Monday, January 28, 2013

Truce or No Truce?

Palestine has been illegally occupied by Israel ever since the 1967 six- day war when the latter captured the territories of Gaza and the West Bank from former occupiers : Egypt and Jordan. Ever since that date, Palestine has been refered to as the Occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).

In this article, we will try so hardly not to put the blame on anyone for what happened in the recent events that took place on November, 2012 between Gaza and Israel. A part of this article will be written in memory of the martyrs, about whom Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Aylon said, « that most of the people that were hit in Gaza deserved it as they were just armed terrorists “.

His statement was in a complete contrast with the facts and figures provided by the Palestinian Center of Human Rights stating that up to the 2Oth of November, 91 of the 136 Palestinians killed were civilians (including 28 children) and 922 of the 941 wounded were civilians (including 258 children).

In Memory of the “armed terrorists"
I would like to list some of the names of the martyrs who died during the recent events, provided by the Palestinian Blogger Shahd Abusalama. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet some of the “armed terrorists”:
Ahmad Al-Ja’bary, 52 years old; Rinan Arafat, 7 years old; Walid Al-Abalda, 2 years old; Hanin Tafesh, 10 months old; Gumana Salamah Abu Sufyan, 1 year old; Tasneem Zuheir Al-Nahhal, 13 years old; Eyad Abu Khusa, 18 months old; Nawal Abdelaal, 52 years old; Tahani Al-Dalou, 50 years old; Ameina Matar Al-Mzanner, 83 years old; Rama Al-Shandi, 1 year old; Suhaib Fo’ad Hjazi, 2 years old…

Rumor Has it!
Rumour has it that the bloody reaction undertaken by Israel was simply an attempt to restore the fear of the Arab Muslim world of it. That way Benjamin Netanyahu would gain more popularity among the Israeli voters by the time he makes it to the upcoming elections of January 2013. Nevertheless, as I have already said, they are just rumors, and I guess that the real reasons laying behind the actions committed by Israel will always be buried under  hills of lies and pretense.

Where does America stand in all of this?
Israelis have been playing a very important role in funding US campaigns and crafting US law making policy.  What does the US government do in return? It gives it 3 billion dollars in military aid on an annual basis, while the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 states that “…no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Does this mean that the US government is violating one of its Acts or does it mean that it doesn't consider Israel as a country who is engaged “ in a consistent pattern of gross violations…”?
I would rather leave this question unanswered.

And then, US President Barrack Obama said, as a response for the Israeli actions, that Israel had “every right to defend itself”. In this case, I would like to adopt Noam Chomsky’s words when he said “When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense."

Unity between Fatah and Hamas?
On the 22nd of November, leaders of Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions gathered to celebrate the end of the 8- day war on Gaza. This picture gave such hope, not only to the Palestinians but also to many Arabs and Muslims around the world, of a united Palestine.

The Sovereign State of Palestine:
According to the Reuters, the United Nations General Assembly announces that 138 countries voted for the Palestinian bid to recognize it as a Sovereign State, while 9 countries were against and 41 countries abstained. We congratulate the Palestinian people; however, is the Sovereign State of Palestine just Gaza and the West Bank? Or did we just forget the Palestinian borders on the original map? Should Palestinians take the new status or leave it and ask for more? I would leave those questions unanswered too.
Written by:  Nada Mrabet

Monday, January 14, 2013

On The Second Anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution

I am X.
I require many features
That restrict me
From many other Xs, and Ys.

I require a [+HUMAN] feature;
I am a human being.

I require a [+ FEMALE] feature;
I am a woman.

I require a [+ TUNISIAN] feature;
I am Tunisian.

I require a [+MULTIDIALECT] feature; 
I say "yahbeni".
I say "ha guelly".
I say " yahchouchoo".
I say "yahchoumy". 

I require a [+MULTILINGUAL] feature;
I say "Oh my God".
I say "Oh mon Dieu".

I require a [+FREEDOM] feature;
I need to be free. 
In case of violation;
In case I end up with a [-FREEDOM] feature;
I require a [+REVOLUTION] feature.
I revolt.
I revolutionize. 
And I get back my [+FREEDOM] feature. 

I require a [+PRIDE] feature;
The adjective "proud" is attached to me
Just like bound morphemes need 
To be attached to other morphemes. 

I am X.
I am a human being. 
I am a woman.
I am "multidialectal". 
I am multilingual. 
I am free. 
I revolt. 
And most of all,
I am proud to be X! 

Written by: Nada Mrabet

Retrieved from:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sociolinguistics in relation to TEFL

Master’s Program- Applied Linguistics
Academic Year: 2012- 2013
Course Title: Sociolinguistics
Instructor: Dr. Mohamed Jabeur
Student: Nada Mrabet

How can sociolinguistics be useful in the teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL)?

Retrieved from:

          Many researches have been conducted in the field of learning strategies and teaching methodologies for the aim of finding the most suitable outfit for the classroom of foreign learners of the English language. Ever since the Grammar- Translation Method, pedagogical approaches to language teaching have been expanding and evolving. This escalating evolvement gave birth to up- to- date methods and approaches like the Task- based Approach, the Lexical Approach, and the Neuro-linguistic Programming and Multintelligencia.  However, the most notable approach, that created a sort of revolutionary reform to Second Language Acquisition (SLA), is the Communicative Language Teaching Approach (CLT). The latter introduced communicative competence as a crucial component of the ultimate aim of learning a language which is language proficiency. The main contribution to this reform was thanks to some major works in Sociolinguistics of some of the pioneers of linguistics like John Gumperz, Dell Hymes and William Labov. The purpose of this paper is to examine (1) how is sociolinguistics incorporated into the teaching methods of English, and (2) at what levels?

         Linguistically, sociolinguistics came into existence due to a plain dissatisfaction with structural linguistics from a communicative point of view. As a matter of fact, Chomsky’s theory of competence was refuted by Hymes (1972) who held that Chomsky’s theory is ‘sterile’ as it mainly focuses on the mere knowledge of the grammar rules of a language with no much consideration to the actual knowledge of the usage of a language. He stated that “Communicative competence encompasses the knowledge of how to use the language in the real world, without which the rules of grammar would be useless” ( 1971). Historically, sociolinguistics contributed largely in the birth of the CLT Approach as a response to the Audio- lingual Method. The latter applied the principles of structural linguistics along with the fundamentals of behaviorism to language teaching, and turned a blind eye to sociolinguistic competence. There are, indeed, other methods that paid a more or less attention to sociolinguistic demands in the course of teaching such as Eclecticism and the Task- based approach. Yet, the lion’s share remains with the CLT approach.
         The most important aspects of the communicative classroom are the roles of the teachers as well as of the learners. Breen and Candlin redefined the teacher roles within the CLT approach using the following words:
The teacher has two main roles: the first role is to facilitate the communication process between all participants and the various activities and texts. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning- teaching group. (1980)
Teachers must guide the learners throughout the lesson and leave the learning to the learners. They must give the learners enough time and space to communicate, exchange ideas, make an effort and make mistakes, learn from each other and from their own mistakes, etc. Teachers must be mistake- tolerant and never interfere when it’s the learners’ time to talk, unless the learners make errors that cannot be overlooked. Teachers must teach the learners how to communicate properly and how to use their language correctly in order to improve their performance. This would apply a wider and more active role to the teachers than the passive one given to them through former methods and approaches as they need to interact more with the learners. On this matter, Lier (1996) states that “teachers should be ‘a guide on the side’ rather than ‘a sage on the stage’”.
          In terms of classroom management, the teacher talking time (TTT) must be controlled. That is to say that teachers need to know when to talk and when to leave the talking to the learners, the amount and way of talking, and how useful or helpful would the intervention be to the learners. Teachers are allowed to ask questions; but, they must be carefull what types of questions could be asked as some of the latter may lead learners to frustration. Thus, they become no longer interested in the lesson. They also need to know how much time must be given to the learners between “asking a question and demanding a response”. This is something that can be acquired by experience. In terms of classroom settings, Wright (1987) illustrated a diagram that depicts the different ways in which desks might be arranged within the communicative classroom so that all learners would be active parts of the learning process. There are so many ways to establish that; but, the most noticeable one is grouping the learners in rounded tables.
         Another aspect should be borne in mind is the possibility of having EFLs with different characteristics gathered in a single classroom. Here, we mostly refer to multilingual and multicultural classrooms. However, Willing conducts many other variables that should be put into consideration by teachers when teaching and most importantly when designing the lessons plans, some of which are: ethnic groups, age group, level of previous education, speaking proficiency level, type of learning programme, and so on. All of these variables can introduce a large change on the curriculum design. According to the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, a curriculum is defined as the following:
an overall plan for a course or programme… Such a programme usually states; (a) the educational purpose of the programme, in terms of aims or goals and (b) the content of the programme and the sequence in which it will be taught (syllabus), (c) the teaching procedures and learning activities that will be employed (methodology), (d) the means used to assess student learning (assessment and testing), (e) the means used to assess whether the programme has achieved its goals (evaluation). »
Therefore, a curriculum is not only the course plan, as some might define it, but rather a sequence of steps that should be followed by the teacher to insure a successfully delivered lesson. It should encounter not only all the grammar rules, but also all the possible situations that all learners might come across in the real life (business trips, shopping, requesting information, etc). These latter can be enhanced through practice and exercises. The number and types of exercises and activities that can be done in the communicative classroom can be infinite especially those that involve discussion and negotiation, and allow all learners to participate and interact with each other.
         Lier (1996) recognizes three fundamental principles of a curriculum which are Awareness, Autonomy and Authenticity (AAA).  Not only did he make different principles of a curriculum, but also regarded them in terms of epistemology (i.e. “theory of knowledge with regard to methods, validity and scope”), and in terms of ethics and axiology (i.e. “the study of values and value judgments”). From an epistemic point of view, awareness is about focus, attention, and the role of perception; autonomy is about self- regulation, motivation, and depth of processing; authenticity is about real life language use, relevance, and communication. From an axiological point of view, awareness is about conscious engagement and reflection; autonomy is about responsibility, accountability, free choice, and democratic education; authenticity is about commitment to learning, integrity, and respect. Indeed, teachers need to be ‘democratic’ and share control as well as decisions with the learners. How? It is by taking into account the needs of the learners and designing a curriculum based on those needs. Consequently, the broad goal of the CLT approach is “needs analysis”. This is also one of the most noticeable reforms introduced to TEFL thanks to the recognition of the sociolinguistic competence as a major component of language learning.
         One crucial concept should be borne in mind when designing the curriculum is the stylistic variation and dialectal variation. As communication is used as the framework of the learning of English as a second language, the question that should always be put in mind is “Who says what, to whom, when, where and how?” The type of speech one delivers matters a lot. According to the former methods, learners must be taught the standard form of the target language especially the formal form,  with no consideration of the variations (i.e. different dialects) of that language once in for all. This makes these learners unable to socially interact and communicate using the target language, and going as far as to being unable of understanding native speakers. In this way, teachers fail to prepare the learners to what they could come across in real life situations as they are only able of producing sentences in the standard language and formally. Here, sociolinguistics interfered through the CLT approach to emphasize the importance of authenticity of the materials used by the teachers, so that learners would become aware of the fact that a language is beyond its standard and formal forms. The sociolinguistic reform of the language teaching methods is the reason why most students of today are capable of understanding a variety of styles and dialects of the English language due to the huge attention they pay to authentic sources (movies, radio, TV shows) when compared to the generation of the methods of a structural nature. Now, students can know when to use the vernacular forms of a language (for informal social interaction) and when to use the hyper- literate forms (for formal and academic uses).
         The evolving of the roles of the teachers will immediately cause the evolving of the roles of the learners from mere passive learners to actual active learners. Breen and Candlin redefine the learner’s role within the CLT approach in the following words:
The role of the learner as negotiator- between the self, the learning process, and the object of learning- emerges from and interacts with the role of joint negotiator within the group and within the classroom procedures and activities which the group undertakes.
Hence, the approach to foreign language teaching became learner- centered as the teachers must give special attention to the needs of the learners not only when interacting within the classroom, but also when selecting the content of the curriculum. Also, teachers must prepare the learners to apply the four language skills to communicate language use outside the classrooms, i.e. in authentic situations: listening (radio, television, media in general), reading (news papers, fiction), writing (in one’s journal or diary), and speaking (pronunciation and talking to native speakers during social events). In fact, learners must find ways to converse with native English speakers, find opportunities to practice their English outside the classrooms, and keep themselves motivated by listening to songs and watching movies in the English language every once in a while. All of these tricks and tips would help the learners to become competent speakers not only in the classrooms, but also in the real world.

          The incorporation of the sociolinguistic norms in English learning classes is not restricted to the CLT approach. On the contrary, ever since these norms have been introduced to the field of learning strategies and teaching methodologies, the sociolinguistic competence have been put into account in all the after-coming methods and approaches. Now it can no longer be ignored seeing the huge impact it had left behind at all different levels: teacher role, classroom management, curriculum design, accountability for stylistic variations, and the importance of the four language skills. Indeed, language is not merely structural (i.e. about grammar rules), but it also has a social dimension which is recognized as the sociolinguistic component. The latter has participated largely into the development of  better procedures, skills and strategies of teaching and learning of the post- communicative methods. 

McLaren, N. y Madrid, D. 2004. The Foreign Language Curriculum. Madrid: Editorial Universidad de Granada, pp. 144-176.
Nunan, D. 1989. Designing Tasks For the Communicative Classroom. Cambridge University Press.
Nunan, D. 1991. Language Teaching Methodology. London: Prentice Hall International.
Richards, J. and Rodgers, T. 1986. Approaches and Methods in language Teaching. CUP Cambridge.
Richards, J and Schmidt, R. 2002. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Malysia: Longman.
Van Lier, L. 1996. Interaction in the Language Curriculum. London: Longman.
Van Lier, L. 1988. The Classroom and the language Learner. London: Longman.

Multilingualism: resource or problem?

Master’s Program- Applied Linguistics
Academic Year: 2012- 2013
Course Title: Sociolinguistics
Instructor: Dr. Mohamed Jabeur
Student: Nada Mrabet

Is multilingualism/ bilingualism a resource or a problem?

Retrieved from:

There are so many countries which concede themselves as monolingual countries rather than multilingual or bilingual ones. That is when many scholars came to perceive such thought as a mere misinterpretation of the fact that the constitutions of those countries recognize only one official language. However, monolingualism is only the tip of the iceberg. When we look beyond the surface, we will find a great deal of diversity. In this paper, we will deal with multilingualism and bilingualism as one concept which is defined, according to the Longman dictionary, as the use of two (bilingualism) or more (multilingualism) « languages by an individual or by a group of speakers such as the inhabitants of a particular region or a nation ». Multilingualism is an interesting phenomenon in present day societies which can be studied from different perspectives. The purpose of this paper is to examine multilingualism as a resource and a problem at both the individual and societal levels, and to find a way to address this problem.

Multilingualism is a resource
At the individual level, it refers « to the speaker’s competence to use two or more languages ». In fact, learning more than one language shows a great deal of benefits for individuals who are part to whatever society. A multilingual person is capable of developing creative thinking and building up greater cognitive flexibility.  This person would have “a stereoscopic vision of the world from two or more perspectives, enabling them to be more flexible in their thinking… Multilinguals, therefore, are not restricted to a single world- view, but also have a better understanding that other outlooks are possible”(Cook, 2001). Being multilingual can also offer better professional life and opportunities especially when having to cooperate with business partners or colleagues speaking different languages, or going on business trips abroad. It can even make them better communicators, and help them interact more easily with people especially if they are living in a multiethnic community or family.
At the societal level, multilingualism refers to “the use of two or more languages in a speech community”. Being Multilingual is no longer “a marker of high status” (Edwards, 1994) to a certain group of people referred to as the Elite, but rather “a contribution to a more dynamic society” (Fasold, 1984) as a whole. Many countries came to prove Fasold right. The most striking example would be the United States of America, with an average of 322 spoken languages, probably because it is built on a multi- migration system. Another probable reason is that the Founding Fathers declared no official language in the American constitution as declaring one would narrow the rights of individuals with limited English competence or no English at all. Indeed, the secret of power, progress and prosperity of America lies in its diversity in terms of both language and ethnicity.

Multilingualism is a problem
Learning many languages may lead to the shift or death of the individual’s mother tongue. “Language shift generally refers to the process by which one language displaces another in the linguistic repertoire of a community” (Holmes, 1993). Whereas, “language death has occurred when a language is no longer spoken naturally anywhere in the world” (Holmes, 1993). One thing should be borne in mind, however, is that language shift can sometimes lead to language death or language loss precisely for languages that are spoken by minorities. At the individual level, Holmes took the example of a 20 years old Annie who is a young speaker of Dyirbal (an Australian Aboriginal language). She uses this language only with older people in her community, including her grandmother. And at school, she uses the English language. Due to different circumstances, she became less competent in her native language. Annie is indeed experiencing language loss, which can lead to less interaction with the speech community she lives in and a possible miscommunication with the community’s elders.
At the societal level, an example of language death would be if Dutch was no longer spoken in the three- member states of the Dutch Language Union (Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname). Another problem that has a disadvantageous impact on society is the unsolved nationist- nationalist conflict. A nationality describes “socio-cultural units that have developed beyond primarily local- self concepts, concerns and integrative bonds” (Fishman, 1972; cited in Fasold, 89). That is why nationalism is considered to be built on the concept of denying diversity. This denial could be the seeds that would lead to dictatorship especially when trying to impose one language on all individuals of a particular social unit. However, a nation is “any political- territorial unit which is largely or increasingly under the control of a particular nationality” (Fishman, 1972). The problem for nationalists is developing “a sense of nation” in multilingual states as it would immediately bring up the question of selecting the national language. Likewise, the problem for nationists is choosing the colonial language as the official language. Such a choice would not satisfy nationalists as they will not accept to have the language of the colonizing state.

Ways to Address the Problems of Multilingualism
One of the suggested ways of addressing the problems of multilingualism is mainly finding a solution for the nationist- nationalist conflict. In this case, both colonial (nationsim) and national (nationalism) languages should be recognized as official government languages. That way, neither the majority nor the minorities will be denied their freedom of choice and no language will be imposed on them. This will get multilingual governments out of dictatorship’s way. However, why does multilingualism succeed in some countries and does not in others? The key to a successful multilingualism is democracy. As we may see in the The Economist Intelligence Unit’s: quality-of-life index of the year of 2005, multilingual countries whose citizens enjoy the highest levels of political and civil liberties are those who are listed on the top of the Worldwide quality- of- index, such as Ireland, Italy, Singapore, and the United States. Therefore, a good management of multilingualism will definitely lead multilingual countries to prosperity and well- being of its peoples. Another suggestion is made for nationalists which is to find other ways to develop nationalism other than language. Add to that the fact that they have to give up to the idea that “multilingualism is the rule not the exception” (Genesse and Cenoz, 1998).

When studying the benefits and disadvantages of multilingualism, an important distinction must be made between individual multilingualism and societal multilingualism. It is because a society which is multilingual does not imply that all the individuals living in it are multiglots. And the fact that one individual is a multiglot does not imply that the society he lives in is multilingual. Either way, multilingualism can be regarded as a problem as it is found in the crossfire between nationalism and nationism; two contrasting concepts. But this conflict can be solved, temporarily at least, if we would regard multilingualism as a resource, and use democracy as a system for the aim of becoming not only successful multilingual governments, but also economically prosperous countries. %

Cenoz, J. and Genese, F. (1998). Beyond Bilingualism: Multilingualism and Multilingual Education. Retrieved from:
Crystal, D. (2OOO). Language Death.Cambridge University Press.
Fasold, R. 1984. The Sociolinguistics of Society. Oxford: Blackwell Hudson.
Holmes, J. (1993). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Longman. Susana C. Schultz. The Official Language of the United States and its Impact on the Translation Industry. Retrieved from:
Michal B. Paradowski. (2010). The Benefits of Multilingualism. Retrieved from:
Richards, J and Schmidt, R. (2002). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Malysia: Longman.
The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2005). Quality-of-life index. Retrieved from:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

أنانية أنا

قالت له:

 أنانية أنا..
أنانية أنا في حبي لك 
أنانية أنا في لوعتي بك 
أنانية أنا في غيرتي القاتلة عليك
أنانية أنا في اهتمامي الزائد بك
أنانية أنا في اشتياقي الدائم لك
و تباً كم أعشقك حين تعزف
أجمل ألحان الحب على أوتار قلبي
متغزلاً  بي و بأنانيتي...


بأنانية أنا متيم بها 
بأنانية أنا مغرم بها 
بأجمل نساء الدنيا و أكثرهن أنانية 
هي تريدني لها لوحدها
وأنا لن أكون إلا لها 
هكذا هي بأنوثتها، بسحرها و انانيتها
و تباً كم اعشقها حين تهمس أجمل كلمات الحب
متغزلتاً بي و بألحان حبي لها 
فهل انا حقا اجيد العزف؟