Dubai, UAE: A Dubai university graduate has won first prize for her impressive thesis, which focuses on education in the Arab World.
Amira Husein Traish, a former student at the British University in Dubai, beat more than 40 participants to bag the Anwar Al-Nouri prize which acknowledges PhD graduates’ pursuit of further advancing their knowledge.
It took Traish 18 months to complete her findings on the effectiveness of using a first language (L1) when teaching a second language (L2), but the long hours and 55,000 word count paid off, as she bagged $35,000, but more importantly, exposure.
“The fact that my paper was recognised and publicised on the website and has now been sent out to other universities in the Middle East is an honour for me,” the Palestinian native told Khaleej Times.
Traish is the first awardee to win from a Dubai-based university. The full thesis, titled: “A Comparative Analysis of Proficiency Scores of University Students in the United Arab Emirates: The Effectiveness of Using a First Language When Teaching a Second Language in a Reading Class”, may have impressed the judges. But the fact that such a subject was chosen as the winner is what impressed Traish. “I was honoured that they chose a subject focused on language… Usually, it doesn’t get the limelight it deserves,” she said.
After growing up in the US, Traish said she moved to the UAE more than 10 years ago so her son could grasp a better understanding of the Arabic language. But on arriving, she found it was just the opposite. “I noticed that many university students had a weak grasp of L2, despite learning the language for 12 years in school.”
Noticing that the curriculum for languages wasn’t strong in some schools, she browsed over hordes of literature and realised many teachers were using L1 to teach L2 in class. “So the consensus was that using L1 to teach L2 is what was impeding the learning process. But after running the numbers and doing the research, I found out it didn’t hinder the process at all,” Traish said.
It was the approach which was the real hindrance. “Many teachers just look to pass exams but we need to move away from that and banish the stigma that using L1 to teach L2 is wrong. My research shows it’s not. We just need to look at implementing a better approach.” Going forward, Traish, now the Foundation Coordinator for the English Language Centre at the University of Sharjah, will continue to collaborate on papers which focus on better language learning. The Anwar Al-Nouri Prize rewards the best PhD thesis every two years.
© Khaleej TimesJan 2017