(Not) the Saudi women you hear about : the developed identity of Saudi women in Australia

2017-03-02T02:03:04Z (GMT) by Alfurayh, Luluh Ibrahim
Studying abroad is considered to be an important factor behind the social changes happening in Saudi Arabia especially among Saudi women(Alhazmi, 2010). When abroad, some Saudi womenexperience a change in their values and beliefs which affect their social behaviors. Drawing on an Islamic feminism perspective,Norton’s investment theory, and SLA theories,this study explores the experience of female Saudi international students in Australia and the role of English in the development of these women’s identities. It discusses how learning English and living in an English speaking country impact upon Saudi women's social identity. The participants were five postgraduate Saudi female students, currently studying in Australia. The research methodology utilized a qualitative approach and data was generated from self-completion questionnaires and in-depth face to face interviews. The findings indicate thatthe Saudi women valued their traditional roles as mothers and felt empowered by performing the task of motherhood. However, they reject their traditional roles as wives and the mandates on women’s roles in Saudi culture and seek different roles. They do that in line with their religion by reinterpreting the Islamic teaching i.e. Islamic feminism, and learning English linguistically and using English to access different cultures. The findings also emphasize the importance of the English language, and socialisation in the new environment in developing the identity of the Saudi women, and how it is considered a resource which learners can optionally draw on. The findings also show that the Saudi women are investing in learning the target language as a way to provoke change (within themselves, their family and the Saudi society). This study helps to fill a gap in literature as almost all the literature found in this topic was conducted by non-Saudi researchers, who, as outsiders, could miss the changes happening in Saudi Arabia, so there is a need to discuss the identity of Saudi women with an insider perspective. Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Linguistics, School of Languages, Literatures, Culture and Linguistics.