On the road with Gary in… Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Essential skills for EAP; or, ‘No problems, only solutions.’

I was travelling in the Gulf in mid October, doing talks first in Saudi Arabia and then in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two of the seven United Arab Emirates. I’ve been to the Kingdom a few times before and so am somewhat used to the rules there of having the ladies separated from the gentlemen in a different room or space, but usually connected via a one-way video link so they could see me and my PowerPoint slides and a two-way audio link so they could hear what I was saying and as well ask questions and give comments.

In both countries I was giving workshops on Essential Skills for EAP: Reading and Writing. And reading and writing are of course necessary basic skills for all learners studying English for Academic Purposes—but especially for those students whose native first language does not use a Roman script and who come from a more oral-aural cultural tradition.

The start of my tour in Riyadh (followed by Jeddah and Dammam) was on the day after what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday and I used something he once said to focus the workshops: ‘No problems, only solutions’. So we first discussed the participants’ problems—or better, ‘challenges’ of teaching especially their lower-level EAP students and then we looked at possible solutions offered in Read This! and Writers at Work, two Cambridge ELT series which aim to serve as stepping stones to put even low-level learners on the right track for higher level study and academic activities including preparing for and taking the IELTS or TOEFL tests—and, of course, getting them ready for real life and their future careers in which English is still the International Language of research, business and the internet.

For reading, I think of my two kids who are working and studying en français in France. But my son who is a sports journalist needs to read in English for his job: accounts of Premier League British football as well as news about the NBA and other North American sports. And my daughter is studying child psychology at university where she and her fellow students have to read lots of article and even textbooks in English.

For writing, we looked at the solution offered by the Writers at Work series which builds from Sentence to Paragraph in the lowest level to The Short Composition and The Essay in higher levels and teaches the process of writing—or ‘process writing’ if you prefer— involving pre-writing activities (getting down some ideas through brainstorming, free-writing, mind-mapping, outlining, whatever!) and then revising and editing various drafts—i.e., re-writing—until the final ‘product’ is ready.

If you have EAP students, you might want to look at those series as well as the range of other Cambridge ELT materials for English for Academic Purposes, including—for both reading and writing—the Cambridge School Dictionary for lower levels and for upper levels the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary.

P.S. After the heat in the Gulf (constantly in the 30°s C) I went the following week to much colder Austria and something that came up there will probably be the subject of my next blog…

Gary Anderson, Cambridge ELT International Teacher Trainer

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