Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Vol.6 No.1. March 2015                                        Pp.50-67

Abstract PDF

Full Paper PDF

Embedding Grammar while Developing Communicative Competence in English:  Relevant Cultural Contexts and Teaching Approaches

Joseph George Mallia
 British Council, Sudan
Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Malta



This article examines Arab-heritage learners’ preferences on how grammar is taught in English classes with a communicative competence focus, serving as a basis for developing principled teaching practices and teacher-training.  Data was collected via a questionnaire from 336 adult learners that attend a private teaching facility using primarily Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) methods. In the study, learners were pooled into lower-level, or higher-level groups depending on their Common European Framework (CEF) language level. Data was collected on learners’ preferred teaching/learning strategy choices  including (i) deductive or inductive approaches, (ii) embedding grammar in local or ‘international’ cultural contexts, (iii) use of tasks and exercises or activities, and (iv) immediate or delayed teacher intervention. Results indicate Arab learners’ overall preference of grammar instruction practices based on deductive approaches, conditional to teaching practices being embedded in meaningful contexts. Lower-level learners prefer local cultural contexts, while higher-level learners prefer Western/international ones. Very few Arab-heritage learners prefer methods based on guided inductive approaches using tasks and exercises with periodic teacher-intervention, and almost none chose the deep-end CLT inductive approach. Conversely, shallow-end inductive approaches, with contextualized tasks, activities and delayed teacher intervention are almost as popular as contextualized deductive approaches. This study indicates the importance of meaningful cultural contexts for embedding grammar instruction, reappraising contemporary deductive methods, and the balanced use of shallow-end CLT and inductive approach. These results should therefore help teachers and teacher-trainers realign popular Western beliefs about English teaching and teacher-training when operating in Arab-heritage communities.
Keywords: Arab heritage learners, communicative competence focus, cultural contextualization, embedding grammar, inductive and deductive approaches, teacher-training.

Cite as: Mallia, J. G.  (2015). Embedding Grammar while Developing Communicative Competence in English:  Relevant Cultural Contexts and Teaching Approaches. Arab World English Journal, 8 (1).


Joseph Mallia has a PhD in English with a focus on the differences in English learning
strategies’ that reflect the influence of socio-cultural variance in language learning and teaching,
particularly in the Arab World. Reflecting this, he has carried out teacher and trainer training in
the MENA region and beyond. His current interests also include teaching English for academic
and specific purposes, and experimenting with the teaching of grammar within writing systems.