The effectiveness of the dissemination of knowledge partially depends on the educator’s awareness of his students’ learning capabilities. Islamically, the importance of adjusting one’s teaching style to complement students’ abilities is appreciated in how the Prophet (pbuh) had done so with whomever he communicated with.
The multi-cultural society we live in naturally diversifies the student body, resulting in the challenge educators may face of successfully teaching native and non-native speakers (NNS) of the language of instruction simultaneously.
Students may be studying in their first, second or even third languages, and language acquisition studies have shown that each category of students is unique in the way they interact with information presented to them in the given language. This means that students have varying methods of processing the information and do so with varying speeds, which could result in NNS struggling to follow their classes.
The following are some tips that could enable educators to increase the inclusivity of their students:
1. Communicate using formal language.
NNS rely on the grammatical and linguistic rules they have studied to comprehend text and speech. They may thus find it difficult to understand if colloquial dialects are used given that the latter may not follow such rules.
2. Speak slowly, loudly and enunciate words clearly.
Word recognition requires more time and effort for NNS. Thus, speaking in such a manner would enable them to match the sounds they hear to what they have learnt of phonetics, and in turn identify the words being used more easily.
If the language of instruction is Arabic, it may be beneficial to enunciate the correct ending vowels of words to further strengthen students’ grasp of the language, regardless of their nativity.
3. Be visible when speaking.
NNS rely significantly on both sight and hearing to understand speech. When they cannot recognize the letters of the words used by listening, they turn to reading the speaker’s lips to help identify what is being said. Turning on teachers’ cameras during distance-learning could therefore be helpful.
4. Organise the points in your speech clearly.
This could be done using numbers, transition words and other terms that indicate the type of information being discussed, like “definition”, “ruling” etc. This would allow NNS to recognize the flow of ideas, and should they not understand certain points, they could use these indicators to ask questions more easily.
5. Use visual aids that highlight key terminologies and ideas to enable word recognition.
6. Use textual course material and enable access to it early.
Certain teaching methods like those involving the verbal dictation of course content may not be suitable for NNS as listening and writing may be very challenging for them. Hence, it could be more effective if textbooks or notes were used to ensure they do not miss out on content.
Early accessibility to material would enable NNS to find the meanings of unfamiliar words prior to classes, enabling them to follow better.
7. Ask direct, short-answer questions to increase participation and give time to formulate answers, as speaking can be challenging and intimidating for NNS.
8. Encourage and empathize.
The experience can be exhausting and demoralizing for NNS. It could take years for them to master the language if they are not immersed in it outside of the classroom. Therefore, a little more encouragement may be needed to motivate them to pull through.