Biliteracy and academic success: The experiences of selected Libyan students.
Shibani, Fathia El
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This study is an investigation into the biliteracy skills (in Arabic and English) employed by Libyan students at the University of the Western Cape to gain their academic success. Nowadays, international students form a significant number in every academic institution. The study attempts to show that there are literacy factors beyond basic editing of written tasks by biliterate students studying outside their country of origin that need to be acknowledged as contributing to their success in completing such tasks. Qualitative research methods - a questionnaire and interviews – were used in order to understand what strategies the participants rely on to first understand, then write their assignments, how they apply their biliteracy skills, and what biliterate resources they draw on in their writing in order to produce a successful assignment. Hornberger’s (1989) Biliteracy Model was adopted as a framework to map students’ responses. This study may serve as a response to the question posed by Hornberger and Link (2012:243): “How should educators engage with students’ linguistic and literacy diversity in order to facilitate successful school experiences and greater academic achievement for students from often minoritized backgrounds?” This study might also be one of a series of research studies exploring, as Creese and Blackledge (2010:113) recommend, “what ‘teachable’ pedagogic resources are available in flexible, concurrent approaches to learning and teaching languages bilingually”. The findings of the research show that the Libyan students in this study used particular strategies whenever they faced academic barriers, and to compensate for their limited competence in English and the academic discourse in the foreign context of UWC. The most significant of these strategies were the use of the first language as a bridge to the second, oral discussions preceding written assignments, drawing on prior knowledge, and moving from reading to writing. Moreover, the findings revealed some of the factors behind the students’ growing confidence in their writing and consequently, succeeding in writing their assignments. These were lecturers’ feedback, oral discussions with a writing coach or friends, and drawing on contextualized content.