Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 12. Number3   September 2021                                         Pp. 411- 431

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Mastering Prepositions in English: Explicit versus Implicit Instruction

Rafe S. Zaabalawi
Department of Literature and Linguistics
College of Arts and Sciences
Gulf University for Science and Technology


Received: 4/28/2021                           Accepted:  9/16/2021             Published:  9/26/2021


Prepositions form a hurdle for several EFL learners, Arabs in particular. One major catalyst is that the preposition systems in English and Arabic rarely correspond to one another. Most scholars who researched this area concentrated on the problem itself, rather than finding a successful remedy that can empower these students to masterfully handle such a thorny area. This study is novel inasmuch as it concerns itself with finding means of facilitating this language area for Arab learners. It reveals the effectiveness of using translation to teach English prepositions to these learners. The research question of this study is: do students who have received explicit tuition and adequate practice on the use of English prepositions in translated texts naturally perform better using such grammatical items in subsequently translated texts than those who have not been instructed on such exemplars in similar language contexts? Sixty students at the Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait participated in the field experiment. The study paradigm had a pre-test/post-test protocol. While the pre-test included four fill-in-the-gap exercises, the post-test contained three Arabic passages which participants were required to translate into English. The findings showed that teaching prepositions explicitly in translated texts is a viable technique for EFL learners’ mastery of such grammatical items. This has implications for EFL specialists and syllabus designers.
Keywords: Experimental and control groups, explicit tuition, language transfer, prepositions, translation

Cite as:  Zaabalawi, R.S. (2021). Mastering Prepositions in English: Explicit versus Implicit Instruction  .
Arab World English Journal, 12 (3) 411- 431.



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Received: 4/28/2021 
Accepted: 9/16/2021
Published: 9/26/2021 

Dr. Rafe Zaabalawi earned his PhD in applied linguistics from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom in 1992. As a Fulbright scholar, he conducted post-doctoral research in the United States at Georgetown University in 1999. His area of interest is vocabulary and collocation teaching. Currently, he lectures on translation and vocabulary learning strategies at several universities in the Arabian Gulf region. ORCID ID: