A survey by Taiz University students of EnglishDo Yemenis need English? [Archives:2007/1068/Education]

July 16 2007

Professor MNK Bose, Faculty
of Education, Taiz

Motivated by the survey of Dr Nadhim Saeed of Sana'a University in 2006, six of our Level 2 Students, five in a group and the other one alone met some Yemenis in Taiz recently (March 2007) with a question “Do you think English is important for Yemenis?'; the group met 50 people from different walks of life such as surgeons, lawyers, teachers, business persons, engineers, students and housewives and the other one met a few women who discontinued their studies. This, they did on their own prompted by the discussion in the Curriculum class about the needs of Yemenis for English and encouraged by Dr Modhish, Head of the Dept. of English. The group consisted of Sara Al Zageruri, Shefa Al Ozabi, Amani Al Odieni, Sahar Al Dobai and Sameera Al Odieni and the loner is Lina Abdullah. Miss Wafa, one of the Demonstrators in the Dept of English assisted them. Here are the results of their surveys:

34 out 50 have agreed that English is important for Yemenis and the others have said 'no'. Those who have disagreed have several reasons, some of them have cultural overtone and some others reflect 'personal' attitudes. Look at their objections:

– English is the language of our enemies and we don't need it

– We are villagers; why do we need English?

– I'm not going to travel outside Yemen and I don't need English

– Our mother tongue is the most beautiful language ; we don't need any other language

– English is a difficult language and we don't want it

– Ours is the language of the Holy Quran; we should learn it first

– We should be proud of our language; if foreigners want to communicate with us, let them learn our language

– While learning English Yemenis learn other things which make their life difficult

– Who says one needs English for going abroad? I went to India and came back just with my language

– If we give more importance to another language, we'll forget our language

– We don't need English a lot

– It's better Yemenis learn their language than any other language

One can see that all the observations, except a few based on very serious cultural fervour, are debatable and those that make them can be convinced about the need for English. For example, one who says that he went to India and came back just with his language, if probed further, would agree that he used (at least listened to and understood) English at times in India; similarly, the one who thinks that if we learn another language, we'll forget our language can be convinced with facts against his argument. The response 'foreigners who want to communicate with us should learn our language' is tenable, provided we don't visit their countries. The observation 'we should learn our language first' is unchallengeable and everyone should learn their language first before learning any other language.

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), I hear, has said that one who learns the language of others saves himself/herself from being deceived, thereby encouraging people to learn other languages. Moreover, languages being tools for communication, one who knows more than one language is better equipped in life, which one realizes in a multilingual situation.

Those who have felt the needs for English, including a housewife, argue as follows:

– Yemenis need English for a better future

– We need to learn English in order to know our enemies better

– English is needed for better jobs

– We can communicate with foreigners like our teachers better

– We can deal with international law better

– We can work with the computers and internet better

– English is important for my business; all the correspondences related to the import are in English

– We learn about other cultures through English

Most of what has been said by the respondents confirms the results of earlier surveys in 1988 and 2006 that Yemen is in need of English for a better future for its citizens.

Lina's subjects, being women who discontinued their education for some reason or are students of preparatory schools, are enthusiastic to learn English.

Such surveys, if undertaken periodically by students of English in the Faculties of Education, can make the English teacher educators aware of the reality of the situation regarding the status of English in this society and give the policy makers a fair idea of how they have to proceed further in their planning of English studies in this country.

The students who undertook the survey on their own (they don't get any marks for it) deserve a lot of appreciation.