Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Bridging the Gap: A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Study on Motivating Middle Eastern Students

Sandra Stein, American University of Kuwait (Kuwait)


Learning is complex and embedded in culture. This is particularly evident in language learning. When students are required to study in both a foreign language and a foreign education system, this creates obstacles to learning that often lead to low motivation. Although there are multiple factors that make it difficult to motivate such students, I will focus on the cross-cultural factors that arise when Middle Eastern students learn in English. Our job as educators is to help those students create a bridge between their own high context, polychronic time (P-time) cultures of the Middle East and the low context, monochronic time (M-time) culture of the English system in which they are studying. To create such a bridge, we are asking students to change the way they process and apply information. Additionally, Arabic students need to move from the memorization method predominant in many of the Middle Eastern education systems to the higher-level critical thinking required in most modern Western education systems. This paper will look at how John P. Kotter’s Eight Steps of Change and Edward T. Hall’s theory on low- and high-context cultures can be used to bridge this gap. With this research as a foundation and almost thirty years of experience as an educator in Kuwait, this paper will aim to improve student motivation for learning and subject comprehension by providing practical strategies teachers can use to help students bridge the gap between the local and foreign education systems and cultures.

Keywords: Cross-cultural, linguistics, motivation, Arabic-English.

[1] Hall, Edward Twitchell, and Mildred Reed. Hall. Understanding Cultural Differences: Intercultural Press, 2014.
[2] “Intercultural Communication: High and Low Context Cultures.” Southeastern University, Southeastern University, 16 May 2017,
[3] “Kotter's 8 Phases of Change.” Holistika 7, change/.
[4] Mind Tools Content Team. “Kotter's 8-Step Change Model Implementing Change Powerfully and Successfully.” Groupthink - Decision Making Skills Training from, Mind Tools,

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