Dictation for Arabic speakers learning English

How dictation and conversation help Arabic speakers learn English

With the recent spread of English as a global language of communication and international, there’s a growing awareness of the difficulties Arabic speakers face when learning English. Dictation offers a very accessible learning tool for Arabic speakers who want to learn or improve their English.

Typically, it takes about 5 years of continued practice to become academically proficient in English. That amount of practice can be very hard to get when you’re surrounded by Arabic speakers and have limited access to English speakers.

However, there are a couple of ways that Arabic speakers can get daily practice without spending a huge amount of money. One way is to join the free conversation classes that we host at Ottawa English. Another way is to set yourself up with regular dictation exercises.

Of course, targeted grammar exercises, both online and in books, are a good way to learn grammar rules but, at the end of the day, all that knowledge you gain from those exercises needs to be put into practice. That’s where conversation classes and dictation become important tools because they put Arabic speakers in real situations where you have to use all that grammar.

Writing is complicated

Just think about all the knowledge you need to apply when you write a simple sentence in English. You have to remember:

  • To capitalize the first word and proper nouns.
  • How to spell your words, especially homophones and those that have different vowel combinations for the same sound. For example, the ‘a’ sound in eight, game, straight, they, and hail.
  • Whether the form of the word requires an ending
  • The rules for adding endings to regular and irregular words
  • To use apostrophes for contractions and possessives
  • When to use a comma, semicolon, and period
  • How to punctuate the type of sentence you’ve written.

That’s a lot to remember for just one sentence and, ultimately, you need to be able to write a series of sentences and string them together into paragraphs to say what you want to say. One of the great things about dictation for Arabic speakers is that you can concentrate on all these mechanics without worrying about delivering any kind of message.

What is Dictation?

Dictation is when you write down what an English speaker says – sometimes it’s a single sentence, sometimes it’s a paragraph, and sometimes it’s a short text. The most critical thing is that the sentence, or sentences, are well-structured.

How dictation practice can help Arabic speakers improve their English

Regular Dictation practice:

  • helps you distinguish between sounds and expose you to real speech patterns so that it becomes easier to understand conversations.
  • improves your spelling and pronunciation because you have to process individual sounds or sound combinations. This is often difficult for Arabic speakers because in your language, your sounds and letters correspond directly
  • helps you produce grammatically correct sentences
  • improves your vocabulary. The more you see or hear a word, the more likely that it will become part of your active vocabulary. The words in your active vocabulary are the words you can use easily.
  • develops your intonation and speech patterns. The more you hear and copy English speech patterns, the better your English will become
  • reinforces listening skills because each word becomes important, and critical details become more obvious
  • forces you to use your knowledge of the language to work out what was said. Often, English doesn’t always sound the way it looks. 
  • encourages you to think in English. Since you have to focus so hard on what you’re hearing, there’s no time to translate into Arabic to help you understand
  • Improves your self-correction and editing skills. Once you finish writing, you have to check that your sentences make sense.

Other ways your dictation practice may help

Dictation has several “real world” applications because several jobs and day-to-day activities require you to write down spoken English. These include things like taking phone messages or taking orders if you ever work as a waiter or waitress. They might also include taking notes at university or recording information you need to share with your superiors.