Reading Literature in English: Challenges Facing Omani College Students

| January 29, 2012
Reading Literature in English: Challenges Facing Omani College Students

Keywords: Reading process, literature, Omani students, challenges

Rahma Ibrahim Al-Mahrooqi
Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

Bio Data
Dr. Rahma I. Al-Mahrooqi is from the Sultanate of Oman. She has a BA in English Education, an MA in English Curriculum and Teaching Methods from Sultan Qaboos University. She earned a Ph. D in English and Communications Education from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, in 2003. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at the English Department of the College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). Her research interests focus on English Language teaching, reading, literature, sociolinguistic issues, communication, intercultural and cross-cultural communication, the influence of culture on reading and communication.

Reading is a complex process. It involves interaction between reader and text characteristics, which work on each other to form meaning. Given such diverse factors as linguistic ability, cultural knowledge, attitude and motivation, reading in a second or foreign language is markedly more challenging than L1 reading. For learners in a society known for its orality and lack of a reading culture, reading in a foreign language might be a truly formidable task. Research has shown how Arab students struggle with reading (Cobb & Horst, 2001; O Sullivan, 2010; Shannon, 2003; Mustafa, 2002; Al-Mahrooqi & Asante, 2010; Mourtaga, 2006), problems being encountered with both bottom-up and top-down processes. Hence, these students are not only slow readers due to lack of automaticity; they are also inefficient and unskilled in terms of comprehension. While much research is devoted to reading per se, little is available on reading literature and the challenges Arab students face when doing this. Hence the importance of this study which, by using a semi-structured interview, investigates the issue within the context of an Omani higher education institution. The findings reveal that students perceive vocabulary as the major problem, followed by writing style, sentence structure, genre and textual characteristics. Based on the findings, the paper offers recommendations for classroom practice and further research.

Category: Monthly Editions, Volume 57