The Impact of English as a Second Language on Saudi Women's Roles and Identities




Alsweel, Reema Abdulaziz

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In Saudi Arabia, women's basic values and beliefs are changing in ways that affect their social, economic, psychological, gendered, and religious behaviors. These changes can be seen in the acceptance of many Saudi women of new roles and their participation in new fields, including education, work, government, and media. The purpose of this dissertation is to seek an understanding to these changes by looking at these women's perspectives on their roles, both within and outside the Saudi Arabian society, and the multiple identities that they create. This study also pays a particular focus to English as a second language as a tool in facilitating these changes. A qualitative study is employed using semi-structured, open-ended interviews with sixteen Saudi women attending English language programs in the United States. The emergent findings surround the themes of the importance of the English language as a tool which aids in changing these women's social capital, creating multiple identities, and empowering them. Yet, it is clear that these changes have to come from the Saudi women themselves through a balancing of the modern and traditional roles and expanding, but not crossing, borders. Thus, these women were empowered through an understanding and balancing of their history, religion, tradition, and multiple cultures they come into contact with.



Multicultural education, Culture, English as a Second Language (ESL), Identity, Saudi women