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The Impact of English-medium Higher Education: The Case of Qatar 155 speakers. In recent years the colonial heritage of English as the language of western cultural domination has come under scrutiny alongside the rise of globalization (Brutt-Griffler, 2002; Canagarajah, 1999; Pennycook, 1994; Phillipson, 1992, 2009). What some nations fear is the challenge English presents to the maintenance of traditional language practices and cultural identity. As Baker (2006) notes, “Where English has rapidly spread, the danger is that it does not encourage bilingualism but rather a shift towards English as the preferred language, especially in schools” (p. 90). The potentially negative impact of the English language on local cultures stems from the fact that language and identity are intrinsically connected, and through education language can be a powerful tool in shaping identity. As Baker (2006) points out “Learning a second language is not just about language. It is also about who we are, what we want to become, and what we are allowed to become” (p. 137). Consequently, “[a]n understanding of language without consideration of identity can never hope to be complete” ( Joseph, 2004, p. 40). The importance of language in forming identity is further explored by Gellner (1964) who posits that colonial education leads to the erosion of identities and language shift. Because of the major role of education in nation building, in the formation of national identity, and in the transmission and reinforcement of cultural values, the adoption of English on a major scale in the education system inevitably raises questions on the status of the indigenous language and local cultures (Fishman, Conrad, & Rubal-Lopez, 1996).
Today, the Gulf States have recognized the importance of the inclusion of English in their education systems and are committed to improving language education in their countries. However, little is known about the impact of English-medium education and western educational practices on the languages, identities, and cultures of the youth in the Gulf. Some efforts have been made to document this phenomenon in the Gulf countries. In Saudi Arabia, various studies conducted from the 1940s to the 1990s with Saudi Arabian males with higher education degrees show their disagreement about the fact that learning English indicates following, imitating, and adopting western patterns of behavior. In addition, the studies show that “the respondents were ideologically and sentimentally attached and practically committed to Arabic” as 70% showed disagreement in educating their future children in English-medium schools and emphasized the need to use Arabic (AlAbed Al-Haq & Smodi, 1996, p. 469). In contrast, in a video produced at the Dubai Men’s College (2007), an English-medium university in the United Arab Emirates, the overwhelming majority of students showed a clear preference for using English over Arabic. Despite Arabic being their mother tongue, the students find it difficult and unnatural speaking in Arabic as most had attended English-medium schools.