Creative Education, 2010, 1, 39-50
doi:10.4236/ce.2010.11007 Published Online June 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New
Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a
Distinct Middle Eastern Student Population
Ibrahem Bani Abdo1, Gerald-Mark Breen2
1Department of English, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan; 2Department of Public Affairs, University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA.
Received November 25th, 2009; revised January 19th, 2010; accepted February 18th, 2010.
For EFL students in Jordan, the acquisition of English is particularly challenging because of the pronounced linguistic
differences between Arabic and English. This study proposes intersections between communication and language ac-
quisition practices to improve delivery of EFL instruction in Jordan, a country in which English enjoys a somewhat
ambiguous status in the public school system, higher education, and business and social interactions. We present the
results of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of EFL students in Jordan, an area in which little EFL/ESL research
has been previously reported. We examine the current EFL pedagogical framework in Jordanian schools, present a
quantitative and qualitative analysis of learners attitudes, and present a pedagogy that distinctly addresses the needs
of Jordanian EFL learners. We conclude with projections of successful EFL instruction as a resource in political, social,
and commercial interactions among Jordan, its neighbors, and the United States.
Keywords: Arabic, Education, English, Jordan, Middle East, Teaching, TESL
1. Introduction
While much research exists on English as a foreign sec-
ond language practices in diverse settings, (i.e., China,
France, Spain, Brazil, etc.) [1-5], ESL and EFL research
has recently begun to examine L2 acquisition among
learners in increasingly diverse settings, such as Vietnam,
Malaysia and other Asian countries as well as African
and Middle-Eastern countries [6-8]. However, despite
Jordan’s high profile global image and continual appear-
ance in national and international contexts, little research
has been conducted or published thus far on specific and
effective EFL pedagogy for native Jordanian students.
Although one recent study includes Jordanians among its
research subjects [8], Lanteigne’s work ultimately pro-
vides no insights into EFL practices in Jordan. Under-
standably, Middle-Eastern countries in general could be
deemed as difficult for on-site, qualitative research(ers),
especially for outsiders (i.e., Americans, other foreigners,
etc.) wanting to travel to this region for these investiga-
tive purposes involving these populations [9-11]. Too,
with the constant media coverage and portrayals in line
with agenda-setting theory [12] focusing on the violent
conflicts taking place in this region of the world, oppor-
tunities for research and study of EFL methods in Jordan
have been limited. The research study presented here,
however, has transcended these limitations through the
unique collaboration of an American specialist in com-
munication and ESL, an American university professor
specializing in pedagogy for bilingual speakers of Eng-
lish and Spanish, and a native Jordanian EFL instructor.
The essential findings of this study indicate that by ap-
plying free-flowing conversations and impromptu oral
presentations as primary EFL communication and teach-
ing strategies, these Jordanian students tend to achieve
effective and fast English language acquisition. Further-
more, we feel that as Jordan and neighboring areas of the
Middle East continue to play major roles in global poli-
tics, this study could have implications for the advance-
ment of cultural, political, and social understanding of
this region.
2. Education in Jordan
The primary, governmentally-sanctioned language in
Jordan is Arabic, but English is also commonly commu-
nicated in business, administrative, and political sectors
in larger, metropolitan sections of the country [13,14].
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct
Middle Eastern Student Population
English is sometimes informally spoken by the elite and
educated populations throughout the country. Arabic and
English are both oftentimes required classes in public
and private schools [11]. Also, because many Arabic
countries (i.e., Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria,
Tunisia, etc.) speak French for occasional communica-
tion in various sectors (such as in business and govern-
mental settings), French is the only other supplementary
language taught at some Jordanian-based schools [9,11,
Approximately 90% of Jordan’s inhabitants are met-
ropolitan, while fewer than 10% comprise rural, nomadic
groups. Nearly 3 million Jordanian residents classified as
Palestinian refugees and displaced individuals dwell in
Jordan [13]. Beginning in 2003, a considerable number
of Iraqis sought residence in Jordan, primarily due to the
Iraqi conflict. However, given these refugees’ reluctance
to disclose religious and ethnic affiliations, it is difficult
to determine an accurate number of displaced Iraqis [9].
Generally, publicly-sponsored education at the ele-
mentary levels in Jordan comprises a series of ten years
of continuous and progressive teaching [13,14], similar,
but not identical, to the American educational institutions,
where K-12 in sequence is standard. Secondary educa-
tion comes after this ten-year period. Although secondary
education, which usually begins at age 16, is not manda-
tory, it consists of a two-year track of sequential study in
which students, between 16 to 18, can enroll in either
academic or vocational programs [9]. Once this two-year
educational track ends, satisfactory students can take a
general secondary examination, also known as the Taw-
jihi, according to their area of specialty [15]. The stu-
dents who complete the test with a passing score are
conferred with a special certificate [11]. When students
reach the end of this full educational route, they are then
automatically qualified to gain admission to universities.
In addition, the students who pursue vocational or tech-
nical certifications are eligible for admission to local
community colleges, universities, or the general business
world, granted they satisfactorily complete tests specific
to two subject areas [11,15]. The first consists of a series
of vocational secondary educational classes. This string
of courses gives ample vocational instruction, usually
involves an apprenticeship, and eventually allows the
student the opportunity to be awarded with another spe-
cial certificate [15]. This kind of instruction is sponsored
and delivered by the Vocational Training Corporation,
under the auspices of the Ministry of Labor/Technical
and Vocational Education and Training Higher Council
Entry into post-secondary education is available to re-
cipients of the General Secondary Education Certificate.
These certificate holders have the options of selecting
either private or public community colleges, or public or
private universities in Jordan [9]. There is also a program
known as the credit-hour system, which enables students
to freely choose subject-specific classes based on an ap-
proved study plan. This credit-hour system is practiced at
many universities in Jordan [15].
Currently, there are eight public universities, including
two that were recently certified, and 13 private universi-
ties, including four that recently became governmen-
tally-approved. All locations where post-secondary edu-
cation is delivered operate under the Ministry of Higher
Education and Scientific Research [9].
English is generally integrated into Jordanian educa-
tion and culture because of business, political, and touris-
tic-related demands from international, interactive popu-
lations. Bedouins in particular, who are nomadic Arabs
who live in the desert and away from cities, are typically
without formal education, yet they are still able to com-
municate in English because of the frequent presence of
tourists (tourism related to camel rides, desert explora-
tion, and visits to ancient archeological landmarks) who
speak English, as well as other languages. Further, all
college graduates from Jordanian universities and col-
leges are required to complete coursework in English so
that they have an acceptable level of proficiency in the
language. Learning English as part of the university re-
quirements is also intended to better enable graduates to
secure employment in Jordan as well as abroad. Con-
versely, the absence of English language acquisition
among Jordanians may result in reduced quality of em-
ployment, communication, and opportunities in general.
Thus, developing communication skills in English pro-
vides diverse benefits for Jordanians.
2.1 Linguistic Differences between Arabic
and English
At present, there is a serious gap and deficiency in Jor-
danian students’ abilities to acquire and use spoken Eng-
lish effectively for the purpose of general and formal
communication. Although English has become a com-
mon, global language for the purposes of industry, trade,
education, and general communication [16], especially in
Jordan school systems, Jordanian students oftentimes
have a challenging time acquiring the language, both in
written and oral forms. One reason has to do with the
considerable differences in the two languages, in terms of
alphabetic characters, grammar, syntax, and the overall
linguistic logistics of the two languages. Researchers in a
recent case study that examines an Arabic-speaking Eng-
lish Language Learner in an American school, acknowl-
edge the vast differences between English and Arabic,
citing numerous negative transfers that could easily in-
terfere with the learner’s acquisition of English (L2) [17].
A simple translation example illustrates the challenges
faced by EFL students in our study. We offer a transla-
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct 41
Middle Eastern Student Population
tion of a brief passage from the Jordanian newspaper
Aldostor Times; also known in Arabic asﻩﺪﻳﺮﺟ
رﻮﺘﺳﺪﻟا (). In
Arabic, the passage reads as follows:
ﻳﺮﺸﻟا ﻲﻨﺴﺣ ﻢﻴﻠﻌﺘﻟاو ﺔﻴﺑﺮ ﺘﻟا ةرازو ﻲﻓ تﺎﻧﺎﺤﺘﻣﻻا ةرادإ ﺮﻳﺪﻣ ﻊﻗو
ﺔﻓﺎآ ﺢﻴﺤﺼﺗ ﻦﻣ ءﺎﻬﺘﻧﻻا ةروﺪﻠﻟ ﺔﻳﻮﻧﺎﺜﻟا ﺔﺳارﺪﻟا ةدﺎﻬﺷ نﺎﺤﺘﻣا قاروا
ﺮﺧأ نأ ﺎﻤﻠﻋ ، ﻲﻟﺎﺤﻟا ﺮﻬﺸﻟا ﻦﻣ ﻦﻳﺮﺸﻌﻟاو سدﺎﺴﻟا ﻲﻓ ﺔﻴﻟﺎﺤﻟ ا ﺔﻳﻮﺘﺸﻟا
ﺮﻬﺸﻟا ﺲﻔﻧ ﻦﻣ ﺮﺸﻋ ﻊﺑﺎﺴﻟا ﻲﻓ نﻮﻜﻴﺳ ﺔﺒﻠﻄﻟا ﻪﻟ مﺪﻘﺘﻴﺳ ﺚﺤﺒﻣ
(Aldostor Times; January 13, 2008):
A smooth English translation of this passage would be
the following:
On Dec. 26, Husni Al Shareef, Director of the Exami-
nation Department at the Ministry of Education signed
off on the date for the final administration of exams for
the Tawjihie certificate for fall 2007. January 17 will be
the final date for administration of the exams which will
be scored on January 26.
A transliteration of the passage, however, demon-
strates the profound syntactic differences between Arabic
and English:
Signed the director of examination department in min-
istry of the Education Husni Al Shareef the process final
in correcting all papers exams the Tawjihie’s the certifi-
cate for semester fall in 26th in month this, we know that
final exam will take students will be in 17th in same
Transliteration is a rudimentary strategy for moving
from L1 to L2, but in languages where syntactic and se-
mantic similarities exist, such as between Italian and
Spanish or even English and Spanish, an EFL or ESL
learners’ acquisition process is considerably eased by
reliance on those similarities. The example cited above,
however, shows that students whose native language is
Arabic would have a particularly challenging learning
curve in acquiring proficiency in English.
The differences between English and Arabic are too
vast to enumerate in detail here, but we offer a short list
of key differences to demonstrate the potential for nega-
tive transfer that could occur for EFL learners in Jordan
1) Arabic is written from right to left.
2) Arabic orthography is influenced by placement of
the letter in the word; letter shapes vary depending on
their occurrence in initial, medial, or end placement in a
word. In English, letters change shape only when they
are upper case at the beginning of proper nouns or at the
beginning of the sentence.
3) Numerous but predictable rules govern the grapho-
phonemic treatment of vowels in Arabic, whereas in
English grapho-phomenic rules are unpredictable and
4) Arabic allows verb-free sentences which in English
would include a copula.
5) Arabic tenses are indicated by the addition of a suf-
fix to a root.
In short, the differences are so vast that reliance on
Arabic (L1) competence for building English (L2) com-
petence would be severely limited for the typical Jorda-
nian EFL student.
2.2 ESL Instruction in Jordan
Although seemingly paradoxical, another challenge to
effective EFL instruction in Jordan is the fact that many
EFL instructors are not sufficiently educated, equipped,
and/or prepared to specifically accommodate and under-
stand the unique linguistic learning styles of some native
Jordanian students. One would assume that Jordanian
EFL instructors teaching Jordanian students would easily
be able to exercise effective pedagogical strategies with
learners from their own country; however, our study
found that some Jordanian students still struggle in their
acquisition of English, in part because instructors fail to
apply effective EFL teaching methods.
2.3 Greater Focus on Grades Rather than
Linguistic Acquisition
Another issue documented through observation and in-
terviewing is that Jordanian students, in general, tend to
be more focused on achieving good grades in their ESL
classes as opposed to concentrating on learning the lan-
guage itself. As common sense dictates, and as shown in
general EFL/ESL literature [2,18-20], when ESL/EFL
students privilege grades over knowledge/competence
(which happens to be a common problem amongst many
students across the globe), this attitude disposes students
to a lack of willingness and motivation to learn. Espe-
cially in terms of learning other languages, particularly
those that substantially differ from that of their own, this
outlook and thinking style considerably interferes with
their appreciation, concentration, and eventual acquisi-
tion of English [21].
2.4 Employing Native Language in the
Instructional Process
Another instructional strategy appropriated by Jordanian
EFL teachers is that when a word in English is taught,
and if understanding of that word is not immediately
gained by the students, the teachers revert back to the
Arabic language to explain what the word means. Re-
sorting to Arabic in providing translational explanations
is usually ineffective because the students need to hear
and learn as much English as possible when explanations
are being given. This linguistic return in the explanatory
process is also a common practice that impedes EFL in-
struction across a variety of cultures [20,22]. Using Eng-
lish as an alternative in explaining confusing words
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct
Middle Eastern Student Population
maximizes student exposure to the English language,
hence increasing the quantity of English that they hear,
and possibly learn. Using more Arabic in this manner
tends to slow down the EFL acquisition process, thereby
impeding learners’ linguistic development and minimiz-
ing the inherent and pursued benefits in learning the lan-
guage quickly and efficaciously.
2.5 Student Diversity and Numbers in
Classrooms are too Large
In most Jordanian classrooms where EFL is taught, the
linguistic competence of students in the same classroom
varies widely, but there seems to be little accommodation
of the individual learners’ readiness for English acquisi-
tion. This failure to take the individual learner into ac-
count is a common obstruction to learning in many
classrooms across multiple geographic settings [18,23].
In addition, overcrowding in Jordanian EFL classrooms
contributes to ineffective pedagogy. Given that EFL in-
structors have limited time to teach, and cannot accom-
modate, meet and answer to every student at every point
in a lecture [24], some students fall behind and may stall
in their learning process due to this lack of an individu-
alized, teacher-student environment. This deficiency in
individualized contact with every student also gives rise
to a lack of motivation in some students. The teachers are
partially to blame for this, because they simply cannot
dedicate special efforts to each student to motivate their
enthusiasm to learn effectively [24]. On the other side of
the coin, the students are also partially responsible for
this lack of motivation, because they, too, have account-
ability to themselves to desire and strive to learn the lan-
guage by any means possible, even if this means visiting
with the teacher outside of class.
Social presence theory [25], which posits that a me-
dium’s social effects are mainly caused by the extent of
social presence which it affords to its users [26], may
explain why some Jordanian EFL students feel their
teachers lack a personalized interest in them, primarily
due to this over-sized classroom environment. In other
words, when some EFL students feel that they are not
treated with and given sufficient attention by teachers
who are supposed to guide them to learn English and
ensure their knowledge acquisition, the students’ percep-
tions of the teachers decline, sometimes causing a loss of
respect and motivation to listen to the EFL instructor.
This creates a block in pedagogical and interpersonal
communication, and impairs the learning atmosphere.
2.6 An Attitude that ESL is not Important
Many Jordanian students in EFL programs also suffer in
acquiring the English language because they oftentimes
feel that the language itself is not a necessity; some of
them feel it is not a practical tool that they’ll use in the
future for employment or communication purposes. This
attitude is actually a misconception at times, because
English does become an important language, especially
in Amman, the country’s capitol, where international
business and communication take place [11,15]. Of
course, not all Jordanian citizens choose to live in re-
gions of the country where English is spoken or used.
Hence, it depends on the ambitions of the individual stu-
dents and whether these individuals desire to venture into
occupations or situations that will require a proficient or
functional level of English understanding, including oral
and written communication skills.
2.7 A Flaw at the Governmental Level
A major flaw in EFL teaching, which is due to how the
government controls the development of student acquisi-
tion of the English language to native, Jordanian students,
is that, although a student may not learn and succeed at
grasping the language, the educational system is de-
signed to only allow a student to fail once [15]. What this
means is that a student can only retake the same level
class twice. To clarify, if the student fails the first time,
the student will retake the same class again the subse-
quent year. The second time around, teachers are re-
quired to pass and forward the student to the next stage
of EFL, even if that student is not capable or prepared to
handle the level of EFL taught in those next classes. This
also means that the student automatically moves forward
in the EFL program even if the quality of work presented
by the student is equivalent to a failing grade.
3. Methodology
In the context of the obstacles to effective EFL pedagogy
we have cited above, we constructed a study designed to
identify features of language acquisition instruction that
could benefit EFL learners in Jordan. We began with the
hypothesis that communication theory and EFL peda-
gogy could be merged to provide a scaffolding effect for
promoting competence in English in students in Jordan.
Through a case-study approach, focused on intensive,
formal interactions between the EFL instructor and a
small population of EFL students in Jordan, we examined
the following research questions:
R1: What pedagogical strategies seem to promote
learning in EFL students in Jordan?
R2: What aspects of communication theory can be
used to create a learner friendly environment?
The primary, on-site researcher who collected the
quantitative data for this study is a native Jordanian and
an EFL instructor in Jordan. Additionally, he is currently
a graduate student at an American university. The study
occurred in a three-week period of observational contact
with one elementary and one secondary public school in
Jordanian towns designated as a mix between rural and
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct 43
Middle Eastern Student Population
metropolitan. Observations occurred twice each week,
for a total of six formal and thorough meetings for the
entire EFL sessions, each lasting two hours. The data was
collected during the second half of the first semester of
the 2005-2006 academic school year. Convenient and
random sampling techniques were used to meet with EFL
teachers (n = 5; four males and one female) and students
(n = 6; five males and one female) on a continuous basis
for that three-week period. The on-site researcher also
attended many EFL classes, participated and socially
interacted with the instructors and students in their ac-
tivities and assignments, talked in depth with the teachers
and students, and carefully observed and documented the
strategies that were deemed “effective” and “ineffective”.
The six student participants were categorized into
three groups according to their linguistic competence,
behavioral characteristics and expressions, and their
overall performance as students. We created aliases for
our research subjects—P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, and P6. P1
and P2 were designated as “strong” students, P3 and P4
were designated as “average” students, and P5 and P6
were designated as “low-achieving” students. Features
examined in the student participants included verbal and
non-verbal communication. These included the following
exhibitions: 1) nervousness, 2) shyness, 3) mispronuncia-
tion, 4) non-verbal communication, 5) translation, and 6)
vocabulary. There were two students per group. A high
score in features 1, 2, and 3 would indicate high levels of
learner discomfort with performance negatively impacted
by these features. Conversely, a low score in features 1, 2,
and 3 would indicate increasing levels of comfort and
increasingly competent linguistic performance in English
(L2). A high score in Features 4, 5, and 6 would suggest
strong competence in English (L2); a low score would
suggest difficulties in demonstrated L2 performance. We
used the following rubric in assigning rankings of “high,”
“medium,” or “low” to each learner during our interview:
Data was collected in six meetings spanning a period
of three weeks. In addition, other instructional aspects,
such as the classroom settings and conditions, student
conduct and attitudes, teacher behavior and demeanor,
and other general conditions were observed, analyzed,
and documented by the on-site researcher.
Participant observation, naturalistic observation, and
interviewing were employed as the primary techniques of
data collection, and data were examined using a standard
ethnographic communication archetype [27-29]. All avail-
able data, including field notes of verbal and non-verbal
communication (i.e., words, gestures, eye contact, etc.)
during the EFL classes, and informants’ verbal state-
ments (impromptu and elicited) during individual inter-
view sessions, supplied the evidence from which strate-
gies deemed “effective” or “ineffective” were identified.
4. Findings and Results
Data compiled in interviews with and observations of our
subjects is presented in Tables 1, 2, and 3. This tabular
data as well as the textual reports suggest a pattern con-
firmed systematically via ethnographic and qualitative
research methodologies [27,28]. In examining all the
compiled qualitative data, as shown below in the tables,
there are clear distinctions between ESL pedagogical
techniques deemed to be effective and those which seem
ineffective. It is assumed that as EFL learners become
more comfortable with their instructor, the manifesta-
tions of nervousness, shyness, and mispronunciation
would decrease. Increased competence in L2, fostered by
effective ESL pedagogy, should theoretically result in
increases in use of non-verbals, evidence of thinking in
L2, and use of enough vocabulary to produce meaningful
output [26]. The data in Tables 1, 2, and 3 provide evi-
dence that EFL pedagogical practices implemented by
the on-site researcher during this study promote increases
in EFL learners’ demonstration of competence in L2
(English). By the final meeting, all students demonstrated
low levels of nervousness, shyness, and mispronuncia-
tion, while use of non-verbals was high for all students,
and all students demonstrated at least medium perform-
ance levels in translation and use of adequate vocabulary.
Data presented here demonstrate that the interactions
between the Jordanian EFL teacher/researcher and the
research subjects, meetings characterized by free-flowing
conversations and impromptu oral presentations, served
to enhance EFL instruction and maximize student learn-
ing. Our recommendations for increased free-flowing
conversations and impromptu oral presentations are
based on qualitative and empirical data and support, and
we believe that applying these tactics will develop ESL
fluency and proficiency for these particular student pop-
ulations in Jordan.
5. Recommendations for Effective EFL
The special circumstances of EFL instruction in Jordan,
as detailed above, and the pronounced differences between
Arabic (L1) and English (L2) clearly point to the need
for research-based and learner-centered pedagogy for
Jordanian EFL students. Much research has been con-
ducted with observed, verifiable success on how to prop-
erly conduct EFL instruction to a variety of cultures and
ethnicities [2,16,18,19,22,30-35] These instructional
strategies have been utilized by EFL teachers with a con-
tinuous, progressive movement to better train foreign or
non-native English speakers in oral and written commu-
nication for informal and formal purposes, which are
manifested as personal, social, political, and/or economic
otivations for acquisition of English. We detail these as m
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct
Middle Eastern Student Population
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Performance Levels
High Medium Low
Numerous instances of the following
physical manifestations: shaking or
trembling, fidgeting, blushing, silence.
Learners’ demonstration of competence
is L2 is significantly reduced by ob-
served nervousness.
Some instances of the following physi-
cal manifestations: shaking or trem-
bling, fidgeting, blushing, silence.
Learners’ demonstration of competence
is L2 is somewhat reduced by observed
Few to no instances of the following
physical manifestations: shaking or
trembling, fidgeting, blushing, silence.
Learners’ demonstration of competence
is L2 is minimally or not reduced by
observed nervousness.
Numerous instances of the following
physical and linguistic manifestations:
avoidance of eye contact, reluctance to
ask questions, low vocal volume, mum-
bling. Learners’ demonstration of com-
petence is L2 is significantly reduced by
observed shyness.
Some instances of the following physi-
cal and linguistic manifestations:
avoidance of eye contact, reluctance to
ask questions, low vocal volume, mum-
bling. Learners’ demonstration of com-
petence is L2 is somewhat reduced by
observed shyness.
Few to no instances of the following
physical and linguistic manifestations:
avoidance of eye contact, reluctance to
ask questions, low vocal volume, mum-
bling. Learners’ demonstration of com-
petence is L2 is minimally or not re-
duced by observed shyness.
L2 vocabulary is mispronounced 50% or
more of the time during the observation.
Learners’ demonstration of competence
is L2 is significantly reduced by mis-
pronunciations of L2 language struc-
L2 vocabulary is mispronounced
30%-50% of the time during the obser-
vation. Learners’ demonstration of
competence is L2 is somewhat reduced
by mispronunciations of L2 language
L2 vocabulary is mispronounced 10% to
0% of the time during the observation.
Learners’ demonstration of competence
is L2 is minimally or not reduced by
mispronunciations of L2 language
Non verbal communication
Learner’s use of the following
non-verbals significantly enhance per-
formance in L2: facial gestures, body
language (such as “speaking with your
hands”), nodding or shaking the head,
self-initiated movement from one place
to another in the observation site, eye
Learner’s use of the following
non-verbals somewhat enhance per-
formance in L2: facial gestures, body
language (such as “speaking with your
hands”), nodding or shaking the head,
self-initiated movement from one place
to another in the observation site, eye
Learner’s use of the following
non-verbals is limited and does not
enhance performance in L2: facial ges-
tures, body language (such as “speaking
with your hands”), nodding or shaking
the head, self- initiated movement from
one place to another in the observation
site, eye contact.
Learner’s performance in L2 demon-
strates limited to no fluency, suggesting
that the learner is primarily translating
from L1 to L2 rather than thinking in
L2. Lapses in fluency significantly
diminish demonstration of competence
in L2.
Learner’s performance in L2 demon-
strates some fluency, suggesting that the
learner is attempting to think in L2
rather than translating from L1 to L2.
Lapses in fluency are obvious but do not
significantly diminish demonstration of
competence in L2.
Learner’s performance in L2 is fluid and
fluent, suggesting that the learner is
thinking in L2 rather than translating
from L1 to L2.
Linguistic and behavioral features
Learner consistently uses varied, ade-
quate, and appropriate vocabulary in L2.
Learners’ demonstration of competence
is L2 is significantly enhanced by un-
derstanding and use of L2 vocabulary.
Learner inconsistently uses varied,
adequate, and appropriate vocabulary in
L2. Learners’ demonstration of compe-
tence is L2 is somewhat reduced by
inconsistent understanding and use of
L2 vocabulary.
Learner consistently misuses vocabulary
or fails to demonstrate use of sufficient
vocabulary in L2. Learners’ demonstra-
tion of competence is L2 is significantly
by inadequate understanding and use of
L2 vocabulary.
Figure 1. Rubric for assessing Jordanian EFL learners’ competence in English
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct 45
Middle Eastern Student Population
Table 1. Meetings 1 and 2
behaviors Nervousness Shyness Mispronunciation# of non-verbals Translation from
L1 to L2
Using enough
Frequency of
Strong students
Low achieving
Table 2. Meetings 3 and 4
behaviors Nervousness Shyness Mispronunciation# of non-verbals Translation from
L1 to L2
Using enough
Frequency of
Strong students
Low achieving
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct
Middle Eastern Student Population
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Table 3. Meetings 5 and 6
behaviors Nervousness Shyness Mispronunciation# of non-verbals Translation from
L1 to L2
Using enough
Frequency of
Strong students
Low achieving stu-
recommendations for pedagogical practices that promote
higher levels of EFL student achievement as documented
by this study.
5.1 Initiate Amiable Relationships with Students
and Demonstrate Support
When beginning a teacher/student EFL relationship, it is
important for the teacher to clearly express and demon-
strate to all students that although English may be seem
far more difficult to learn than L1, full support and help
are available from the instructor. Some standard and
commonly accepted ways of outwardly communicating
(both verbally and non-verbally) this supportive envi-
ronment to students include acting and talking in an ap-
proachable, honest, and non-critical manner, with the
sole intention of ensuring language acquisition in the
students [16]. Uncertainty reduction theory [36,37], for
instance, is a theory that can make sense of why teachers
need to allow students to connect with them in order for
the students to feel comfortable and “certain” about their
teachers and the English language that is being taught.
When students are uncertain about the difficulty of the
EFL class, and immediately and naturally look to the
teacher to be a source of support and friendship for lin-
guistic assistance, these students are likely to examine
the teacher by asking questions and observing the ap-
proachability of the teacher. The students do this in order
to determine whether they can feel “certainly” comfort-
able working together with that teacher [37]. If a feeling
of security and confidence exists in the students’ minds
as a result of such positive observation of the EFL in-
structor, the students are more likely to perform better.
This connectivity will facilitate a more relaxed learning
environment conducive to faster and more effective EFL
Some other simple ways to achieve this, as identified
by EFL scholars and practitioners [20,23,34,38], include
acting interested in the students as individual people,
asking where they are from, what they were doing pre-
viously, and asking other questions of a non-superficial
nature [39]. Doing so will create a positive bond, allow-
ing for trust, better listening, and less insecurity about
performance. The instructor must take on a friendly, ap-
proachable image, enabling the students to lower their
guards and defenses (and communication apprehension)
and be at ease when receiving information, thus improv-
ing their performance [40].
Because EFL students oftentimes fear the difficulty in
learning a new language, particularly English, expressing
to students that language acquisition is achievable is a
helpful tactic in maximizing overall language acquisition.
EFL instructors must also point out that learning any new
language, be it English, Romanian, or Turkish, is an in-
teresting and enjoyable undertaking. Too, if the EFL in-
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct 47
Middle Eastern Student Population
structor establishes rapport and a sense of community
and connectivity with the students, increased cooperation,
attentiveness, and attendance of the class are likely to
result, thereby enhancing and facilitating the learning
environment [23,39].
5.2 Identify Customs and Norms of Students and
Act Them Out
A great deal of EFL and intercultural communication
literature focuses on the importance of understanding the
cultural and ethnic norms, customs, practices, and atti-
tudes of EFL students, given their various international
backgrounds [2,19,31,41]. Understanding these various
aspects of ESL students will naturally enable the instruc-
tors to cater and conduct themselves in manners that will
gain acceptance, appreciation, connectivity, and commu-
nication efficacy with the students. Watching behaviors
of the students in class, too, based on social cognitive
theory, a theory that posits that we learn and can then
imitate behavioral styles based on observation [42,43],
can enable the instructors to mimic the students and,
therefore, mirror the behaviors and customs of the stu-
dents. In another way, striving to transform oneself in a
like image of the cultures in the EFL classroom, also in
line with specific theoretical assumptions from face ne-
gotiation theory [44], will likely increase the chances of a
general “opening up” of the students, decrease their
communication apprehension [40], increase their general
comfort levels in the learning atmosphere, and help to
eliminate any interpersonal conflict so as to develop and
secure a relational bond [44-46] between the students and
the teacher. Put differently, if the teacher seems like an
insider, as opposed to an outsider or foreigner, far better
listening, reception and likeability are more apt to present
themselves from the students to the teachers.
5.3 Patience, Gentleness, and a Polite Attitude
Because of intercultural and interpersonal communica-
tion issues in international students, such as communica-
tion apprehension, avoidance, and introversion, patience,
gentleness, and a polite attitude and demeanor from the
EFL instructor will help to facilitate connectivity with
the students and thus minimize these barriers to learning
[1]. As language expectancy theory posits, tactful lin-
guistic word choices can be important predictors of per-
suasive success [47,48]. For example, if an EFL instruc-
tor uses words of a patient, gentle, and polite nature, the
EFL students will be persuaded that the teacher is ap-
proachable, credible, supportive, and helpful. This will
enable connectivity between the teachers and the students.
Hence, the tone, intensity, and selection of the language
used by the EFL instructor to encourage and persuade
students to feel comfortable and capable of learning Eng-
lish has a significant impact on the efficacy of EFL
pedagogy and the rate of student learning acquisition.
Politeness, specifically, builds trust between students, as
suggested by politeness theory [49,50]. Too, allowing
EFL students ample time to think, without exhibiting a
sense of haste or pressure on the part of the teacher, will
serve to alleviate the stress EFL students experience in
wanting to pronounce words correctly, think of the cor-
rect words to use for questions and answers, and com-
municate their thoughts and expressions in a natural and
graceful manner [41]. When an EFL student notices or
senses that there is some pressure or impatience from the
instructor to answer, levels of anxiety and communica-
tion apprehension usually escalate. This type of anxious
elevation typically leads to deterioration in the stu-
dent-teacher relationship, contributes to an increased
level of performance anxiety and communication appre-
hension, and tends to decrease the overall learning proc-
ess [2,19,41].
It is also important to take into account that creating a
non-threatening environment, in which the students feel
comfortable making mistakes in grammar, verbal com-
munication, and writing, is crucial in making students
feel secure making errors. It will also help persuade and
convince them, without shame, that mistakes are a natu-
ral part of the learning process [19,48]. Plus, the EFL
instructor should not resort to negative response to the
learner’s performance; that is counterproductive and un-
ethical and has the potential to be irreversibly defeating
to the relationships [2]. Research has shown that EFL
instructors in particular who present themselves with a
smile and other positive facial expressions, occasionally
give compliments regarding the students’ efforts, and
refrain from showing any signs of upset or disappoint-
ment (such as sighs), enhance general student motivation
and learning acquisition [2,19]. Also, such linguistic and
non- verbal communication can be persuasive to students
in their attitudes and desires to actively pursue learning
[47], particularly in ESL programs. The students also
lose any sense or belief in a lack of communication
competence or aptness in learning their new language
Clearly, patience and courtesy, especially, go a long
way in breaking through many learning barriers and
communication apprehensions [49]. When an EFL in-
structor slowly, clearly, and pleasantly pronounces L2
words, corrects grammar errors and explains the source
of the error, and repeats him/ herself in an encouraging
tone, the pedagogical result is continued rapport and in-
creased learning in the EFL student [41].
In a similar vein, as with anyone learning a new lan-
guage, the EFL instructor should also clearly articulate
and pronounce words, using a placid and encouraging
tone, in order to avoid or minimize misunderstanding or
misinterpretation of the particular words orally commu-
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CE
Teaching EFL to Jordanian Students: New Strategies for Enhancing English Acquisition in a Distinct
Middle Eastern Student Population
nicated. If this strategy is applied and, still, misunder-
standing occurs, it helps to gently repeat the word in
question until the said EFL student can effectively grasp
how to pronounce the word (s) properly. Further, some-
times EFL students will appear frustrated or despondent
because they are unable to clearly and correctly pro-
nounce certain words. Research suggests that assuring
them that they will do fine, and, again, their mistakes are
all part of the learning process, will usually maintain the
EFL students’ confidence and motivation [19].
Surprisingly, negative communication that interferes
with the learning acquisition rates and abilities of EFL
students, especially across a variety of cultures, involves
the use of certain colored pens [2]. Instead of using a red
pen to identify errors on written assignments for EFL
students, which, as some researchers have found, implies
harshness, negativity, scrutiny, and hurtfulness [51,52],
EFL instructors should use more symbolically benign
colored pens, such as blue, yellow, or another color,
which do not represent or depict a wrongdoing and
should clearly explain to the learner how linguistic and/
or rhetorical problems can be corrected [51,53]. Al-
though it is important to clearly document a mistake and
assure that the EFL student is aware of what was done
incorrectly, something commonly perceived as minor
actually holds tremendous implications and can nega-
tively affect student performance, motivation, and per-
sistence [2,51].
6. Discussion and Future Directions
This qualitative and communication research report on
language and social interaction has provided new insight
into how the Jordanian EFL programs in elementary and
secondary-level schools operate, and which teaching
strategies appear to be effective in promoting higher lev-
els of achievement in L2 competence and performance. It
is important to recognize what strategies work best in
teaching EFL to students in general and Jordanian stu-
dents in particular. The intensive, focused study reported
here permits extrapolation of data that can be applied to
student populations larger than the research population.
Data provided by the on-site researcher’s extended inter-
actions with Jordanian EFL students enables us to iden-
tify strategies that can be applied in a larger context for
improved acquisition of English by Jordanian students.
By identifying these proper strategies, and through mass
implementation of them, a vast increase in English lan-
guage acquisition could occur in this Middle-Eastern
population. Too, because English is a common language
used in business and governmental sectors within Jordan,
particularly in the metropolitan areas, it is critical that the
citizens of this country understand and can communicate
the language properly so as to improve their economy,
cross-cultural or intercultural communication, and inter-
national relations. More importantly, a country’s (espe-
cially Jordan’s, which is a Middle-Eastern country, sur-
rounded by some dangerous populations) criminal justice
experts or negotiators must be able to understand a lan-
guage (such as English, intermittently) that terrorists
from other countries may use to hold hostages or threaten
to initiate some kind of violent or significant conflict [54]
in order for the negotiators to attempt to ameliorate or
resolve these types of conflicts before escalation or fa-
talities occur.
Moreover, although Jordan is only one of many Mid-
dle-Eastern countries in this region of the world, it is
practically in the center of the Middle East, where Mus-
lims are prevalent and predominant and where Arabic is
the primary language. Also, because Jordan is a neutral
country in terms of war and conflict [9,15], and because
Jordan sits in the middle of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq,
Iran, and Saudi Arabia—countries that always seem to be
involved in some kind of violent conflict—increased
acquisition and communication of English amongst Jor-
danian residents may serve to help other English-speaking
countries in the fight against terrorism, extremist think-
ing and acts of violence, and overall conflict in all these
other Middle-Eastern countries surrounding Jordan. Also,
Jordan can serve as a buffer or mediator between all
these Middle-Eastern countries, and can launch a mas-
sive campaign to publicly denounce, discourage, and
attempt to bring to an end the pernicious conduct that
pervades populations across the Middle East. The politi-
cal and global implications of increasing understanding
of the English language in Jordan and other areas of the
Middle East cannot be overestimated. The need for un-
derstanding of language as a critical part of understand-
ing of culture and politics [55] has made it expedient to
recognize and promote effective pedagogy for EFL
learners in Jordan and other Middle Eastern nations.
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