, the emphasis is placed on the acquisition of listening, speaking, and writing skills. The approach proposes a standardized approach where learners are guided based on predetermined guidelines or curricula. Thus, the skills-based approach arguably does not produce linguistic capital, whereas the whole language approach may better approximate this outcome.
126.96.36.199. Skills-based approach
The skills-based approach to learning English is mostly preferred since it considers the prior knowledge of students, which facilitates their understanding, subsidizes behavioral problems, boosts the self-esteem of students by way of indulging bilingual students in curricula that are centered on them, and advances the acquisition of skills (Al-Asmari and Khan, 2014; Richards, 2014). The approach, however, is not easy to implement, besides being constrained by overestimations of foreign language students of English abilities to choose and monitor what they learn; and the expectation of EFL students to simultaneously learn all aspects of English from the very beginning, given that it is a new language; as well as the lack of guidelines in the various curricula used to teach English as a foreign language (Al-Asmari and Khan, 2014). Following the consideration of the operability of both approaches, concerning their merits and demerits, a comprehensive approach must be used that combines both skills and meaning while moving towards the complete integration of skills in language (Al-Asmari and Khan, 2014)
The skill-based approach draws its theoretical roots from behavioral psychology and structural linguistics (Al-Asmari& Khan, 2014). It is founded on principles such as the whole being equal to the sum of its parts and the existence of differences between the spoken and written forms of language; the development of literacy being preceded by the acquisition of oral language; learning being centered on teachers and oriented on facts; and the elimination of student errors (Al-Asmari& Khan, 2014). It has also been opined that the skill-based approach is relatively easy to implement owing to its provision of a systematic strategy whose non-complex structure is easy to adhere to, as well as the use of guide materials for use across all levels.
According to Richards (2014), a skilled-based approach to teaching English can be both controlled and semi-controlled. Being controlled implies that the learning or teaching process takes a predetermined approach with specified guidelines and standards of teaching (Richards, 2014). That is, learners are expected to follow specific procedures in their learning. It takes a more formal approach to learning. The whole language approach, on the other hand, is not controlled. The teachers cover a wide range of practices, some of which may not be documented or standardized (Richards, 2014). The teachers’ role in the process is to apply practices that help the learners acquire the most skills and learn the language more effectively. In both controlled and non-controlled systems of skilled-based and whole-language approaches, students must acquire the skills that cover different aspects of learning. This introduces the need for a comprehensive approach to teaching and learning the language.
188.8.131.52. Comprehensive Approach
The comprehensive approach entails a shift in the teaching of EFL from being closely controlled to semi-controlled. It provides a broader view of the learning process where students’ learning process captures both in-classroom and outside classroom activities. It also involves activities that are centered on the students in all the lessons, both at primary and secondary levels (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). These activities can also be seen to shift from the assessment of micro-skills to full comprehension and production of complete texts in its application in teaching, correction of errors, and assessments in every lesson. Therefore, teachers impart secondary skills such as fluency with the essential language skills at the primary level, l such as spell, ling, pronunciation, grammar, and sentence structures (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). It creates the need for the adoption of a strategy for implementing a comprehensive approach to learning English among ESL students.
A comprehensive strategy is critical in helping learners acquire skills and build their social capital. The approach’s emphasis on activities that are student-directed, tolerance of errors, and assessments (group, self, and peer) enable teachers to integrate essential language skills and subsidiary skills in language at the secondary level, with all language skills being integrated at the university level (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). It enables EFL students at the university level to be in a better position to bridge the output of higher education with any prevailing market needs, thereby improving their motivation to learn the language. This is because of the expansiveness of the language they have acquired for the work environment. The teaching process also focuses on imparting the relevant skills that help students cope with market needs.
Vocabulary is an important aspect of delivery, irrespective of the approach that an instructor chooses to use. Vocabulary should also be developed gradually subject to the complexity and the necessity of self-expression. This is because vocabulary is an integral part of learning the main language skills. Vocabulary builds on and improves EFL learners’ understanding of a language (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). Learning vocabulary is important in enhancing one’s proficiency in understanding both written and oral communication (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). Therefore, teachers should ensure they incorporate vocabulary as an aspect of their delivery strategy in all approaches. There is also a need for consideration of the learners’ attitudes and perceptions in teaching strategies.
Al-Yaseen (2014) has affirmed that although the learning processes help to enhance the knowledge of students through different activities such as discussion, projects, and presentations, the outcome largely depends on the student’s attitude towards the procedure. The attitudes will influence the approach that teachers take in teaching ESL students the language. One of the negatives that can influence the learning process is the embarrassment felt by students in expressing their difficulties. EFL students often feel embarrassed to express their views, which reduces transparency within the communication process with the teacher (Smadani&Ibnian, 2015; Garrett, 2008). Improving student attitudes, knowledge of the language, and possessing proper skills for communicating with students is important for teachers and instructors.
Knowledge of the language and proper communication skills are critical to students’ success and improvement in students’ attitudes. English and Marr (2015) assert that communication between teachers and learners is, without a doubt fundamental in teaching. The interaction enhances knowledge acquisition through experiences and fast-hand learning in discussions and presentations. It assists learners to develop an interest in learning the language based on experiences from teachers. Therefore, to be able to communicate effectively, “Teachers must know how to structure their language output for maximum clarity and have strategies for understanding what students are saying – since understanding student conversation is key to the analysis of what students know, how they understand, and what teaching moves would be useful” (p. 5). It introduces the concept of a learner-centered approach where teaching focuses on the specific needs and circumstances of the learner.184.108.40.206.Learner-centered Approach and Barriers.
Unlike other scholars who delved into the learning approaches, English and Marr (2015), have depicted the learner-centered approach as the most effective in EFL teaching primarily because the students can freely interact with the teachers. This simultaneously influences them to strengthen their learning experience beyond the classroom environment. According to Khan (2011), learning barriers such as psychological, cultural, motivational, social, attitudinal, and parental can be determined as common factors, which also slow down the learning process. Garrett (2008) notes that another barrier is that English teachers in some nations are not native speakers and that their competence is seldom above average as they are not fully proficient in the English language. The effectiveness of a student-centered approach requires cooperation between teachers and learners. It creates a new approach that teachers can embrace, which is cooperative learning.
220.127.116.11.Cooperative Learning Approach
Based on these aspects, Al-Yaseen (2014) has depicted cooperative learning methods as another essential method in EFL learning. The cooperative learning approach promotes the acquisition of the English language among ESL students by helping them become more confident in producing and using the language when working in small learning or study groups. It allows students to acquire new learning methods through observations from their peers and teachers. Additionally, the approach requires the grouping of learners of all abilities and levels of study. English language teachers should emphasize the contribution of all group members in equal measure for an optimal outcome. Cooperative learning also focuses on group studies and learning to share ideas and experiences in the learning process. Through cooperation in learning and teachers’ support, students develop skills such as communication, writing, and critical thinking that help in developing linguistic capital.
Khan (2011) has stated that adopting new learning approaches such as cooperative learning, student-centered, and comprehensive approach to English has become an effective activity in the world, specifically for the people who utilize English as a foreign language. Concentrating on EFL learners, and implementing appropriate learning approaches is the most effective way of creating motivation for the EFL students to learn. The approach that a teacher takes has a significant influence on their motivation toward learning the language. For instance, a student-centered approach allows the participation of students, thereby creating the motivation to know more. Alrashidi and Phan, (2015) highlighted cooperative learning methods as the most preferred approach because they include communicating with others to enhance one’s abilities. In a study conducted in a Turkish university with 66 EFL students, Mitchell and Alfuraih (2017) found that a cooperative learning strategy positively affected learners’ attitudes toward English learning over traditional instruction approaches. In China, Ning (2013) examined the influence of cooperative learning strategies on EFL college students in comparison to traditional learning methods. The results of the study demonstrate that “The CL [cooperative learning] approach was more effective than traditional instruction in improving students’ overall social skills” (p. 564). Social skills are important in cooperative learning and interaction of students in different ways (Al-Yaseen, 2014). Through social interactions, peer and group influence increases motivation levels. It also supports sharing ideas and experiences that are critical components of social skills.
Variances in the use of the English language for communication and application in teaching create complexities in the approaches. The skills-based approach has been criticized, however, due to huge discrepancies in both the way language is taught and how it is used in communication; and also because of the difficulties associated with teaching language as a collection of isolated skills, because the brain cannot store fragments of information for long periods (Anderson, 1984). In addition, the students are given a passive role that can lead to independent learning skills being left underdeveloped (Al-Asmari& Khan, 2014). Besides, when presented in the form of isolated skills, language learning is very time-consuming, thereby causing both the teachers and students to divert time away from the engagement in activities that can also facilitate the acquisition of language (Mitchell and Alfuraih, 2017), for instance, out-of-class activities. Despite these shortcomings, the skill-based approach is the most widely used international method (Huang, 2013). This can be attributed to the fact that its programs have been sanctioned by higher educational authorities and also by the curricula of various countries (Huang, 2013). In addition, in part, this is a result of some teachers’ resistance to the adoption of new approaches (Huang, 2013)
18.104.22.168.Strategies for Developing Oral Communication Skills
Some studies have established that parents have devised strategies for developing oral communication skills. These skills are critical in learning a first language as the children grow into adulthood and recognize their cultures (Bardhan&Orbe, 2014). The same strategies are often used in the teaching and learning of foreign languages. According to Bardhan and Orbe (2014), imitation is the first step toward language acquisition among children; upon the attachment of meaning to these words, children start using them more frequently and repeat them when practicing. This echoes the importance of actually using the acquired language through frequent skills acquired to facilitate their meaningful use in speech (Al-Asmari& Khan, 2014). This highlights the second stage of the acquisition of language, which is repetition. This builds recognition of the language used subject to frequency (Bardhan&Orbe, 2014).
The establishment of formulaic speech is the next step in learning a new language. This is achieved when learners apply short phrases attached to their day-to-day life situations through activities such as salutations (among other expressions) hence the emphasis on the repeated use of speech in the acquired language. The final stage in the acquisition of a new language is its incorporation (Bardhan&Orbe, 2014). This holds the premise of the acquired language being used repeatedly and repetitively through guidance in the sequence of the elements that have already been established. This consequently leads to the recognition of the principles guiding the use of the language (Bardhan&Orbe, 2014).
Learning is a process that involves the interaction between different activities. The concept of gaming is a critical strategy for the learning process. Notably, in learning or teaching the English language, gaming plays a major role. Teachers or instructors use different approaches to introduce gaming into the learning process. It captures the out-of-class activities that help the learners to develop their language literacy more efficiently and at a fast pace. The out-of-class activities help in creating an environment where the learners can interact and share ideas. Additionally, it facilitates the learning process as slow learners get an opportunity to learn from fast learners. It promotes the accumulation of linguistic capital.
Language is thereby regarded as a collection of separate skills, each of which is further divided into smaller sections of skills (Al-Asmari& Khan, 2014). The skills are taught and/or acquired through sequences that are predetermined by way of direct elucidation, modeling, and repetition. Teachers and/or instructors in building skills should also employ methods such as the constant use of discrete-point tests of the sub-skills before the learners can advance to the next level (Huang, 2013). The discrete-point testing approach has been advanced by its proponents owing to the ease with which it makes the learning process a result of teaching language as isolated skills (Huang, 2013). This has been purported to save students from having to deal with the complexities that a language, especially foreign ones, entails. It has also been said to reduce the error rate in students’ overall proficiency. The approaches create the need to explore in-classroom strategies that teachers can use in teaching the English language to ESL students.
Several practices are adopted in teaching language. Teachers use story-telling sessions, debates, and writing competitions to help learners acquire linguistic skills and develop their linguistic capital. Through the debate sessions, the students get an opportunity to interact and develop argumentative skills that are relevant to developing English skills among ESL students in Saudi Arabia. Other activities such as story-telling sessions are also important for the learning process. It assists the students in learning through participation, observation, and interaction. They get the opportunity to acquire fast-hand experiences that boost the learning process. The development of reading and speaking skills is supported by the experiences through the activities. Therefore, teachers should implement gaming strategies that will make learners participate and learn more effectively for the development of linguistic capital. In learning of the English language in Saudi Arabia, the gaming strategies are expected to yield positive outcomes. The strategy may be limited considering the varying learning capabilities of students, creating a need for out-of-classroom strategies. Out-of-class activities are an important aspect of the English language learning process, particularly among English Second Language students in countries such as Saudi Arabia. Second language development that occurs while playing and interacting with a digital game must not only be useful in the game itself. Rather, the learner-centric nature of game-based learning can facilitate the transfer of linguistic constructions to other contexts.
Scholz and Schulze (2017) suggested that the language observed in the gaming environment is indeed transferable to non-gaming contexts. Regardless of the trajectories of gameplay in which each learner participates, second language development will occur.
Learning and teaching approaches, and motivational factors are critical components of learning the English language, particularly for EFL. Since this study intends to explore how engaging in out-of-class activities influences Saudi EFL students to learn and/or improve the English language, it is important to shed light on English as a Foreign Language in Saudi Arabia, because context is critical to shaping not only motivation to learn but also opportunity. The next section reviews the use of English in Saudi Arabia in the context of classroom teaching and learning.
1.4. English in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has evolved rapidly since 1925, incorporating socioeconomic and political changes of enormous scope and scale. The preliminary objective of introducing EFL into Saudi Arabian schools and institutes is to facilitate these changes and to help the youth of the nation learn English to further develop their knowledge and abilities (Al Nooh & Mc-Pherson, 2013). Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ states that the government is focused on the development of the education system so that the younger generation will enjoy higher quality and multi-faceted education. The government intends to invest in the development of early childhood education, refine curricula, and train teachers and educational leaders to better fulfill the needs and goals of establishing a leading nation. The Saudi Vision 2030 seeks to build a bridge between higher education outputs and market needs. Also, it aims to have at least five Saudi universities placed within the top 200 international educational institutions by 2030 (“Vision 2030”, 2016). This is indeed a worthy goal and one that needs to be fulfilled, but as of yet, there are several hurdles to overcome. Samadani and Ibnian (2015) state that there are numerous issues faced by the education system in Saudi Arabia, primarily due to the lack of proper learning approaches or methods in the teaching of English.
Rahman and Alhaisoni (2013) have stated that in Saudi Arabia, English is currently considered a major subject to be undertaken by younger generations. The need is based on advancements in technology and globalization that allow people to work anywhere. With the advancement of technology, opportunities have been enhanced, for which younger generations have mostly concentrated on learning English so that they can communicate. For example, the advent of social media has created a platform where people from different cultural backgrounds and countries can socialize. It makes a common language such as English an important part of earning. Liton (2012) has highlighted the current situation of Saudi Arabia as shown by the Saudi Ministry of Education. The educational system (Table 1) has mainly concentrated on the progress of EFL teaching/learning processes, especially in the primary, intermediate, and high school years. However, the process indicated comparatively less progress in higher education areas (Liton, 2012).
Educational Levels and Grades in Saudi Arabia
According to Asmari (2013), learning a foreign language differs from learning one’s mother tongue, because applying new EFL teaching methods to inspire the students is more important. The differences depend on the approach, strategies, and cultural backgrounds. While one’s first language can be learned automatically through imitation, foreign languages require teaching where specific strategies and approaches are adopted. In the Saudi Arabian context, Samadani and Ibnian (2015) have affirmed that the education system mainly concentrates on developing knowledge of the English language among learners so that they can utilize the language to enhance their careers in the future. Other studies have indicated that the students can enhance their abilities by utilizing language to communicate with others even within society, rather than using their native language (Samadani&Ibnian, 2015; Asmari, 2013). However, students often get inadequate chances to utilize the English language in the external environment, which is another challenge for students in increasing their interest in learning English. Liton (2012) has suggested an effective solution to improving the motivation levels of EFL students in learning English. Some of the strategies proposed include the use of technology, an example being audio-visual aids that should be promoted in EFL classrooms in Saudi Arabia as they can motivate learners by increasing their participation rates, concentration levels, and enthusiasm for learning the language (Liton, 2012).
Alsobaei and Alanzi (2014) have highlighted certain limitations faced by the education system in Saudi Arabia, which in turn can develop into barriers that affect the development of the learning process. These limitations include less focus on EFL compared to primary language and teacher-centric learning processes that reduce interaction and discourage students to become conversant in English from an early age. The cultural backgrounds orient children to their first languages from an early stage. As such, teaching English in these environments may be challenging. These factors have become of increasing concern for the Saudi Arabian education system. Lillon (2012) has countered this statement by stating that the government is continuously focused on reducing these factors within the education system which implies that, although the government has taken the initiative to develop the overall EFL teaching-learning process, the students and teachers must also concentrate on such factors as well. Teachers and students are directly involved in the process through the provision of direction and the acquisition of skills. It makes a focus on the factors important in achieving better outcomes. This focus will help the nation create a higher level of achievement for Saudi Arabian EFL students in the international context.
1.4.2. Barriers to EFL in Saudi Arabia
Even though the country’s administration recently viewed the English language as an essential component of its education curriculum, the challenges remain. The remaining challenges are because the country’s main language is Arabic, and as an Islamic country, the use of the Quran makes Arabic of central importance to the nation’s social, religious, and cultural life. This importance sees the English language not being given significant attention at the commencement of formal education, and it may well be seen as a threat to the culture of Saudi Arabia. These factors indicate the need to adopt new or innovative teaching approaches, which will motivate students to learn English (Al Nooh & Mc-Pherson, 2013).
Based on the above factors, it seems fair to note that the student’s lack of commitment might not solely be their fault alone. Teachers do not encourage the students to utilize the language outside of academic activities; this, in turn, limits the language proficiency of the students and influences their learning. Al-Seg-hayer (2014) has reported that students in Saudi Arabia struggle to learn the English language mainly due to a lack of interest because of their cultural or social backgrounds, where English does not play a major role. This concern is evidenced in most institutes, where teachers report students’ low motivational levels in learning EFL (Al-Seghayer, 2014).
Another underlying issue highlighted by Al-Nasser (2015) is a lack of prior preparation for students, which culminates in low proficiency levels. Due to the lack of motivation, students hardly ever prepare for class, and this proves detrimental to their other endeavors. Thus, Al-Nasser (2015) suggests, that teachers must help learners by enhancing and stating the importance of EFL learning, which can help develop their interest, as well as assist them in gravitating towards the teaching-learning process.
1.4.3. Limitations to Learning English and Opportunities in Saudi Arabia
Rahman and Alhaisoni (2013) stated that the education system in Saudi Arabia still has certain limitations, which need to be overcome to reach the desired outcomes. The limitations relate to cultural factors, national identity, attitudes, and beliefs of students towards the language. Most Saudi students would prefer Arabic as the language of national identity (Samadani Al & Ibnian, 2015). This is because they consider it as part of their culture and abandoning the language would imply abandoning their cultural identity. Additionally, the attitudes and beliefs of students towards the English language also influence its teaching and learning. For most students, it is viewed as a Western language and its learning would imply embracing the Western culture while abandoning the native Arabic culture. Several studies have concentrated on the economic context, which has affirmed that developing EFL within society will enhance the opportunities for business involvement and other commerce – such as tourism – in the respective nations (Al Nooh & Mc-Pherson, 2013; Rahman & Alhaisoni, 2013) but have not fully considered the barriers and limitations related to identity. Al Nooh& Mc-Pherson (2013), have emphasized that the students need to understand the importance of learning to gain interest in the language. This creates a pedagogical approach to the language.
1.4.4. Pedagogy in Saudi Arabia
According to AlNooh& Mc-Pherson (2013), the education system must concentrate on interactive sessions through which the teachers will communicate with the students and provide them with the necessary information. They argue that of those approaches implemented in Saudi Arabian institutes, those cooperative sessions, interactive sessions, and practical activities are the most effective examples of the teaching-learning process. Rahman and Alhaisoni (2013) have highlighted that another important dynamic is applying these approaches appropriately within the education process to attain an acceptable outcome. The studies also address the contribution of government programs and policies to teaching and learning. According to a report presented by Rahman and Alhaisoni (2013), the Saudi Ministry of Education seeks to ensure improvements in learners’ oral, reading, writing, and oral skills. The ministry continually assists students in their endeavors to acquire the necessary linguistic know-how to be able to effectively function in the target language. Allamnakhrah (2013) has argued that these objectives address the challenges evident within the Saudi Arabian academic context due to rote learning. Although rote learning might seem an effective tool, it can negatively affect the effectiveness of learning and the evaluation abilities of the students (Allamnakhrah, 2013).
Moreover, the education system – in regards to EFL learning – typically depends on textbooks and teaching materials in the form of modules, which also have a significant impact on English language learning in Saudi Arabia. It takes a skill-based approach to language learning and teaching. The reliance on textbooks and other teaching materials helps in the acquisition of skills by the learners. The teachers’ frustrations are compounded by the student’s inability to acquire basic know-how. The students do not concentrate on English learning from the primary school level, whereas the teaching materials do not provide transparent objectives to the learners, thereby limiting their capability of learning the English language. The lack of the student’s concentration and interest in learning English and the lack of providing clear objectives in teaching materials have significantly affected the development of the Saudi Arabian education system (Allamnakhrah, 2013). In this regard, Rahman and Alhaisoni, (2013) have further blamed syllabus designers for an absence of knowledge regarding the inclusion of appropriate concepts in a sequence that students can easily use to develop their knowledge, and that the teachers can teach well by being able to follow an established EFL teaching-learning process.
Therefore, limiting the use of the English language in classroom activities has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of any EFL learning process, which can create significant challenges for the nation in the long run (Chen, 2014). Since most students cannot comprehend the language properly and have generally developed negative attitudes, teachers include Arabic, the first language of Saudi Arabia, in the class activities as well (Alhomaidan, 2015), allowing code-switching. In a quantitative study carried out comprising 60 full-time tertiary students using experimental and control groups, the results were rather disappointing. The respondents in the 19 to 22-year age bracket had spent the previous six years before college in different learning institutions. However, as all were Arabic speakers, the only time they used English was during formal class time. As a result, their understanding of the language was limited to the classroom environment, and they could hardly communicate outside of that setting (Alhomaidan, 2015).
Exposure to the English language is another reason why competence continues to prove difficult to achieve for a majority of Saudi Arabian students. Therefore, there is a need to consider alternatives such as out-of-class learning. Contextually, Rahman and Alhaisoni (2013) assert that students can easily develop their knowledge through exposure. Focusing on the external environment, English learning can be developed through several mediums, such as through social media, or by watching TV shows, to name but a few (Mitchell &Alfuraih, 2017). However, if the students’ perceptions remain negative, the teachers’ efforts might not have a significant impact regardless of their persistence. Rahman and Alhaisoni (2013) reported that despite having televisions, newspapers, and books with English content, many students seldom utilized them. Therefore, the challenges faced by English learning are somewhat complex (Rahman &Alhaisoni, 2013).
To summarize, it is argued that EFL in Saudi Arabia has not been fully embraced; however, the issues that are continuously affecting the education system need to be overcome to increase the effectiveness of the process. Several studies have been conducted on evaluating the learning process; however, there is a lack of alternative methods or processes for which further research can assist. Out-of-class activities have been identified to be critical in the English language learning process.
Out-Of-Class Activities for Language Learning
There are several advantages to utilizing out-of-class activities because they are likely to develop the language learning ability of students. According to Guo (2011), learning outside of the classroom develops a bridge between studying English and its application. In addition, moving beyond the curriculum of traditional English classroom learning can expand the study environment of students and help them explore new areas of interest, along with develop knowledge in English (Benson, 2013).
According to Hyland (2004), teaching English has increasingly become a subject of discussion in terms of how it can be taught in a manner that is not only restricted to the classroom but that evolves beyond it. Barnawi and Al-Hawsawi (2017) state that different factors determine the capacities of learners to expand their efforts and encourage them to learn a language more effectively. These include the use of technologies such as Web 2.0, television, and radio, as well as motivating the students to read newspapers and novels (Obeid, 2017; Lai & GU, 2011; Pickard, 1996).
Cortina-Pérez and Solano-Tenorio (2013) argue that language learning through out-of-class activities has not received enough research attention, especially within EFL contexts. Benson (2013) considers out-of-class learning as an autonomous interaction with available resources to self-direct an individual’s learning. It involves learning using tools outside the class environment such as fieldwork. Out-of-class learning covers self-instruction, direction, and natural learning. Under self-instruction, language learners develop plans to enhance their learning outcomes. Guo (2011) commented that self-instruction requires language learners to search for resources that would assist and guide them to learn English more effectively. For instance, the use of grammar books can improve the quality of language learning (Hyland, 2004) but perhaps not its application. Natural learning involves students learning from the field experiments and provisions of nature. It does not require instruction or direction from teachers. Instead, there is self-instruction and direction in the learning process.
Another form of out-of-class activity is Naturalistic Language Learning. This kind of learning is based on communication among learners of English (Hyland, 2004). It differs from natural learning in the sense that the former requires experimental exercises. Guo (2011) highlighted that interacting among classmates is an effective technique to improve English. The third category is Self-Directed Naturalistic Language Learning, which requires learners to identify and/or seek out a situation that can develop their language (Briggs, 2015). Hyland (2004) commented on the effectiveness of Self-Directed Naturalistic Language learning stating that students create learning, situations, but, “may not focus directly on learning the language while they are in that situation” (p. 183).
The use of English newspapers for gaining information on daily activities instead of learning activities is highlighted as an example (Hyland, 2004)
In attempting to examine the types of activities that were integrated by teachers of English, Hyland (2004) sought to find out which activities were the most successful along with the beliefs that these teachers had regarding the use of strategies targeting English learning out of the classroom. He used a quantitative study to survey a sample of 238 students who were studying education with a focus on the English language. The study found that only 16.7% of those who had participated were of the view that English played a significant role in their daily lives outside the classroom. What this means is that the large majority of students learning English did not feel the need to learn the language or have the requisite chance to use their language skills outside the school environment Hyland, 2004), which might be the case in the Saudi learners. The study found that most of the activities the participants engaged in did not involve direct interaction with others.
Writing emails, reading academic books, and surfing the internet were the most common activities among the participants where they directly interacted with the English language. Academic books with global audiences are developed in English, making it necessary for the EFL learner in Saudi Arabia to understand the language for a proper understanding of the content of the books. Additionally, most information on the internet is available in the English language, although there are provisions for translations into other languages such as Arabic. Mohammadi and Moini (2015) found similar results for students in Iran who also engaged in daily activities such as surfing the internet. In addition to this, they did find that every use of English text, such as that on different products like food packages and clothing tags, could be beneficial for learning at least one English word.
Several authors have noted activities that open up possibilities for learning English. These include Alr Rasheed, Raiker, and Carmichael (2017) and Lai and Gu (2015). They found that the use of technology in out-of-class activities helped in opening up numerous possibilities for learning. For instance, it provided a chance for both native speakers and learners to access a wide range of materials. They also emphasized that at the University of Hong Kong, technology is used for out-of-class activities, as it provides access to requisite materials for language learning (Alresheed, Raiker & Carmichael, 2017; Lai and Gu, 2015). They include library databases and social platforms that encourage access to information that supports learning. The student portal is an example of technology that assists learners to access the required materials in their learning course. They are critical in offering easy access to materials to the learners, thereby boosting the learning outcomes. According to Alr Rasheed, Raiker, and Carmichael (2017), the use of technology in learning can be considered an effort to improve classroom language learning. However, it has been argued that this practice is not widespread in the classroom learning environment.
Ferdous (2013) stated that it is the responsibility of expert linguists to explore the available resources of learning environments to improve instructional strategies for developing language acquisition. Thus, she suggests the use of multimedia mediums such as television, film, and journalism for widening the curriculum activities to outside activities and improving English education (Çelik and Aytin 2014) also pointed to the fact that teachers of English can integrate technology as a means of creating content that is more useful to the students, enabling them to participate and distribute the knowledge that they already have.
In examining, the extent to which the use of language has helped English learners to regulate themselves, Lai and GU (2011) found that being in an English language class encourages them to make use of English on social networks, to learn how to express their feelings and to learn more about English language culture. This, in turn, assists English learners in widening their social networks and therefore, moving from simply learning a language for its use in a formal context. The extensive use of English in social aspects and its significance makes it an area that requires greater attention. In particular, the use of technology helps to increase the level of motivation and determine the efficiency of the students in learning English. It improves the levels of participation and concentration that make it easier to learn the language. Tawalbeh (2014) argued on a similar basis that using tools such as Web 2.0 enables the learners to be actively involved in creating networks and participating, as opposed to merely engaging in the consumption of the information they have been provided with. As a result, the networks facilitate the learning of the language among the students.
Knobel and Lan-shear (2014) note that the use of technology ensures that students are exposed to sharing with those others who have similar interests and enjoy learning languages. This subsequently ensures that learners of English are constantly able to practice their skills and expand their learning far beyond the traditional classroom context. In this regard, Knobel and Lan shear (2014) and Tawalbeh (2014) suggest that integrating technology would also enable the weakest language learner to gain confidence, especially because after the early grades, many schools do not emphasize ensuring that students gain practical skills. Even though Al-Asmari and Khan (2014) examine technology in terms of television and radio, they highlight that expanding the presence of these types of technologies can facilitate English learners to gain opportunities to practice their skills. Al-Asmari and Khan (2014) point to how, for instance, many students learning the English language are not provided with the chance to visit either the cinema or the theater, which is a further representation of the lack of chances that many English language students have to learn English from the performances of plays or the watching of films. In summary, it is a missed opportunity for educators to institute strategies that advance the learning of the English language among EFL students in Saudi Arabia. This leads students to believe that English does not play a major role in their lives, producing a lower level of motivation among English learners to learn the language.
The learning of English need not be limited to the classroom, but may also take place at any time and place. Recently, it has been witnessed that an increasing emphasis is being placed on the importance of life-long education as an approach to facilitating how English is learned (Lai and GU, 2011). The qualities of out-of-class learning might vary from one individual to the next; however, the determination of an individual to develop language skills outside the classroom is now being seen as a distinguishing factor in the quest to develop anyone’s second language (Nunan, 1991). Learners of English are said to take part in specific local contexts, coupled with specific practices that provide opportunities for learning English (Sharma, 2015).
The English language learners are also said to engage in watching television, cinema, listening to music, and interactions with peers as the main out-of-class activities. Studies on German students studying English established that the choice of out-of-class students’ activities revolved around receptive skills, as well as being influenced by the intrinsic nature of the activity and its perception as being interesting to them (Pickard, 1996). Other studies have also observed that ESL students spent a smaller amount of time on out-of-class learning activities, compared to those EFL students who spent more time (88% of language learning time) on out-of-class activities (Knobel and Lankshear, 2014). It has also been opined that for a more effective impact to be made from out-of-class learning activities, as a result of more time and effort being spent on them, students ought to establish the most effective ways in which this time can be spent (Knobel and Lankshear, 2014). Most studies, however, fail to show the impact that the attitudes of English language students, as well as those of their communities, have on the creativity and utilization of out-of-class learning opportunities.
According to Knobel and Lankshear (2014), out-of-class learning can be looked at from a position of ‘learner strategies’ and ‘learner activities’ subject to the role that English plays in the lives of its learners outside the classroom. According to Briggs (2015), some learners stated that English did not play a very vital role outside the classroom. A few suggested it as being important and used it in their day-to-day contexts, while some said that they only used it occasionally. This implies a prevalent lack of motivation to use the language beyond their studies or the school environment (Briggs, 2015), despite a high number also reporting that their proficiency in the language was either weak or fair, and felt the need for more practice.
Moreover, most out-of-class activities do not involve face-to-face interaction. Most reported entertainment, browsing the internet, and reading academic content as the most popular activities (Knobel&Lankshear, 2014). Most students do not read outside the areas of study as much as it is plausible to expect, with most acknowledging occasional communication in English with their colleagues (Knobel and Lankshear, 2014). This was attributed to the minimal opportunities to communicate in English outside school (work or study) environments. Most English-speaking was done in places where sanctions made it a requirement by an external body; for instance, the administration of the various institutions (Knobel and Lankshear, 2014). Besides, communication in English is mostly avoided owing to the negative connotations implied by its use, as well as the undesirable response that its usage might provoke in other people. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, there is wide use of the Arabic language as the primary language for the majority of the population. Since English is considered foreign and few people have an exhaustive understanding of it, there is a possibility of the Saudi Arabians avoiding its use. This helps in avoiding the negative connotations that may be implied by its uses, such as Westernization. The use may also trigger undesirable responses from people, provoking feelings.
Regarding out-of-class activities, those associated with reading are deemed to be the most productive. The reading of newspapers and magazines, novels, and academic papers, among others, should be encouraged more to support learning among EFL students in out-of-class activities (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). To do this, contextual factors that facilitate the use of the language require facilitation, which may not be so entirely easy to accomplish in most cases (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). For instance, the choices of learners to avoid face-to-face interactions could be influenced by other socio-political factors, making such situations complex to address (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014).
Teaching includes ways that will help elevate perceptions of speaking in English, as well as reduce the fear that speakers might be pigeon-holed by a society prone to judging English teachers (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). The need for English learners to freely speak the language publicly requires emphasis in its teaching as an approach that will improve not only proficiency but also other relationships owing to the improved ability of self-expression (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). Teachers utilize the fact presented by the acknowledgment of a large number of learners that their out-of-class activities involve much entertainment such as television and novels (Elyas&Badawood, 2016).
This helps in designing visual and audio programs, as well as more written entertainment, and encourages their usage as rich sources of motivation, besides being educative material (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). The public domain is also useful to teachers in furthering the reach of English language teaching, given that it is less threatening both to the group and to individual identities, besides being easier to control by the students (Elyas&Badawood, 2016). As a result of this, the potential of the private domain in adding value to out-of-class learning requires critical focus.
Out-of-class learning activities make studying more relevant and engaging for both teachers and learners (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). This can be achieved by grasping those opportunities that make learning concepts real, as well as relevant, by contextualizing them by reality (Elyas&Badawood, 2016). Some concepts that may pose a challenge in terms of comprehending them in the classroom could be made easier to understand from the perspective of the broader world, where the learner is more engaged and motivated to learn as well as understand. Students in countries that are not English speaking may tend to have the impression that they do not have access to an English environment that is authentic. Most learners tend to get immersed in their first language environment outside the classroom, where their exposure to English is limited (Elyas&Badawood, 2016).
Therefore, designing out-of-class learning activities has to portray to the learners that they are in an English-speaking environment, which can be fostered by their commitment to focus on the language and its usage in their daily lives (Hyland, 2004). Interactions with English speakers are also necessary since they facilitate the learners’ process of acquisition. This can be attributed to the proficient or native speakers adjusting the vocabulary used in conversations to facilitate the learner’s understanding of the message (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014). These types of conversations are purported to help in language acquisition and rarely occur within the classroom. They also present an opportunity for learners to negotiate meaning through an authentic context. The chances of this happening are greatly increased when learners speak in English outside the classroom more frequently (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014).
Out-of-class activities such as speaking in English also impart the learners with elements such as sociolinguistic competence that addresses issues such as courtesy and appropriate language adjustments to different contexts (Spörer&Schünemann, 2014); strategic competence, addressing individual strategies to facilitate communication; linguistic competence, that gives knowledge of the structural properties of English as a language; and discourse competence that imparts the ability to formulate great texts and merging them smoothly with relevant phrases (Elyas&Badawood, 2016).
The English language has realized significant global growth in recent years. There has been a growing population of English speakers among second and additional language users. The emphasis on English learning as a foreign language (EFL) among non-native speakers has been spurred by the issues of globalization that make the language a lingua franca for many countries. It has been widely adopted as the commonly taught language in most education systems and is used in many employment environments. Some scholars argue that the use of English as a global language has led to a situation where speakers as a second language outnumber first language speakers. The coexistence of humans in societies and cultural dynamism make English the most popular medium of communication.
The literature review focused on the contribution of different scholars towards addressing the learning of and spread of, the English language. It highlights the concepts of cosmopolitanism, linguistic capital, and approaches to teaching and learning the language in environments where it is considered a foreign language. Some of the formal approaches reviewed include cooperative learning, whole language, comprehensive, learner-centered, and skills-based approaches. The approaches present unique benefits and challenges when learning English as a foreign language.
English as a foreign language has gained significance in Saudi Arabia due to the improvement of the educational system and the market needs, as well as the desire for Saudi Arabia to replace oil as its main economic driver (Vision 2030). Despite the efforts and strategies that have been proposed for formally teaching English in Saudi Arabia, there are still varied challenges that limit effectiveness. The existing studies failed to address the role of culture in learning the language in Saudi Arabia. Culture has a significant influence on the willingness of a population to learn a foreign language in formal settings. While the efforts may be critical in motivating learners, culture may influence learning desires and affects the outcomes. In teaching the English language to EFL students in Saudi Arabia, the cultural influences of the Arabic language make it difficult for students and teachers to embrace English. They consider it a foreign culture, creating the need for teachers and students to adopt effective strategies for better outcomes. Whether it is a skill-based approach or other approaches such as comprehensive and student-centered, these classroom-based approaches do not emphasize equipping learners with skills that build up their linguistic capital. This supports the need for additional research on informal out-of-class learning as one of the approaches or tools that might be useful to help facilitate and improve the English language learning process among higher education students.
Understanding linguistic capital might offer strategies that can be explored in informal learning of the English language. In the present world of globalization and rapidly changing technology, English has become an important language for communication, not only in the school context but also in workplaces and communication in general. It is part of the cosmopolitan condition. While previous studies have shown that formal learning of the English language is not effective among Saudi students. Informal out-of-classroom activities have proved to be effective in learning the English language among EFL students in Saudi Arabia.
Literacy sponsors are critical in developing learners’ linguistic capital and understanding of the English language. Sponsors influence other people’s literacy practices. Brandt (DATE) believes that sponsors, who can be older, relatives, teachers, supervisors, and other influential people, primarily shape the literacy practices of children and young adults.
Concerning the influence of informal out-of-class activities on English language learning, there is some empirical evidence of improved academic performance, improved student English efficiency, and increased student motivation and engagement in informal out-of-class English-based activities. The previous studies considered out-of-class learning as an autonomous self-directed learning process covering self-instruction and direction, natural, and self-directed naturalistic language learning as they do not require instructions and direction from teachers. In some cases, creating and engaging in out-of-class activities may not focus directly on learning the language while they are in that situation (Hyland, 2004). They also promote a wide range of benefits for EFL students to improve their English language through out-of-class informal activities.
However, understanding informal learning in the Saudi context is still underdeveloped. The review of literature, therefore, leads to a significant gap in existing knowledge about the influence of informal out-of-class activities on the English language learning process among EFL Saudi students in higher education, from the student’s perspective.
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