Multidialectal Use of L2 Arabic: A Study of Advanced Learners’ Profiles



Developing sociolinguistic competence in Arabic can be a complex process given how Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Colloquial Arabic (CA) are used within a changing sociolinguistic environment in Arabic-speaking communities. Findings from empirical research suggest that second language (L2) Arabic learners who receive multidialectal training in MSA and CA can gain awareness of context-related sociolinguistic expectations. However, research is yet to examine the association between L2 Arabic learners’ profiles, the type of first-year Arabic instruction, and their metasociolinguistic awareness and code preferences as shown in their metasociolinguistic reflections. It also needs to examine how such association manifests itself in learners’ oral and written productions. The current study addresses these questions. Six advanced students receiving multidialectal training participated in the study. The data comprised a language learning history survey, reflections on sociolinguistic variation, and oral and written productions. All the data were analyzed qualitatively, and MSA-CA use in the participants’ productions was also analyzed quantitatively. The findings show that first-year training was sometimes associated with participants’ MSA-CA use. However, learners’ personal preferences, the type of task, topic, and interpersonal cues interacted with the type of training to influence how participants use MSA-CA, providing evidence of the participants’ rich, multifaceted sociolinguistic competence and agency that enable them to navigate tasks and contexts. This study offers important pedagogical implications for the L2 Arabic classroom.

Author Biographies

Lama Nassif, Williams College

Lama Nassif is Associate Professor of Arabic Studies at Williams College, where she teaches Arabic, second language acquisition (SLA), and sociolinguistics. She is also currently Queen Rania Foundation – Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Resources Fellow (2022-2023) in Amman, Jordan. Her research interests include noticing and attention in second language (L2) development, sociolinguistic development in L2 Arabic acquisition, and the interface between SLA research and L2 pedagogy. Lama has taught Arabic at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, Middlebury College, and Williams College, and was a visiting scholar at The University of Pennsylvania.

Nesrine Basheer, University of British Columbia

Nesrine Basheer is an Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is an applied linguist, a specialist in teaching Arabic as a foreign language, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her research interests include the teaching and assessment of writing, cohesion and coherence in Arabic first- and second-language writing, and the multidialectal approach to teaching Arabic. Nesrine has taught Arabic at the American University in Cairo, the United Nations, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Maryland, and the University of Sydney. 


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How to Cite

Nassif, L., & Basheer, N. (2022). Multidialectal Use of L2 Arabic: A Study of Advanced Learners’ Profiles. Arab Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(2), 142–185. Retrieved from