The effect of the interaction between American culture and the Arabic Language

| June 6, 2013

July 2013
Volume 7 Issue 1

| July 2013 home | PDF version |

Title
Omani student responses to American literature in translation: The effect of the interaction between American culture and the Arabic Language

Rahma Al-Mahrooqi
Sultan Qaboos University, Oman
ralmahrooqi@gmail.com

Bioprofile: Rahma Al-Mahrooqi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. She holds a BA in English Education, an MA in English Curriculum and Teaching Methods and a PhD in English and Communications Education. Her research interests focus on English language teaching with special emphasis on reading and literature, intercultural and cross-cultural communication.

Abstract

EFL readers bring to the reading process a myriad life experiences, beliefs and traditions rooted in their culture and which have shaped their identity. These past experiences interact with the text and form the meaning they get from it. But how does this interaction take place when readers approach a text whose culture differs from their own? And what if the language of the text is their native language? Will that make any difference? The paper’s aim is to shed light on these questions by analyzing the responses of 23 Omani female students to an American short story, Alice Walker’s “The Abortion”, translated into Arabic. Three instruments were used for data collection: a response task, which took place after reading the story in sections, a reflection task, and an interview. Though the instruments yielded a wealth of data, for brevity’s sake this paper focuses on participants’ interpretation of the story. In particular, it mainly examines their misinterpretations, resulting from the absence of relevant background information in their schema and offers a taxonomy of these. The analysis demonstrates the powerful effect of participants’ cultural background, which at times impedes their comprehension, notwithstanding their familiarity with the text’s language. Unfamiliarity with the story’s culture caused almost 21% of their interpretations to be mistaken. The paper recommends ways of dealing with unfamiliar literary texts, which will help EFL teachers and learners arrive at plausible interpretations and enjoy a pleasurable reading experience.

Keywords: EFL reader, Oman, reading process, reader response, culture, background knowledge, schema, American Literature

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Category: Volume 7 Issue 1 June 2013