My Saudi students remind me of people I have taught in the United States. There is no typical Saudi college student. You will find the more serious English student and the the inevitable class clown. As one would expect, there are many cultural differences. For instance, classes consist of all male or all female students. My students have already graduated from a two-year technical college program, in various disciplines; most thus fall in an age range of 22 to 24 years old.
I faced numerous difficulties at the beginning of the first term. Teachers were given little information on the teaching conditions we would soon be facing in the classroom, but classes went pretty well. Considering how ill-prepared we all were and the general lack of a support system, most teachers felt that we had done a good job. Perhaps due to the lack of support, teachers are required to hold advanced TESOL certification. All my co-workers have completed a reputable TESOL course and had vast teaching experience.
Some of my students informed me that they have taken English classes for at least five years. However, our “North American” ESL course is the first to offer an English only learning environment, without the use of Arabic as a “crutch.” My students also reported that English is now being taught to much younger children in Saudi Arabia. Some students feel that their generation faces a disadvantage, considering that they are just now becoming bilingual. For this reason, I’m happy I completed the TESOL course with OnTESOL, which taught me to create professional lesson plans using the Communicative Approach. In my last article, I will tell you more about teaching English using communicative methods and avoiding the textbook with professional lesson plans.