Experimenting with role-play in sub-Saharan students’ EFL classrooms

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Date
2013-02
Authors
Mallia, Joseph G.
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Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
UOFK
Abstract
A class of adult sub-Saharan refugee applicants working as interpreters with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) were exposed to a curriculum with traditional and communicative methods, including role-play as a technique. In EFL classrooms comprised of sub-Saharan students (including this one) a focus on forms approach is often adopted, often at the expense of the „communicative‟ approaches. By varying this, exploring these learners‟ use and acceptability of role-play was the main objective of this study. Drawing on Africans‟ tradition of verbally reciting and enacting events, rather than exclusively reading and writing them, this study experimented with the use of role-play and enactment with this class over a period of several months. Role play was found to give learners opportunities for vivid language practice, and experiencing the associated improvisations enabled them to flex their emotional, mental as well as physical muscles in a safe and controlled setting while learning English. As role-play is one of a whole gamut of communicative techniques, it helped learners develop fluency, class interaction, learner motivation and oral self-confidence. Role play also encouraged peer learning and the sharing of responsibility for learning between teacher and student. The topics chosen were related to students‟ personal experiences and interests, raising their intrinsic motivation for participating and learning.
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Keywords
role-play, Arab and sub-Saharan students, EFL experimental practice, communicative technique, intrinsic motivation
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