Article published in:ITL - International Journal of Applied Linguistics
Vol. 121/122 (1998) ► pp. 85–120
Islam and Learning English
The Approach - Avoidance Dimension
This paper focuses on the situation of undergraduates from a conservative Muslim society (Kuwait), who opt to major in English Language and Literature. Informal observations are reported that indicate that this might present a disturbing predicament since it requires of such students an appreciation of values and traditions which are contrary to those upheld in their religion and practised in their society. Since, it is argued, this could have an inhibiting effect on mastery of their subject, particularly on the language front, a detailed questionnaire was administered to a group of students from the Department of English Language and Literature, Kuwait University, to ascertain the extent of the problem. Responses showed a high degree of religiosity among the students and considerable unease regarding some of the material they had to read, in spite of a fairly exacting standard of censorship already applied by the teaching staff. The nature of what disturbs them is gone into in some de-tail as are the ways that students reportedly cope with this problem. Since distancing seems a very common strategy used to maintain psychological equilibrium, this would seem to have adverse effects on the most commonly stated aim of these students which was to perfect their language and it is suggested that the concept of the English degree in such an environment may need to be re-thought. Finally, the question is raised of what kind of individual places himself in such a conflict situation and remains there. A personality test showed that the students taking part in the study scored highly on certain personality variables which suggests that these students may be unconsciously self-selected from a certain personality type and this, in turn, may explain how they are able to operate both within their field of study and their socio-religious traditions.
Published online: 01 January 1998
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Cited by 2 other publications
Shunnaq, Susanne Ramadan
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