A Critical Review of Multilingual and Multidialectal Approaches to Heritage and L2 Arabic Instruction


  • Farah Ali DePauw University


Arabic language instruction, Arabic as a second language, multilingualism, multidialectalism


While Arabic instruction has traditionally focused heavily - and often exclusively - on the acquisition of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) (Ryding, 2006), scholars and practitioners have become increasingly critical of instructional approaches that ignore colloquial dialects of Arabic, and have therefore proposed an integrated approach to Arabic instruction (Younes, 1990). Such an approach interrogates and prompts a reflection on different notions and practices related to multilingualism, and how these practices may be relevant for heritage language (HL) and second language (L2) learners. This article thus offers a comprehensive and critical review of research on multilingual/-dialectal approaches to Arabic instruction. Focusing primarily on HL/L2 instruction in the United States, this review is premised by a brief history of research and practices in HL and L2 Arabic instruction. I then discuss multilingualism and multidialectalism as it pertains to Arabic instruction, as well as how these notions provide a lens for reevaluating ideas about diglossia, monolingual ideologies, and exclusive MSA instruction. This also involves an examination of specific multilingual practices in the language classroom, including code-switching and translanguaging. I conclude with a discussion of the implications that current research has for classroom practices, as well as a note about areas of investigation that merit further attention.

Author Biography

Farah Ali, DePauw University

Farah Ali is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies at DePauw University. Her fields of research include sociolinguistics as well as second and heritage language acquisition. Focusing primarily on Spanish, Catalan, and Arabic, her research is grounded in using qualitative and sociolinguistic approaches to examine the relationship between language and identity.