LINGUIST List 26.5529

Mon Dec 14 2015

Review: Applied Ling; Socioling: Younes (2014)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 09-Aug-2015
From: Mahmoud Azaz <>
Subject: The Integrated Approach to Arabic Instruction
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Munther Younes
TITLE: The Integrated Approach to Arabic Instruction
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2014

REVIEWER: Mahmoud Azaz, University of Arizona

Reviews Editor: Sara Couture


In “The Integrated Approach to Arabic Instruction”, Younes offers his groundbreaking approach to Arabic instruction that he has been developing since 1990. He argues that the Integrated Approach (IA) is the most effective, logical, and economical method of instruction that best teaches the complexities of the Arabic sociolinguistic and diglossic situation (Ferguson, 1959) in Arabic classrooms. Before he offers the rationale and features of the IA to teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (AFL), Younes concisely overviews the current Arabic sociolinguistic situation and the debates around it, as well as the changing needs and goals of AFL learners. Younes concludes by discussing and responding to the objections to his proposed approach. The book, being pedagogical in nature, is intended for teachers of Arabic as well as those researching AFL pedagogical theory. The book consists of an introduction that presents the structure of the book, five chapters, and a conclusion.

Chapter I, entitled “The Arabic Sociolinguistic Situation”, offers a general overview of the complexities of Arabic diglossic situation, which attracted a number of controversies and arguments. Special focus is given to Ferguson’s (1959) seminal diglossia paper (1959), which established a dichotomy between two varieties of Arabic: the High variety (Standard or Fuṣḥā) and the Low variety (dialect or ʕāmiyya). The chapter overviews six areas that Ferguson outlined to discuss those two varieties: function, prestige, literary heritage, acquisition, standardization, grammar, and stability. Also, Younes surveys two types of models – multi-layered or three-level – that challenged Ferguson’s dichotomy. The three multi-layered models surveyed are (i) Blanc’s (1960) five-level model (plain colloquial, koineized colloquial, semi-literary, modified classical, and standards classical); (ii) Badwa’s (1973) five-level model (Fuṣḥā of the heritage, contemporary Fuṣḥā, ʕāmiyya of the cultured/educated, vernacular of the enlightened, and vernacular of the illiterate); and (iii) Meiseles’ (1980) four-level model (literary Arabic, substandard Arabic, educated spoken Arabic, and plain vernacular). The five three-level models overviewed are Cadora (1965), Bishai (1966), Haddad (1985), Ibrahim (1986), and Ryding (1991). The author argues the latter group shares the same premise: in between the High variety and the Low variety exists a middle variety that shares features of both. The remainder of this chapter summarizes other aspects of the Arabic language situation that include inter-dialectal intelligibility, and the differences between Arabic and the German diglossic setting; unlike Standard German, Standard Arabic is not spoken.

Chapter II, entitled “Changing Student Goals”, provides a historical development of the changing needs of studying AFL. It has three main parts: Part I surveys the early days of learning Arabic, starting with the sixteenth century when the main motive for the study of Arabic was to learn about the wisdom of the Arabs and to read about classic Arabic works written about astronomy and mathematics. In the US, the early beginnings for learning Arabic in the seventeenth century were at Harvard, Dartmouth and Andover, and Princeton. These beginnings were motivated by an interest in Semitic languages and the Bible. With World War II, the need for funding programs for the study of Arabic was based on the need for Fuṣḥā and ʕāmiyya in US missions and aid organizations in the region. Part II surveys the contributions of a series of books for teaching Arabic, called the “Orange Books” by Abboud (1971), which focused on teaching Modern Standard Arabic. In 1983, the leading Arabic summer school at Middlebury College introduced MSA as the only variety of Arabic, and it was the mode of instruction in all four skills. Part III overviews how the needs of Arabic learners changed with the emergence of the proficiency movement that focused on real communication. A number of survey studies (e.g., Belnap, 2006; Shiri, 2013), showed a significant change toward learning the ʕāmiyya varieties as used by native speakers in oral communication.

Chapter III, entitled “Responding to the Needs of the Modern AFL Learner”, discusses the reasons for privileging Fuṣḥā in current pedagogical practices and its consequences. The dominating pattern is introducingFuṣḥā in the classroom first and the ʕāmiyya later. The chapter overviews the claims that the call for studying ʕāmiyya was part of a colonial conspiracy theory that aimed at marginalizing Fuṣḥā, which has always been viewed as the unifying variety between the Arab countries. This pattern is still influential in current Arabic pedagogy for a number of reasons. First, there is only one Fuṣḥā, but many ʕāmiyya varieties, which makes it hard to choose which ʕāmiyya variety to teach. Second, Fuṣḥā is still the language of education and writing. Last, whereas Fuṣḥā is relatively stable, the ʕāmiyya varieties are constantly changing. Younes argues that this pedagogical pattern does not prepare learners to speak to Arabs or travel to the Arab world and concludes that there is a missing component in their Arabic proficiency.

Chapter IV, entitled “Integration”, provides the rationale and the key features of Younes’s proposed pedagogical approach. It proposes integration as an alternative to the dominant approach of teaching only Fuṣḥā. Stating Al-Batal’s pioneering call (1992) for presenting Fuṣḥā and ʕāmiyya side by side as two components of one integrated linguistic system, Younes claims that the IA is the only model that reflects the way Arabic is used in real-life situations by native speakers. In this approach, whereas Fuṣḥā is used mostly for reading and writing, ʕāmiyya is used for conversation and for discussing the instructional material. Younes goes on to provide a historical background of this approach, which has been implemented at Cornell University since 1990, and how it drove a three-volume textbook series, ‘Arabiyyat al-Naas’ (or ‘People’s Arabic’). In the second part of this chapter, the implementation of the IA with a detailed example is addressed. Its basic foundations rest upon teaching real proficiency in the selected variety, Educated Levantine Spoken Arabic (ELSA), right from the beginning in its proper contexts. Reading and writing are consistently presented in Fuṣḥā, whereas speaking and listening take place in ʕāmiyya. The pedagogical sequence starts with the presentation of the familiar, concrete, and informal topics in ELSA. As topics develop to be more abstract, Fuṣḥā with its case and mood system starts to have a more prominent role in the curriculum. The chapter concludes with the following rationale why both should be taught in one class instead of two: (i) the shared linguistic features between Fuṣḥā and ʕāmiyya in terms of vocabulary and grammatical structures outweigh the differences; (ii) they are an indivisible unit; and (iii) since both are used simultaneously and equally, the IA allows for the reinforcement and consolidation of both, especially the ʕāmiyya varieties.

Chapter V, entitled “Objections to Integration”, discusses two main concerns about the integration of Fuṣḥā with ʕāmiyya in the same course. The first is the selection of which ʕāmiyya variety/ies to teach, and the second is the confusion that learners may experience. According to Younes, the solution to the first concern is to teach a standard ʕāmiyya variety that helps learners to function in the Arabic speaking regions. In his proposed integrated program, Younes has selected the ELSA because, being a major variety in the Levantine area, it has been a popular choice for AFL learners. When mastered, it enables Arabic learners to function and communicate properly in many areas in the Levant and the Arab world. Further, for Younes there is no problem for a teacher to teach a dialect that is not his/her own, especially at the high levels of Arabic when the differences between both varieties diminish. With regard to the confusion argument, Younes thinks that the carefully selected materials in the IA minimize this confusion. Further, they help learners develop a sense of the appropriate use of each variety at early stages of language development.

In the conclusion, Younes calls for changing the deeply entrenched attitude of the privileged Fuṣḥā and the stigmatized ʕāmiyya in Arabic pedagogy. Recent work (e.g., Abdallah & Al-Batal, 2011; Shiri, 2013) has recognized the increasing importance of the ʕāmiyya varieties to cope with the expectations of a new generation of AFL learners who are able to travel to the Arab world and interact with native speakers. Changing this attitude will set Arabic on par with the most commonly taught languages.


The two-fold purpose of this book was to present the author’s rationale and concise description of the IA to teaching Arabic as a foreign language. The first goal was evidenced by a discussion of the complicated Arabic sociolinguistic situation in Chapter I in which Fuṣḥā and the ʕāmiyya varieties were presented as two poles of a complementary linguistic system. It was also evidenced by the changing needs of learners of Arabic as shown in Chapter II, especially after the emergence of the proficiency-based movement. As demonstrated in Chapter III, the IA was argued to be the most adequate approach that best responds to these needs. The second goal of the book was achieved by offering a concise description of how to implement the IA in Chapter IV, and by responding to the objections to it in Chapter V. In accomplishing these two goals, the book represents an early attempt to bridge the gap between sociolinguistics and Arabic pedagogy. Thus, it fits very well into a growing body of literature that provides strong rationale for a new trend of how to teach the ʕāmiyya varieties with Fuṣḥā as two complementary sides of a single linguistic system of Arabic.

Two issues remain that need to be further addressed in future work on the IA: the core of this mode of integration, as outlined by Younes, is to present Fuṣḥā and the ʕāmiyya variety in the same classroom session. One concern in this regard is that Arabic learners may inappropriately code-mix the ʕāmiyya varieties with Fuṣḥā. An alternative mode of integration may handle this dichotomy differently; both Fuṣḥā and the ʕāmiyya varieties are introduced within the same classroom session, but distinctly. In other words, instead of presenting the Fuṣḥā components in reading and writing, and the ʕāmiyya components in listening and speaking, the functions of the ʕāmiyya varieties are taught in concurrent modules that consolidate the use of Arabic for real communication. Further listening and speaking activities consolidate these ʕāmiyya varieties and the Fuṣḥā components are consolidated in the four skills. Although these two modes of integration adopt different pedagogical procedures, they have the same end: to teach Fuṣḥā and the ʕāmiyya varieties as two complementary sides of real proficiency in Arabic. Future work needs to empirically test the effect of each mode of integration on the development of (in)appropriate patterns of code-mixing. Also, further pedagogical techniques need to carefully activate learner awareness of the appropriate co-existence patterns of the ʕāmiyya varieties and Fuṣḥā. The second issue relates to the use of educated spoken Arabic as a standard variety for the ʕāmiyya functions. Since some of the service encounters in real life communication may not be conducted in educated spoken ʕāmiyya varieties, but rather in plain dialects, a need may arise to integrate the plain dialect to some degree.

The book opens up potential future research that needs to test the effectiveness of the IA empirically. It raises a number of interesting, yet urgent questions for those researching Arabic second language acquisition (SLA) theory as well as those researching effective Arabic pedagogy. Specifically, data-driven research needs to be conducted to track the patterns of co-existence of these two varieties and their concurrent development in learner interlanguage. Special focus needs to be given to how L2 learners of Arabic restructure the relationships between these two varieties over time. Second, further research studies need to examine the patterns of interference (lexical, semantic, phonological, and syntactic), and how they develop from one proficiency level to another. More importantly, since it is very possible that learners of Arabic may sequentially move from one dialect to another, the trajectory of this shift needs to be systematically examined, especially between the three main ʕāmiyya varieties in the field: Egyptian, Levantine, and North African.

Not only is the book an interesting read for teachers of Arabic as a foreign language who look for an adequate and effective method for presenting the complex Arabic sociolinguistic situation in Arabic classrooms, but it is also very beneficial to those working in the development of Arabic SLA theory. The ideas examined in this concise book provide teachers of Arabic with further opportunities to reflect on their current pedagogical practices, and to better present the Arabic sociolinguistic situation in an effective way. Finally, sections of this book may be appropriate for an overview course on Arabic sociolinguistics and for an opening section in a graduate seminar on Arabic diglossia. In addition, other sections are appropriate for a course on methods of teaching Arabic as a foreign language from a proficiency-based perspective.


Abboud, P. (1971). State of the art IX: Arabic language instruction. Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, 5 (2), 1-23.

Abdallah, M. & Al-Batal, M. (2011-2012). College-level teachers of Arabic in the United States: A survey of their professional and institutional profiles and attitudes. Al-‘Arabiyya, 44/45, 1-28.

Al-Batal, M. (1992). Diglossia and proficiency: The need for an alternative approach to teaching. In A. Rouchdy (Ed.), The Arabic language in America. Detroit (pp. 284-304). Wayne State University Press.

Badawi, E. (1973). Mustawayāt al-ʿArabiyya al-Muʿāṣira fī Miṣr. Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif.

Belnap, K. (2006). A profile of students of Arabic in US universities. In K. M. Wahba, Z. A. Taha, & L. England (Eds.), Handbook for Arabic language teaching professionals in the 21st century (pp. 96-78). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bishai, W. (1966). Modern Inter-Arabic. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 86(3), 319-23.

Blanc, H. (1960). Stylistic variation in spoken Arabic: A sample inter-dialectal educated conversation. In C. Ferguson (Ed.), Contributions to Arabic linguistics. Harvard Middle Eastern Monograph, No.3 (pp. 79-161). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cadora,F.(1965). The teaching of spoken and written Arabic. Language Learning, 15, (3/4), 133-6.

Ferguson, C. (1959). Diglossia. Word, 15, 325-40.

Haddad, S. (1985). Tadrī al-maharāt al-shafawiyya: mawqif jadīd. Al-‘Arabiyya, 18(1/2), 15-21.

Ibrahim, M.(1986). Standard and prestige language: A problem in Arabic linguistics. Anthropological Linguistics, 28 (1), 115-26.

Meiseles, G. (1980). Educated spoken Arabic and the Arabic language continuum. Archivum Linguisticum, 11 (2), 118-48.

Ryding, K. (1991). Proficiency despite diglossia: A new approach to Arabic. The Modern Language Journal, 75 (2), 212-18.

Shiri, S. (2013). Learners' attitudes toward regional dialects and destination preferences in study abroad. Foreign language annals, 46(4), 565-587.


Mahmoud Azaz is Assistant Professor of Arabic Language, Linguistics, and Second Language Acquisition & Teaching at the University of Arizona. His research interests include linguistic approaches to second language acquisition of Arabic, Arabic linguistics, Arabic sociolinguistics, and Arabic pedagogy. His current work focuses on effects of the integrated approach to teaching Arabic from a linguistic perspective, and on the emergence of structural complexity, fluency, and accuracy in L2 Arabic.

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