Foreign Learners of MSA and the Challenges of the Moroccan Diglossic Context

Submitted by: Yamina El Kirat El Allame
Abstract: The increasing demand for the learning Arabic as a foreign language has encouraged many foreign students to take study abroad programs in Arabic speaking countries, among which is Morocco. This has, however, revealed unexpected challenges on top of which is the diglossic situation in the Arab countries, where Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is used in the formal domains while local varieties of Arabic, are used in the informal domains (Eisele, 2002).

This complex situation usually represents a real challenge, not only to foreign students, but even to Moroccan natives as well (Maamouri, 1998). In this respect, this study aims to address the issues the diglossic situation in Morocco imposes on foreign students, be they American, Malaysian, Chinese or European. The study addresses and tries to answer three research questions, namely (i) What are some of the challenges foreign students face while studying in Morocco?(ii) What strategies should instructors adopt to help students overcome the challenges diglossia imposes on them?(iii) How can the diglossic situation be made profitable to the students?

The study involves field work research and adopts a qualitative approach relying mainly on class observation, free and participant observation, indirect interviews and students’ productions, both written and oral. The target group consists of study abroad students, namely American, Malaysian and Chinese, who are taking MSA classes in Moroccan universities. They also have Moroccan Colloquial “Darija” lessons to facilitate their cultural immersion and communication with the host families. The groups are observed during their classes and students are interviewed both individually and in focus groups. MSA instructors are also interviewed for more input about the subject. The data analysis will help to answer the research questions and reveal the challenges imposed by the Moroccan diglossic situation on both the instructors and students. Some recommendations are formulated on the basis of the findings.

Key words: Foreign language; Diglossia; Learning context; Multilingualism, Culture.

Suggested references:
Albirini, A. (2015). Modern Arabic Sociolinguistics: Diglossia, variation, codeswitching, attitudes and identity. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Eisele, J. C. (2002). Approaching diglossia: Authorities, values, and representations. In A. Rouchdy (Ed.), Language contact and language conflict in Arabic: Variations on a sociolinguistic theme (pp. 3-23). London: RoutledgeCurzon.
Maamouri, M. (1998). Language Education and Human Development: Arabic Diglossia and Its Impact on the Quality of Education in the Arab Region.International Literacy Inst., Philadelphia, PA.