Lebanese University Students’ Perceptions of Ethnic, National and Linguistic Identity and Their Preferences of Foreign Language Learning in Lebanon.
Special Edition, September 2009,
Language, Culture and Identity in Asia.
Lebanese University Students’ Perceptions of Ethnic, National, and Linguistic Identity and Their Preferences for Foreign Language Learning in Lebanon
Rula L. Diab
Department of Humanities, School of Arts and Sciences,
Lebanese American University
Rula L. Diab is Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities at the Lebanese American University. She is interested in second language learners’ beliefs, preferences, and attitudes towards language learning, in addition to the area of second language writing. Her research has appeared in System, TESL Canada Journal, TESL Reporter, TESL-EJ, and the English Teaching Forum.
The purpose of this study was to investigate Lebanese university students’ perceptions of their ethnic, national, and linguistic identity and their preferences for choice of first foreign language (FL) and medium of instruction in pre-university schools in Lebanon. The study also aimed at exploring the differences in perceptions of identity and preferences for FL learning in Lebanon between male and female students, students from different religious backgrounds (Muslim and Christian), and students whose first FL is English and those whose first FL is French. Eighty-six students completed a survey, and follow-up semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 students in order to clarify responses and obtain more in-depth data. Findings revealed that the Lebanese university students in this study valued the importance of English as an essential language to know, mostly because of the practical importance of English as an international language, while some students whose first FL is French expressed a strong affiliation with the French language and culture. Moreover, students from a Christian religious background were much more likely than their Muslim counterparts to construct an identity of themselves that is ethnically and culturally distinct from the rest of the Arab World. Finally, the first FL learned was an important factor influencing these students’ preferences for choice of medium of instruction.
Key Words: Identity; English as a Foreign Language; French as a Foreign Language; Medium of instruction; Religious background; Lebanon