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Teacher Sees 'Big Push' to Promote English as a Foreign Language in UAE

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: meet an English teacher in the United Arab Emirates. She stopped by the VOA Special English booth at the recent TESOL convention, for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. It took place in Denver, Colorado.

AA: "Tell me your name and a little bit about yourself."

LEILA MOUHANNA: "My name's Leila Mouhanna. I'm a teacher at a foundations program at a university in the U.A.E, of Lebanese background, raised in Australia."

AA: "And what age do you teach?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "Nineteen-, twenty-year-old girls."

AA: "Tell me a little bit about English teaching in the Emirates right now, the state of English teaching."

LEILA MOUHANNA: "There's a big push by the government to promote English as a foreign language. So eighty percent of the U.A.E.'s population are foreigners, so there's a big push to get English just for communication purposes. Also, it's becoming -- it's a globalized country, they need it for economic reasons. So it's very important."

AA: "And what about the resources you have, Internet or educational materials, what do you find works? What do you personally have the most success with in teaching English?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "Possibly the best way is probably having an eclectic approach to the resources, the kinds of resources that you use with your students. I don't just focus on using one textbook. It's a variety of different materials from all over the place -- you know, YouTube or Internet resources, textbooks from a variety of places. So, yeah, pretty much everything."

AA: "You mentioned YouTube, the video-sharing Web site. How can English teachers use YouTube in the classroom?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "I've just used it just to build field knowledge about different topics that students need to write about. So, for example, they had to write an essay about nuclear power. So we'd look at different video footage of catastrophes that have happened all over the world using nuclear power and things like that. And that gets them to build their vocabulary, to build knowledge about the field, and then to transfer that knowledge and get them to write about it."

AA: "So it's interesting, you're using video -- it sounds like mostly for listening comprehension, although also for the material. But it occurs to me, you've got sites now obviously like YouTube, millions of videos available. I wonder if the fifth skill would now be visual comprehension. There's reading, writing, listening and speaking, and now, when you have video, does that add kind of a fifth dimension to teaching?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "Well, [there's] critical literacy, the visual literacy, but there's always the time constraints, so you can't really get into it. But I've never really had a big issue with it. My students really love television, really love using the Internet, so they're very technologically savvy."

AA: "And I'm assuming -- do some of your students use Twitter and Facebook and MySpace and sites like that?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "Yes, yes. But I don't venture into any of these Web sites. I think it's a bit iffy, I think it's a bit problematic."

AA: "Well, let's talk briefly about social media sites. I know a lot of teachers use those for English teaching. What do you see as the sort of pluses and minuses of using social media sites as a teaching resources?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "Well, I personally would steer clear away from it, because it can cause a lot of potential problems, especially coming from a very traditional society, working with females. So it could cause a lot of issues to arise that I wouldn't even contemplate initially."

AA: "But do your students, though, find it useful to them in their own learning?"

LEILA MOUHANNA: "I don't think they use it for learning. I think they use it as a social utility."

AA: Leila Mouhanna from the United Arab Emirates is one of the teachers we're introducing you to, from the recent TESOL convention in Denver, Colorado. Tell us what you think about using social networking sites as an English teaching resource. Your comments are welcome at

And you can now follow our weekly segments through Twitter, at, all one word. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. I'm Avi Arditti.