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Early in primary education stages, kids report to school as from six to seven years of age. In their first year in school, kids are taught alphabets as well as single beginning numbers. As time goes by, and as kids proceed to the second grade and further, the nature of learning becomes more complex. Knowledge at certain age is well imparted, however in others, and under some circumstances, learning is confronted with various challenges. The majority of the pupils in primary education stages score highly till about the 6th grade, after which their performance goes down due to a harder curriculum. These learners' performance is also influenced by incidences of having unqualified teachers or not competent enough to present new ideas (Alosaimi 2007). These teachers do not successfully get their students to have a better comprehension for the subjects such as English language.
In tertiary school, students begin learn English language as a subject. English language is a new and second language to about 50% of Saudi Arabian student nationals (Meziani 1984). This additionally makes it difficult for non-competed teachers to do much with students who are unaware of the English language. There is no much difference expected when it comes to adult school year 10 to 12; as much as the English language remains a second language to these adult students, and while they are equally taught with not-so-competent teachers, similar problems experienced at lower levels in primary school education are recurrent. Even when assuming that teachers are very competent to handle English language in Saudi Arabia, there are still problems associated with teaching the English language (Turjoman, M. 1984). More precisely, there are problems confronted in teaching the Present Perfect Tense in Saudi Arabian Adult schools.
This paper digs into the problems linked to teaching the Present Perfect Tense in Saudi Arabian Adult schools to students studying English as foreign language and suggests solutions to the identified problems. The paper also dwells on problems encountered by English language learners in Saudi Arabian adult schools and most of the challenges that these students usually deal with when learning Present Perfect Tenses, including pronunciation, grammar, syntaxes and prepositions. The paper also analyzes the various reasons why students in Saudi Arabian Adult schools encounter so many hurdles when learning and understanding English language present perfect tenses. This paper finally gives some solutions and recommendations on how to get over these difficulties and challenges.
"Language is nothing but a habit that the child comes to learn by imitation. In their account of language acquisition, the child is exposed to linguistic data which he/she internalizes and then reproduces at a later stage. Language is thus learned from outside, we learn it in the same way that we learn other habits. Learning a language is not very much different from the laboratory mouse learning to expect to be fed each time someone rings a bell," (Kebbe 1995, p. 14). In studies on Saudi students, it was disclosed that most English learners blundered in their writing skills making most of their English teachers to complain of deteriorating mastery in learning English language. In yet another study, Zughoul (1984) affirmed those conclusions.
Verbs and tenses are very vital in English language since no sentence can be complete without either. Scott and Tucker (1974) and several other scholars revealed that the English verb and tense brings about great stress for aboriginal-Arabic talkers learning English. These scholars attributed the learners' stress to the normal connection between English tense and verb patterns with their temporal references. The inherent talkers of any language, such as Arabic, have a regular inclination of associating tenses with their time references. The state of affairs with Present Perfect Tense is likely to be poorer because the tense, as its correct marker specifies, is changed when it stops to point to its master temporal value. A tense formally recognized as a past tense, for instance, is switched to be used in a linguistic setting which demands a present perfect tense. It is not unusual in English as a foreign language a past verb form to be used to indicate a present or a future time, or a present perfect tense form to define a past time (Scott and Tucker 1974). For instance, the English simple past tense is expressed to talk about a present illusory condition: If I had enough money, I would purchase a house now.
By hypothetical contrastive study between the regular written English and Arabic forms, it was found out that the potential positive and negative impacts the Arabic language would pose on learning English shifted tenses by indigenous-Arabic speakers, irrespective of their degree of language know-how and age. In this study, Al-Qadi (2002) discovered that English tenses principally change in three cases namely; Conditionals, Expressions with wish, and Reported speech. The potential impacts of Arabic on learning English present perfect tense in the three cases were essayed with the adult indigenous-Arabic talkers learning English as a Foreign Language Al-Qadi (2002). Therefore, this is also is a manifestation that there exists a problem with learning as well as teaching English as a Foreign Language. The problem according to Al-Qadi's study can be attributed to the influence of Arabic on the English language.
Command of English tense-aspect forms by students learning English is a major target of EFL learning which EFL teachers constantly encourage their learners to achieve. The motivation behind the writing of this paper is based on questions such as, "What are the most and least accessible English tense-aspect forms for students in Saudi Arabian Adult schools learning EFL?"; "What are the most accessible English tense and aspect for EFL Arabic speakers?"; "What types of errors do EFL Arab learners usually make when dealing with English tense-aspect forms?"; "Are these errors related to their unfamiliarity with English tenses, or are they related to their insufficient mastery of English aspects"?
In answering the above questions, numerous studies have been curried on Saudi students learning English as a second language. Part of the findings established that Saudi English language learners find the present progressive the most accessible English tense-aspect form. Again, the past perfect progressive was found to be the least accessible English tense-aspect form. Additionally, the present tense was found to be more accessible as compared to the past and the future tenses among Saudi English language learners. The Saudi English learners appear to get the progressive aspect the most conversant English aspect, while the perfect progressive is the least accessible English aspect (Meziani 1984). Researchers have also disclosed that the Saudi English learners' errors were not random, but systematic. The count of errors attributed to unacquaintedness with English aspects outdoes the count of errors associated with inadequate mastery of English language tenses (Kharma 1983). From that, it can be concluded that English aspects give more problems to Saudi Arabian adult students learning English language, especially the Present Perfect tense. And because it is problematic to students, it is equally problematic teaching them.
Grammar is a system of language, of how it is pieced together and how it operates. For the most part, grammar is the learning of wordings (Kharma 1983). To understand what this means, look at following:
Time flies like an arrow.
The above string of words means something; the meaning of those words is obtained through wording (the words and their specific order). On the other hand, the wording is realized the sound or letters. English grammar is mainly a system of composition that determines the sequence and patterns into which words are organized in sentences. This system operates mainly with the aid of grammatical or structural words, for instance, auxiliary verbs, tenses, conjunctions, determiners, prepositions, pronouns, etc.
The Present Perfect, "I hate eaten", is said when we are particularly referring to the present outcomes of past activity, when the manifest of past activity "lies before us". It has been found out that teachers have problems in teaching the present perfect tense in Saudi Arabian adult schools (refer to the appendix for sample Saudi English language content content). The following are among the encountered challenges and what causes them.
Problems in Teaching the Present Perfect Tense
It has been disclosed that mistakes committed by Saudi Arabian adult students' failure to properly use subject-verb arrangement rules are more usual than have to be expected. For instance, it has been found out that Saudi Arabian adult Arabic speakers mix the use of the present perfect tense with past simple tense by using past simple for the present perfect. Teaching the Present Perfect Tense in Saudi Arabian adult schools to students who already have a problem differentiating past simple from present perfect tenses is not easy (Al-Bouq 1987). However, English language in Saudi Arabia has more consideration as compared to other subjects due to its global demand. For instance, so as to acquire understandable knowledge from external resources such as the internet, English language would be the most appropriate medium to achieve that.
The fact that English in Saudi Arabia is foreign, making it uncommon among the students in adult schools, teachers find it burdensome to go to the extent of solely gathering English learning resources. This is specifically harder when there are many students and with diverse learning needs and levels (Alosaimi 2007). This problem could be aggravated even if English teachers were native. In this case, native English speaking teachers could find it hard to communicate to native Arabic speaking adult students, as well as students communicating with native English speaking teachers. Since most incidences would require teachers to instruct their Arabic students in adult schools in the Arabic language, it would be almost impossible for the foreign teachers to effectively teach their students the difference between past simple and present perfect tenses.
Problems in teaching the present perfect tense in Saudi Arabian adult schools can on the other hand be attributed to problems in ESL Staffing. While other countries' governments send out students on a regular basis to study in the US, United Kingdom Canada, and Australia, among many other countries, the Saudi's does not actively encourage it which results to local understaffing. That means; adult students learning the English language become more that the available English teachers can adequately handle. Due to that huge number of adult student learning English language, teachers are not able to assess every one's special need in relation to the present perfect tense. This case hence leaves many students confused and ignorant of the matter (El-Sayed 1982).
As stated earlier on this paper, Saudi adult students communicate in their native Arabic language at their homes and throughout their relations with their allies, peers, as well as classmates (Scott and Tucker 1974). Therefore, there are many chances of the students' English language speaking and writing being influenced by their native language. There are as well a few chances for the adult students to learn English through habitual interface. Teachers consequently encounter challenges of educating students to differentiate between the local Arabic dialect from the foreign English language before the effectively teach them the present perfect tense. Even when they are effectively taught, the adult students do not have apposite practice grounds to apply their knowledge of the present perfect tense for perfection.
More researchers have also been studying the problems associated with learning English language as a second language. Their general findings would also be applicable to the problems in teaching in the present perfect tense in Saudi Arabian adult schools. Researchers such as Suleiman (1983), and Ibrahim (1983) concluded that Saudi students' problems in learning English language are normally due to the following grounds:
Adult students have lack of adequate information in regard to the adult schools that they enrolled in;
Saudi Arabia has a deficiency of the English language curricula; meaning there is no harmonious content, arrangement and testing throughout national adult schools making it problematic for new teachers to determine whether their students have already learnt the present perfect tense, and to what extent if they have learnt.
The Saudi education sector generally has incompetent teaching (Alosaimi 2007) methodology-- this means, teachers do not necessarily have standard present perfect tense proved teaching tactics;
Problems associated with suitable language environments-students are not capable of fully practicing the learnt present perfect tense; and,
Deficiency of personal motivation by students to learn, i.e. the present perfect tense.
In order to curb the problems encountered in teaching the present perfect tense in Saudi Arabian Adult schools, teachers should consider a number of things. The following are the suggested solution to various detected problems:
English tutors in Saudi Arabia should start offering English lessons to students at early stages (JoG 2010). In Saudi Arabia, most English teaching begins at around the sixth grade and this might be a contributor to some of the problems. It would thus be much better if the English lessons started from the fourth grade or even the first grade. During this elementary stage, students may not be taught English from textbooks and the English lessons should be made more fun and practical as possible. This is the stage where the teacher should make his/ her students to love English as a language and subject. This approach ensures that by the time students get to the intermediate stage, the do not face huge difficulty which may split them. If students are not introduced to English early in the elementary level, they split at the intermediate level into two groups. One set of students may accept to deal with the 'new experience' and overcome it successfully while the other group may get a negative response for the new language and may end up not liking the English language.
Teachers should consider concentrating on the quality of the English lessons and not the number of the lessons. In Saudi Arabia, there has been one huge problem that has faced the country's English teaching, and this problem is the curricula. The curricula have too much for teachers to cover and also too much for students to learn. This results to teachers focusing more on covering the curricula in the allocated time without caring about the benefits that may be overlooked. Thus the curricula ought to more keen on the quality and achieving goals (JoG 2010).
The teachers should also consider performing evaluation not examinations. Since English is a language, it should be taught in a manner that fits its language nature. If English is taught more naturally, the results will surely be as natural too. When teachers in Saudi Arabia use examinations to measure the proficiency of students in learning the perfect tenses the results are not favorable. This is because students view exams as some hidden monsters and many may even cram just before the exams and thus get short term knowledge instead of acquiring the knowledge and language prowess steadily and for the long-term. Evaluation on the other hand, may not refer to passing the perfect tenses' topic simply, it refers to assessing the long-term attainment of the tenses' knowledge and thus passing or failing at the same time.
The teachers should ensure that the English classes are not overcrowded. The classes may hold not more than 20 students per room. The general number of students in each English class is critical to getting good or unfavorable outcomes. Because teaching English is the subject matter, the teachers ought to be able to attend to every student individually when need be and ensure that every student acquires the proficiency and aim of learning which may be hard in with a class with a big number of students (JoG 2010).
English teachers in Saudi Arabia should consider using visual aids in instructing the students. This is because the teachers have relied mostly on the theoretical side of teaching the language instead of practically doing it. By employing the use of audio visuals, a student acquires the language through imitation and practice which are practically more effective. In Saudi Arabia, many schools technological devices that assist learning English by making it more enjoyable and gratifying. The audio visual also helps the learners to see and hear exact language use in actual circumstances and they can also imitate the language better (JoG 2010).
In Saudi Arabia, some schools do not give English lessons a lot of importance, and thus allocate the lessons lesser hour than other subjects. In order to improve the general performance of the subject, schools ought to increase the number of hours allocated for an English lesson. English is increasingly becoming a key necessity for people in the working market, thus it should be given even more priorities in schools and the number of hours of learning increased so as to give better results. An approximation of six hours a week should be allocated to English. This will ensure that students learn a lot in the English language and it will surely save time and money that students use later in other English colleges after school (Alosaimi 2007).
English language learners in Saudi Arabian adult schools need to have continuity learning programs in order that they would be capable of retaining their learnt present perfect tense skills as well as additional English language knowledge and information. Students in Saudi Arabian adult schools need to be thoroughly self-guided. However, teachers also have to infuse in their minds the worth of independency; even when the national environment and educational system do not effectively enhance the English language learning process, teachers should be on the forefront to put the things right.
This paper has established that the problems in teaching the present perfect tense in Saudi Arabian adult schools are majorly attributed to the impact of the native Arabic language dialect and unsuitable environment for practicing. Therefore, the government and other educational stakeholders as well as well-wishers of English as a Foreign Language should join hand in making general English language learning a success. There could be other problems in teaching the present perfect tense in Saudi Arabian Adult schools that are not cited in this paper, but more should be done to help the Saudi EFL learners to achieve their lingual dream.