“The Effect of Diglossia on Vocabulary Acquisition in Arabic of Lebanese Bilingual Students in a Private School”

Nicol Hall, Room 222, Beirut campus

The seminar is part of the Second “Education Research Seminar Series” (ERSS2).

In this study based on Olfat Darwiche Fedda ’ s MA 2010 project, the researchers attempted to address two main hypotheses. First, diglossia may impede vocabulary growth of Lebanese bilingual students [in L1 Arabic] relative to L2 English. Second, the gap between L1 and L2, should it exist, tends to narrow by upper elementary grades. A correlation design based on a two-stage random sample was used with 100 participants including pre-schoolers, first, second, fourth and fifth grades answering a standardized, US normed picture vocabulary test in both English and Arabic. Parents and teachers were also surveyed to answer a number of questions related to children’s language preference at home and at school and vocabulary teaching practices. Results showed that, while all students were more proficient in L1 than L2, their Arabic skills were not grade appropriate, especially the older students. Thus the negative effect worsens for the older group. Finally, younger students were more proficient in L2 than the older group. Both parents and teachers recognized the challenges posed by the diglossia effect and most of them had no reliable strategies to draw on. In conclusion, diglossia was shown to impede vocabulary development in young Arabic of Lebanese bilingual students, a finding which should call for a reform in the Arabic language instruction in the school system. Implications of the study are detailed, and a number of instructional strategies are provided to palliate the effect of diglossia and address the Arabic language deficits in Lebanon.

Event organizer: LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences – Department of Education