The traditional method usually followed in teaching Arabic to non-native speakers is to move the student through special educational series from one level to the next level. The first level student learns the letters, masters them, gets to know a large number of basic words in the language, and little by little he moves to another level in which he becomes able to take Great steps towards learning and mastering different language skills, such as listening, speaking, reading, then writing and creating.
Attention to certain language skills often prevails at the expense of others, according to the main goal of the learner. The conversational skill is often given less attention than others, especially when teachers and learners pay attention to mastering the grammar of the language and understanding the morphological aspect of the Arabic language.
Many educational series on Arabic that are directed to non-native speakers place most of the skills in one formal form, which ultimately makes them favor one skill at the expense of others.
Things often get mixed up between conversation and reading, especially when the educational method starts from translating new vocabulary and explaining the incoming structures based on reading the studied dialogue and then answering questions that confirm the student’s understanding of the dialogue. The exercises may involve urging the student to use some linguistic templates, but this use becomes Amputated without full contrived dialogue.
The ability to employ is what makes these templates present in the memory, usable and activated in speech, and creating a linguistic texture for them that dares the student to employ them and use them in appropriate parts of the speech, especially since the living image of language is sound, and this is confirmed by Ibn Jinni’s definition of language when he said: It is “sounds through which every people expresses their purposes.” Language is a human phenomenon whose output is sound through speech and conversation.
Between linguistic proficiency and verbal performance
A distinction must be made between linguistic competence and verbal performance. This distinction is the cornerstone of Chomsky’s theory. Linguistic competence is the implicit knowledge of the rules of the language, understanding and realizing them, while linguistic performance is the use of language, its activation and employment in life situations. Meaning that a distinction must be made here between linguistic competence related to the grammar and correctness of the language, and communicative competence, which is the learner’s ability to understand after listening, responding in conversation, and interacting with the interlocutor or corresponding speaker.
This necessarily means the presence of a linguistic equivalent or counterpart, represented by an interlocutor and a speaker, who helps the learner to employ what he has learned, use it, and activate it. Thus, the acquired information, vocabulary, and linguistic structures remain in a state of activity and activation, not in a state of hibernation. It is a state from which the start requires stages of time that make the strength of intuition and memory respond. Without referring to the grammatical and morphological matrix of the language, relying on the practice and experience gained from it.
Conversation may seem – after experience and knowledge – to be the most difficult skill for a non-Arabic speaking student, as well as for an Arabic speaking student when he learns Arabic as a lesson scheduled in the curriculum. The reason for this is often due to a gap that has not yet been filled in the method of teaching it, which makes its results incomplete. The matter is also related to the student, his personal skills, his culture, and the educational environment in which he grew up.
One of the reasons for students’ failure to possess and master the skill of conversation is that the studied educational series do not often address the reality of life and the necessary methods of communication. Rather, they often make their field topics that do not interest the student and do not benefit him in practical life, or the topics are historical and far from the student’s need for the new language in life. The question that arises here is: What topics will benefit a non-Arabic speaking student or even a native speaker while learning the skill of conversation and practicing it in Arabic?
The answer is based on the goal of each individual student in learning Arabic, and in what field he wants to use it and invest in his mastery of it. The learner who wants to use the language in the field of tourism is different from the one who wants to use it in the field of translation, or the one who learns it for purely religious goals.
Problems and obstacles that stand in the way of conversational skill
One of the biggest problems facing students in the conversation skill is the inefficiency of some teachers in the field of conversation training. This skill requires great patience from the teacher, and a method that closes the distance between the teacher and the student, so that the training becomes more like a friendship relationship between the learners and their teacher.
In addition to the above, the skill of conversation requires double efforts outside of class time. If the new language learned does not turn into a method of thinking and expression between the student and himself in his inner inner self, and if he does not sometimes try to think about it in the situations that confront him, and practice it with his surroundings, it will remain. His ability is limited, and he will not master it fluently, and lucky is the student who can practice the language with its native people.
Also, some classes in educational institutions may include a large number of students, so the time allocated for the lesson does not have enough time for all students to participate, and the student may get a sentence or two at best if he is not proactive, willing, bold, and aware that he will not learn unless he makes mistakes and tries.
One of the problems of learning Arabic is that it is a language that the person who wants to learn it cannot go to a country of origin to practice it. Classic Arabic is not for life and daily use, and every country has its own dialect. Rather, in one country, every city may have its own dialect, and this is what has shaken those who wish. By learning Arabic for the purpose of trade and tourism and making them tend to learn colloquial language instead of classical Arabic, and we saw that those among its people who were not jealous of Arabic began to write books to teach colloquial language and methods of local communication in it.
Among the proposed solutions in the context of developing conversational skills in Arabic is that the topics of conversation lessons focus on the environment and interests that include most categories of learners, which are expressing oneself, the environment, thoughts, feelings, and hopes, and adopting the question-and-answer technique in multiple cases. It is possible to benefit from the experience of teaching a child a language other than his native language, as he acquires conversational skills by focusing on his surroundings and the needs that he wants to express.
In choosing topics, it is necessary to take into account the different religions, culture, environment, origin, interests, and diverse backgrounds of the students. While conducting language training, one must pay attention to the psychological factors, the differences in personalities among the students, and their varying abilities and quick wits. Each student must be motivated according to his personality, nature, and inclinations, so the teacher should be familiar with motivational methods based on the mechanisms of educational psychology.
It is necessary to provide an educational environment that includes students of different ethnicities, without a language that unites them, so that they are forced to use the language they learn among themselves. It is known that if two people who belong to one original language come together, it is the strong presence between them in communication and they will not replace it with any other language, even if it is with the intention of learning, their resolve will quickly weaken at the first difficulty they face in expression, and they will resort to the original language to overcome that, and this is a destruction that they do not realize. But they pay for it with their extended time learning the new language.
The skill of conversation is an essential pillar in improving the Arabic language, and to overcome the obstacles and problems facing those who wish to develop it, there must be concerted and integrated efforts between the teacher and the student, the appropriate curriculum, and the nurturing environment of the family and active and encouraging companions. In order to achieve this integration, special programs should be established based on modern techniques and plans, and effective, non-showy seminars and conferences should be held for it. Our future generations deserve our care, and our Arabic language is a trust and an identity.