There were some interesting results in the answers obtained. First, all six participants were between the ages of 15 and 18 and 100% of them had started studying the English language in grade 5 at home in Iraq. Another observation is that 80% of the Iraqi students reported that they were a full grade level below in Australia; the remaining 20% were two grade levels behind his or her current educational pace in Iraq. This interesting fact demonstrates that the Iraqi school system is behind the Australian school system and the Iraqi learners will need further 2nd language training.
The fourth question delves into the educational background of the Iraqi students parents. A Muslim belief dictates many of the findings because Iraqi females often are not schooled and in some cases are illiterate. Sixty percent of the males have college level education, 40% of the males have a military or government background whereas 20% of the females have obtained advanced educational opportunities. All the parents have studied English since arriving in Australia. One hundred percent of the males are comfortable speaking English to communicate daily wants and needs outside the home, but only 20% of the females have the same comfort level. Due to the lack of education the females have private English language tutors.
4.4.1 Peer interaction and learner-centred method
The sixth question asks the Iraqi learners how they dealt with the difficulties they faced. Most of the Iraqi students discussed the development of friendships with the native Australian students as helpful. Other items Iraqi students discussed were watching movies in English, reading, practicing, and asking the teachers more questions. Question number seven asks the Iraqi learners to describe his or her opinion on peer interaction. All the learners mentioned that it is beneficial in many ways from working with his or her peers. Culture beliefs, new words, definition of words, are answers that have been included by most of the Iraqi students (see quotations and chart below). When assimilating into another culture, it is important to have an understanding of how individuals undergo daily routines and activities.
I’m sure it is very important because it improves my language communication skills. (Adel)
When I discuss with my classmate any topic in the classroom, it helps me to better understand the lesson as he or she has the language competency. I learn new words, expressions and ideas which assist me to interact with peer and teachers effectively. (Hashim)
Peer interaction is crucial for students like my situation; it helps me to communicate with native speakers who have the language knowledge and perfect pronunciation. Those students native speakers helped in explaining what I didn’t understand. (Adam)
Peer interaction teaches us how to listen to others, and it shows us some cultural and social attitudes through the direct contact with native speakers. (Nuha)
Advantages and Disadvantages of Friends
4.4.2 The choice of using educational learning resources and technology
The teachers focused on the dialogue in the text book to encourage us to speak. They do not use technology such as computer, projectors, or even whiteboards. Most of the schools still use blackboard and chalks. (Fahad)
There was absence of using computer to access Internet to do communicative activities. Some teachers do not know how to use computer, they depends on the text book only. (Adam)
In Iraq the students often were asked to learn from the text book and did not use emerging technology such as computers, projectors, and whiteboards to enhance the learning experience. While in the Australian schools, learners use different types of educational learning aids — such as whiteboard, projector, computer, language laboratory, recorders, etc. Students have access to the Internet whenever they need; it helps them to do presentations or other class activities.
4.4.3 Comprehensive Input
The teaching methods adopted in the Australian school assist L2 learners to pronounce words intelligibly when interacting and participating within the classroom. Teachers encourage and help L2 students to choose the appropriate word in various situations, which leads to building learners’ language knowledge and competency.
This helped me a lot to listen to the correct pronunciation and introduced to new words and expressions. It assisted me to speak in the classroom and using those new words. (Hashim)
I was listener more than speaker, but gradually I used to interact with them in different life subjects not just about the school without any difficulty. I learned lots of new words, expressions, idioms and even my pronunciation became better that helped me to interact effectively inside the classroom. (Adel)
However, many L2 students, especially from Middle East and North Africa MENA countries, need more time to obtain the language knowledge and to know others’ cultural and social traditions. Question number five asks the Iraqi learners what they had the most difficulty with when starting high school in Australia. All of the students surveyed discussed multiple difficulties when describing his or her educational experiences when first entering Australia. Most of the surveys described the educators as unwilling or unable to understand the 2nd language difficulties facing the Iraqi students. Eighty percent of the Iraqi learners surveyed had little to no interaction during the classroom discussions because of high anxiety levels. Primary reasons (shown below) deal with the teacher and cultural differences and connects them into perspective.
I usually have a language knowledge problem when introducing to a new topic which I don’t have enough information about it. It is difficult to understand what the speaker is talking about. (Fahad)
Difficulties Facing Iraqi Students
4.5 Strategies used by Learners in Coping with Language Communication Difficulties
The sixth question asks the Iraqi learners how they dealt with the difficulties they faced. Eighty percent of the Iraqi learners mentioned that completing the homework assignments was important in helping deal with the difficulties. Sixty percent of the Iraqi students discussed the development of friendships with the native Australian students as helpful. Other items Iraqi students discussed were watching movies in English, reading, practicing, and asking the teachers more questions. All the learners mentioned that it is beneficial in many ways from working with his or her peers. Culture beliefs, new words, definition of words, are answers that have been included by most of the Iraqi students. When assimilating into another culture, it is important to have an understanding of how individuals undergo daily routines and activities.
Question number eight asks the Iraqi learners how they feel when they do not understand teacher, friend, or a classmate. One hundred percent of the Iraqi learners discussed feeling of embarrassment, shyness, and frustration when they are unable to understand English communication from a teacher, friend, or a classmate. One responder mentioned that the English teachers in Iraq are poor, thus the reason for language issues (understanding) in Australia. Another student described that the teacher was the only person who was important in the classroom and that he or she can speak to his or her classmates any way possible. Eighty percent of the learners mentioned that they ask for the teacher, friends, or classmates to please explain and at time to repeat what was already stated.
4.5.1 Point of noticing in second language acquisition SLA
According to professor John Truscott the point of noticing system in teaching a second language is broken and needs to be modified (1998). Truscott’s research on point of noticing will yield information that will help educators, administrators, and decision-makers to understand better the immigrant students’ educational needs in terms of 2nd language communication difficulties. Understanding such learning obstacles will make a contribution in recognising and conveying students’ voices, especially new arrivals, to the educational decision-makers toward seeking appropriate resolutions. Truscott believes that the point of noticing system is ineffective because it is not based on any clearly theory of language (1998). Truscott’s study will help immigrant students to employ successful strategies to cope with possible language communication difficulties faced during his or her second language learning.
Paying more attention to the teacher is very important because we will understand what he or she is talking about and asking for. This keeps us connected to the teacher and lesson. (Nuha)
I paid more attention to my teachers to know or at least to understand the main idea that they are talking about. (Amal)
I would like to advise new arrival students to pay more attention to what the teacher says.I wasn’t pay attention to the teacher. On the following day, the teacher asked me about what I did understand from yesterday class. I didn’t remember anything about it. (Adam)
Research related to the topic of exploring language communication difficulties among Iraqi students in Australia is gaining popularity, especially in obtaining more insights into the Iraqi new arrival students and their language communication barriers in the mainstream classroom. There have been many studies and literature regarding Arab, Middle Eastern and Asian language communication difficulties in the Australian, American and European context, which…