Perspectives Of Iraqi Muslim Women Studying English English Language Essay

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The disadvantages faced by migrant Muslim women in Australia in trying to acquire proficiency in English may result from their diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds as well as the ethnic, religious and cultural barriers based on gender discrimination. Due to their religious and cultural beliefs the needs of the Muslim women are different from other NESB (non English speaking background) communities in Australia. Not being able to access their English language entitlements isolates these women and limits them from participating in the general Australian community.

Muslims from Asia first migrated to Australia from the 1860s as divers from Malay and as Afghan cameleers to work for the European settlers (Saeed 2004). In those days it was difficult for non European immigrants to migrate to Australia because of the White Australian policy. There was an influx of displaced Turkish immigrants after World War II. More than 10,000 Turkish Muslims immigrated to Australia and settled in areas around Melbourne and Sydney between 1967 and 1971 after the two countries had a bilateral agreement. Immigration to Australia became easier from the 1970's (Saeed 2004) as the government abandoned the policy of assimilating immigrants through adopting Australian culture and way of life for a more liberal policy that encouraged multiculturalism in Australia.

Need for Immigrants to be Bilingual in Order to Communicate Better

For migrant non native speakers of English, bilingualism may be matter of importance to them as their mother tongue is usually reserved for the domestic and social domains while English speaking skills are acquired for use in the public domain. For Muslims, the issue of bilingualism is much more complex as language for them is not only tied to culture and tradition but also has strong links with religion and religious practices. These religious practices impact both the domestic as also the public realm. For Muslims who do not speak Arabic as mother tongue, the language of religion is different from that of the private space where the mother tongue may be retained. This is further complicated by the impact Islam with its strict doctrines on the roles of men and women in domestic and social life has on the public and private domains.

1-1-Teaching English as a Global Language:

English has long become the lingua franca for most countries. As English grows in importance as a global language, so does the dependence of people on it from across the world. This is perhaps because the language of science is English and most of the scientific development has been recorded using English as the medium of interactive communication. The inter-dependence of nations in the world is growing as businesses and multi-national corporations across the globe develop and grow. That is the reason why English will perhaps remain the most active and dynamic language for global communication.

Approaches to Teaching English to Non-native Speakers

The main approaches to teaching English depends on the orientation of the learners and can be divided into two categories: interpretive and integrative (Lambert & Gardner 1991). The interpretive approach is adopted by most learners who treat English as a foreign language and use it as a lingua franca. Integrative orientation on the other hand, is followed by English speakers who adopted the language following institutionalizing the use of English post colonization. The use of English language is more common in such cases. Interpretive approach is taken by people who use English for functional purposes. Since, such people's prospects of being integrated or of becoming a part of the community depends on their English speaking proficiency, it is usually marked by a greater level of personal interest (Crookes and Schmidt 1991) in acquiring English as a language of communication and business. There is a distinction as to how English as a language is viewed in a particular community depending on the orientation of the people. In communities where English is used as a foreign language, follows the interpretive approach and in communities where it is adopted as a second language follows the integrative approach.

Adopting English as Lingua Franca

This ubiquitous presence of English in almost all streams of life and human activities may be attributed to the colonization of most parts of the world, by the Europeans. England had colonized vast areas in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia during the eighteenth and nineteenth century and that is why English predominates as the language of communication in most of these areas. English is used as a language that is used functionally for communication between persons who do not share a common mother tongue. In fact two people with totally different mother tongues using a third language to communicate systematically will be said to use the third language as lingua franca. English has been used as lingua franca in Europe, Asia and in the Latin American countries for many years and as it helps to bridge socio-cultural communication gaps, it can also be termed as a bridge language.

Researchers in linguistics and applied linguistics and policy makers in Australia are engaged in doing research more on English spoken by non-native speakers who use it as communicative language (ESL) rather than on English linguistics of the native English speakers. The NSEB migrant population in Australia is encouraged to learn English to enable them to participate in the community and be able to seek employment. The demand for English as a language for communication has made it even more useful as more and more non native speaking people are migrating to Australia seeking education and employment. Likewise, the migrant Muslim women in Australia need to use English as official language to be able to participate at a social level and keep abreast of world developments in the larger Australian community.

The question of teacher identity is important especially in the TESOL context because the perception of the students and administrators vary significantly. Generally students of ESL do not have negative perception of teachers being non-native speakers while that of the administrators of ESL is negative to ambivalent depending on the culture of the place. All tests of language competence test the performance and not the knowledge of the teacher. The debate over the competence of a monolingual native speaking English teacher and of a bilingual non-native English speaking teacher is still very open. What, however, needs to be emphasized is that a language teacher must be competent in concepts as well as forms of the target language to be able to be a competent and useful resource in the classroom.

Teaching English in the ESL context has its own set of challenges. Motivating students to learn English and take up EAP (English for Academic Purposes) seriously is perhaps the most challenging aspect of teaching ESL to non native speakers. Academic bodies must include English contents in oral communication, research paper writing, report writing, technical writing and letter writing to encourage students to use ESL as a functional language. ESL should be integrated into academic, science and management courses like administrative communication or research methods that are taught by the specialist subject lecturers. Teaching ESL in AMES can be made effective and motivating for adults and students to further their academic and professional careers by implementing some of the findings of research scholars and professors in TESOL contexts.

Why it is Important for Muslims in Australia to Learn English

It is important for immigrant Muslims to learn English because English is the native language of the people and the land where they have chosen to settle down. Not knowing the local language can marginalize and isolate entire communities from making the process of integration smooth and seamless. The three main languages spoken by Australian Muslims are Arabic, Turkish and English. There is a huge difference in the cultural orientation between the natives and the immigrants as they follow different religions, speak different languages, and have different traditions and customs. However, since language plays an important role in imparting education, which in turn helps in shaping future generations, it is important for Muslims to be proficient in English.

Challenges Faced by Immigrant Muslim Minorities

One of the major challenges for Muslims living in Australia is to adjust their traditional Islamic practices to modern western contexts. The problems faced by Muslim minorities in Australia is very similar to those faced by Muslim minorities in any country of the world or for that matter any immigrant may face similar issues in Australia. Though most immigrant Muslims are proficient and have adapted well to their surrounding there are sections of the Muslim community that feels that they must establish Islamic law and Islamic state wherever they go. However, we must keep in mind that Muslim minorities in Australia have more freedom to practice their religion and are given more protection that in some Muslim majority states. As faithful and devout Muslims, they must ensure that they implement the tenets of Islam and maintain their cultural identity in their individual lives. Major adjustments have to be made in areas that include food, banking, clothing and prayers. For a devout Muslim woman wearing the niqab or the burqa is important just as it important for a Muslim to have financial dealings with organizations like banks, etc that does not charge interest on loans or mortgages.

Identity is Created and Not Given: Muslim Identity in Australia

The way the Muslim identity is created depends largely on the political setup of a place (Hopkins 2002). Muslim identity is created also in ways the Muslim community chooses to employ Islamic concepts and implements them in the social context of the community in which they desire to be integrated. Nature of identity is dynamic and keeps changing depending on the stage of adaptation.

Status of Muslims in Australia

1-2-Why learning English language matters to Muslim immigrants in Australia: Muslims migrate to Australia from 1970 onwards due to the policy of multiculturalism adopted by the Australian Government. The major reason for Muslims from all over the world, particularly from Asia and the Middle East migrate to Australia is their desire for safety and political asylum. In many cases, particularly those of Muslim women, their migration to Australia is often forced or brought on by forced immigration. In case of Iraqi Muslim women, many of them migrated to Australia with their husbands, leaving their extended families behind in order to gain security and stability, in financial, political and social contexts. Muslim men who work with the Australian army in Iraq are considered to be espionage agents and unpatriotic in Iraq and are often treated with suspicion. As Muslim men are considered to be the guardians of their wives the women also leave the country to migrate with their husbands to Australia seeking protection, freedom and a better life.


Wallace E. Lambert & Robert C. Gardner, (1991). Attitudes and Motivation in Second Lnaguage Learning. In: Allan G. Reynolds, (ed). Bilinguilism, Multiculturalism and Second Language Learning, Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., pp43-45.

Professor Abdullah Saeed (2004). Muslim Australians. Melbourne: National Capital Printing. [Accessed 30 August 2010]. Available from:

Vered Kahani-Hopkins & Nick Hopkins (March 2002). Representing British Muslims: the strategic dimension to identity construction. Ethnic and Racial Studies [online]. 25 No.2, [Accessed 29 August 2010 ], p.288-309. Available from: <>.