Why do Arabic students make errors in English?
The Case of Invisible Vowels explains how Arabic speakers read English words and tend to rely too heavily on consonants.
Learning a bit about a learner’s language can go a long way in understanding why errors are being made and how they can be corrected. Teachers who have taught Arabic students how to write in English may see what’s going on here.
Most Common English Errors for Arabic Speaking People
Based on the article by Gregg Miller
The Arabic writing system has little in common with English.
Arabic and English are two very different languages, and this can cause a host of problems for native Arabic speakers trying to learn English. There are few cognates or shared vocabulary, and the writing systems not only use different alphabets, but are written and read in opposite directions. Furthermore, Arabic is a consonant-heavy language where vowels are often omitted in the written form, and this makes Arabic students frequently exchange or reassign vowels in English words.
Like Spanish, the Arabic language places the adjective after the noun it describes. This leads to common oral and written mistakes, such as “The cat white” or “The house small.”
Including diphthongs, English has 22 vowel sounds compared to the eight found in Arabic. To the untrained ear, many of these sound similar, and native Arabic speakers often misunderstand or misuse vowels. Since Arabic speakers new to English cannot discern these subtle differences, “bet” can become “bat” or “ball” may be heard as “bell.”
There is no stress on parts of speech in Arabic. All words are spoken in a regular manner with no emphasis. This rarely leads to misunderstandings when learning English but can cause many pronunciation problems. Without the proper stress on individual syllables, every word sounds monotone and contrived.
Arabic is written right to left and frequently omits vowels, depending on consonant patterns and context, to transfer meaning. Punctuation rules are fairly lax compared to English, and there are no upper or lower cases in Arabic. Many Arabic students try to transfer these language behaviors to their English writing. These factors can lead to a great deal of difficulty for native Arabic speakers learning to read and write English.