Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 11. Number3  September 2020                                       Pp.117-126

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Lessons from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah for Today’s Foreign Language Teacher

Richard J. Stockton
School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences & Health
Durham University, UK




The Muqaddimah, a massive 14th century text by Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, while primarily a history, in the later chapters deals with linguistics and pedagogy. Multiple publications on what his work contributes to the field of education exist. But surprisingly, only two papers have appeared specific to teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL): one decades old, the other primarily arguing an early case for communicative language teaching (CLT) is presented. Ibn Khaldun lived in a kind of global world, an Islamic one: cosmopolitan, and having its own international language. Analogies with today’s globalism and English are obvious. This article therefore reviews the total Muqaddimah, comparing its content to dominant ideas and figures in contemporary English language teaching (ELT), and showing it is still relevant to ELT. Congruences include Ibn Khaldun’s constructivist-like conception of identity and realization of second language learner (L2) identity’s role and formation process. Also, what would today be called Whorfianism, leading to concluding a language should be taught together with its discourses—but English is no longer viewed as just Anglo-American or native-speaker—Ibn Khaldun’s case is saved by reimagining English as global and cosmopolitan, which TESOL exactly has. It will also be shown that not CLT, but rather study abroad or immersion education is being portrayed. The importance of affect, a case made for both learner and teacher autonomy, together with other issues, all current in TESOL today, make Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah a rediscovered source of inspiration for the milieu of modern ELT.
Keywords: communicative language teaching, Ibn Khaldun, immersion, Muqaddimah, TESOL

Cite as:  Stockton, R.J. (2020). Lessons from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah for Today’s Foreign Language Teacher. Arab World English Journal11 (3) 117-126.


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Richard J. Stockton is an English language teacher and doctoral student. His earlier publications
concern languaculture issues and narratology. Hailing from the snowy Canadian prairies, he has
taught EAL learners in various settings in Asia. His professional interests include young learners,
traditionalist education, and intersections of TESOL with philosophy.