Beef and Lamb, Chicken and H** Censorship and Vocabulary Teaching in Arabia

Introduction

Most English teachers working in the countries of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) will probably at some point in their careers have heard the word haram (forbidden under Islam) from their students while dealing with certain topics in the classroom. The continued use of ‘mainstream’ English language course books, such as Cutting Edge, Headway and Interchange, especially in higher education in the region, means that teachers and students will encounter lexis relating to issues that could be considered ‘unsuitable,’ ‘un-Islamic’ or ‘against the local culture and traditions.’ This could range from the simple inclusion of words such as ‘beer’ or ‘ham’ in a basic food and drink lesson to the mention of ‘dating,’ ‘kissing’ or ‘cuddling’ in a unit on dating and romance. How each individual teacher deals with such issues will depend on many factors: their rapport with their students, the guidelines set by the management of the institution where they are teaching, the political and cultural situation in the country where they are working, their own previous teaching experience or their own beliefs about the purpose of English teaching and the role of culture. However, what cannot be denied is that for those who get this wrong in the classroom, the ramifications can be very serious indeed.

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