Arabic and English in Contact: Effect of Mixing versus Separation Upon EFL Listening Comprehension

21 Pages Posted: 25 Dec 2013 Last revised: 2 Nov 2019

Date Written: April 1, 1995


The most commonly held view in the 1950s and 1960s was that the mother tongue was the prime or even the sole cause of a learner’s problems with the second or foreign language. This view was closely linked to the behaviorist learning theory which sees language learning as a process of habit formation and old habits as obstacles to learning new ones. Yet, in the 1970s a growing body of empirical studies showed that transfer from the mother tongue plays little or no role in second language acquisition and that errors made by second language learners are to a large extent common to learners with different mother tongues. As a result of these findings in addition to the theoretical attacks on the behaviorist learning theory, L1 interference fell into disfavor and the mother tongue is no longer a hindrance to second or foreign language learning. Although Arabic is extensively used in the teaching of English in Egypt, there is a conspicuous absence of investigations of how it can be effectively used in this process. This study, therefore, is an attempt to determine the effect of mixing English and Arabic versus using the two languages separately on EFL listening comprehension. The subjects for the study consisted of 153 2nd year pupils enrolled in four classes attending two preparatory schools in Ismailia governorate. In two classes the mixing approach, in which the teacher read out the listening text in small units translating each unit into the mother tongue, was used. In the other two classes the separation approach, in which the teacher used only Arabic at the beginning and English in the rest of each listening session, was used.

Data for the study were collected by means of a listening comprehension test, which was constructed by the researcher to be used as a pre- and post-test. Statistical analysis of the data using the t-test revealed a significant difference between the average mean scores of the two groups in favor of the group exposed to the separation approach (t=2.12, p<0.05). In conclusion, results were discussed and recommendations were made.

Keywords: Code Switching; Code Mixing; Listening Comprehension; English as a Foreign Language

Suggested Citation

El-Koumy, Abdel Salam, Arabic and English in Contact: Effect of Mixing versus Separation Upon EFL Listening Comprehension (April 1, 1995). Available at SSRN: or

Abdel Salam El-Koumy (Contact Author)

Suez University ( email )


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