Ideologies of English language teaching and learning in Saudi Arabia
Globally, the English language is widely perceived as a fundamental ingredient in personal success and national economic prosperity. Saudi Arabia, a country whose economy is currently diversifying away from oil, is no exception. The trend towards English language learning (ELL) worldwide has led English language teaching (ELT) services to promote their products with marketing discourses that naturalise specific language ideologies about the English language. While the language ideologies inherent in the marketization of ELL have been explored elsewhere, they have not yet received sufficient attention in the context of Saudi Arabia. The present study aims to fill this gap in the literature.
This study investigates ideologies of ELT and ELL in online advertisements of private ELT institutes in Saudi Arabia. It also examines how these ideologies circulate among Saudi people through online commentaries. Critical discourse analysis and multimodal discourse analysis are used to analyse a corpus of 132 advertisements produced by ELT institutes and 54 audience comments on social media. The study finds, first, that English is conceptualised as a global language with benefits for employment, education, travel and achieving the Saudi Vision 2030. Second, ELL is represented as fun, empowering learners and as a gateway to pass English proficiency tests. Third, the ads reproduce native English speaker ideologies by presenting English as the language of the USA and of Britain only and by promoting English-only immersion strategies. Fourth, the institutes represent themselves as superior to public schools by advertising different types of ELT courses such as English for communication, English for business and English for beginners. The language ideologies found in the ads are largely mirrored in comments by the public. The most notable difference between ads and social media commentary is with regard to the discursive construction of ideal teachers. While the ads promote the idea that native-English-speaking teachers are best, this is not always true in social media commentary.
Overall, the study contributes to sociolinguistic knowledge about English in Saudi Arabia. It uncovers ideological meanings associated with promoting English which may help to increase realisation among ELT providers of their complicity in their manipulation of ELL. The study also provides insight into how these ideologies affect peoples’ understanding of English and ELL. The study has implications for applied linguistics research and language policy and suggests remedial changes that together can help in moving towards the Saudi Vision 2030 and improving the ELT in the country.