Date of Award

5-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Lakshmanan, Usha

Abstract

Many researchers (Hymes, 1964; Kaplan, 1966; Gumperz, 1972; Brown, 1987; Nida, 1998) have asserted that language and culture are inseparable and both of them affect each other. Recent advances within the theory and methods of language teaching have begun to emphasize the role of culture in language learning and the importance of cultural learning. However, little research has been done to investigate how knowledge of a foreign culture facilitates communication of Saudi students with its people even though mastery of the language of that culture has not yet been achieved. The purpose of this qualitative research is to investigate the influence of culture on the learning of English as a second language by native speakers of Arabic from Saudi Arabia. The participants of this study were nine Saudi students at a mid-western University in the U.S. All of them had begun learning English in Saudi Arabia and came to the U.S. to continue their undergraduate and graduate studies. The subjects were interviewed on an individual basis using a semi-structured format. Also, they completed a brief written questionnaire about demographic and background information about their language learning and cultural experiences in Saudi Arabia and in the U.S. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and analyzed by using thematic analysis. The participants' narratives were analyzed for major themes that emerged in relation to the influence of cultural and cultural experiences on their English language learning. The four major themes were American English and diversity in the U.S, gender, individualism and student-centered approach. The results of this study revealed how culture affects Saudi students' English language learning. The themes that emerged in relation to the influence of culture stressed the strong relationship between language and culture. Furthermore, the findings shed light on the cultural challenges faced by Saudi students in learning English and in communicating in English with native-English speaking Americans, and the extent to which cultural learning is integrated in their language learning process.

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