Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is the ability to understand cultural diversity and effectively navigate cultural differences in order to overcome barriers of communication. On the other hand, alternative assessment measures lie in providing a comprehensive and accurate picture of learners’ language acquisition. “Alternative assessment refers to procedures and techniques which can be used within the context of instruction and can be easily incorporated into the daily activities of the school or classroom" (Hamayan, 1995, p. 213). Through alternative assessment, students are assessed on how they integrate knowledge and reproduce it and not on a narrow spectrum in which they recall and memorize information. (Huerta-Macias, 1995). This presentation will answer the question: How can instructors apply alternative assessment measures, which go beyond tests and quizzes, to enhance intercultural communicative competence with different level students of Arabic as a foreign language? The researcher will also demonstrate how the measures used allowed for a holistic view of students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes. Merging alternative assessment measures with ICC takes into consideration designing assignments backed on an active learning approach, where learners are given real-life problem-solving activities, such as simulations, artifacts, reflections, debates, projects, among other activities that will be demonstrated in the presentation. All this provides learners with opportunities to transfer what they learn in communicating in real world situations.
The ultimate objective of this study is to explore whether and how American learners are disposed toward the study of a so-called ‘strategic’ language, specifically (a) whether commonly promoted reasons for language study, such as the ‘broadening of the American mind’ (such as laid out in the MLA report of 2007) pertain; (b) whether prevalent theorizations of motivation (such as Dörnyei’s Motivational Selves System) can be used to frame these learners’ motivations; and (c) how learners navigate among potentially conflicting incentives (humanistic; utilitarian/strategic; Lantolf & Sunderman, 2001) toward the study of a strategic language.
Specifically, this study investigates the attitudes of American university learners of a so-called ‘strategic’ less-commonly-taught language (LCTL), specifically Persian/Farsi, toward the language, its speakers, its affiliated countries and cultures, and its teachers and students. As is evident in the websites of various programs, students are encouraged toward the study of Persian/Farsi with very different and conflicting rationales. One argument goes that Persian/Farsi is spoken in a country with which the U.S. has had problematic relations for several decades and knowing it is a matter of national security. Another is that Persia represents one of the world’s oldest civilizations so that knowing its language grants access to the foundations of human civilizations.
The study then compares the attitudes of Persian/Farsi students against those of learners of another strategic language that is more widely studied (Arabic) and that is spoken in countries with less distinctly negative relations with the U.S.
All participants completed a three-part written questionnaire (128 closed/quantitative, 21 open-ended/qualitative items, and 10 learner background questions) about Persian/Farsi and Arabic. Further, a stand-in, who was not associated with any of the languages under investigation, conducted face-to-face individual and group interviews.
The presentation will focus on results that show learners of Persian/Farsi hold a positive attitude toward the Persian/Farsi language, people and their affiliated culture and are more oriented to humanistic reasons, i.e., personal interest, enjoyment and curiosity.
Being able to communicate effectively, in both professional life and personal relationships, is the key to success in a globalized world that highlights the importance of oral communication skills. Cognitive skills, as an essential demand of the modern workforce, is another important element that youth need to get ahead in the workplaces, as well as, in everyday life.
Recent trends in teaching foreign languages resort to using activities that help in developing and enhancing the cognitive and communicative demands of real-life. Using debates in the language classroom, had proved its effectiveness in this regard, as it engages students in a variety of cognitive and linguistic ways. It encourages unmotivated and conservative students to participate and express their thoughts. Beside developing speaking skills, debates develop critical thinking and research skills. Trujillo-Jenks, L. & Rosen, L. (2015); Asrida, D. (2016); Tanjid, M. (2022); Jagtiani, J. (2021).
This presentation will share the presenter’s practical experience which proved that using debates as an activity for teaching Arabic as a foreign language to heritage students was very effective in enriching the educational process in general. Its effectiveness was confirmed through student evaluations. When such activity was appropriately used, it greatly helped in engaging students with different learning styles cognitively and linguistically. Beside developing listening and speaking skills, debates fostered reading and writing skills as well. Moreover, it developed critical thinking and research skills. Examining controversial topics, allowed students to see both sides of a situation; hence, becoming more tolerance to others’ opinions. Most interestingly, classroom debates helped students to learn through friendly fighting. It positively influenced the relationship between students, and between them and the teacher.
The presentation will Also show how this activity can be used in a way that simulates the cognitive and communicative requirements of real-life tasks, bringing out its impact not only on improving learners’ language proficiency, but also their motivation, critical thinking and research skills. The presentation will provide a complete visualization of the lesson plan that enables conducting a productive activity and achieving the course learning outcomes.