Issues in Designing English for Islamic Studies Courses

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Reima Al-Jarf


Undergraduate students majoring in Islamic Studies in Saudi Arabia need to take an English-for-Specific-Purposes (ESP) course each year of the B.A. program. The material for all four courses was developed in-house by a group of instructors at those colleges. An examination of the course material in general and reading texts, in particular, revealed many weaknesses. It was found that each course material consists of 6 units, each of which consisting of a reading text, few vocabulary items and their dictionary definition and comprehension questions. Vocabulary exercises required the students to fill in the blanks with the words that were defined or to look up the meanings in the dictionary. English passages were simply a literal translation of Arabic sentences rather than connected discourse. The texts lacked cohesion, coherence, and an organizational structure. No devices signaling the text structure and no transitional words between sentences and paragraphs were used. Ideas are abstract, vague and have insufficient details. Stories had no theme, no setting, and no sequence of events.  The passages lacked the stylistic features of English texts. Although the students are required to translate the same reading passages, translation skills and techniques were not mentioned.  English for Islamic Studies courses need to be re-designed by a team of subject-matter, curriculum design and native English language experts. Discourse structure, stylistic features, register and specific reading and vocabulary skills should be taken into consideration in the course design. A model for designing English for Islamic Studies courses is provided.

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Al-Jarf, R. (2021). Issues in Designing English for Islamic Studies Courses. Journal Educational Verkenning, 2(2), 10-19. Retrieved from


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