Difficulty Saudi Learners Encounter on the Recognition of Spatial Prepositions in English

Difficulty Saudi Learners Encounter on the Recognition of Spatial Prepositions in English
Spatial cognition is an important area of modern linguistics. Spatial prepositions such as in, on and at are part of the basic knowledge which is worthy learning. However, the process of acquiring such prepositions is not an easy task. Students face a lot of challenges when they try to study them and understand their application. Such a case is common with learners who are not native speakers of the English language. Most of these students choose and use wrong prepositions in their communication and assignments. Some omit the required spatial prepositions. Other learners end up using extra prepositions where none is needed.
This paper examines the difficulties that Saudi Arabian students encounter in the recognition of various spatial prepositions used in English.
Challenges that Saudi Arabian Students Face in the Recognition of Various Spatial Prepositions Used in English
In English, Spatial prepositions describe the relationship which exists between the landmark and the figure. In order for this relationship to be created, there is need to create a spatial situation model in the mind (Lindstromberg, 2010). Saudi students face various challenges in the recognition spatial prepositions that are used in the English language. To begin with, the meanings of some spatial prepositions change based on the context of their usage (Delija & Koruti, 2013; Fion, 2005). This leads to the choice and application of wrong prepositions. It is common for Saudi Arabian students to use inappropriate spatial prepositions both in their written and oral assignments (Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2014; Jie, 2008). The same case applies to communication with their instructors and friends. Since the students use the prepositions in a wrong manner, it becomes difficult for them to understand their correct usage within the English language.
The first language of most Saudi students is the Arabic language. This language tends to interfere with the learning of English. When studying English, the Saudi students fail to incorporate the properties of this new language that don’t exist in their first language (Fion, 2005). This explains why it becomes difficult for them to understand the spatial prepositions and other aspects of the second language. The students tend to omit some of the prepositions (Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2014). The omission causes misunderstandings in what is communicated by the students. It can as well lead to complete change in the meaning of what one intends to communicate.
Most English prepositions are used for different purposes. Apart from explaining the spatial relationship between the figure and landmark, they also show temporal aspects, give reasons, and indentify circumstances (Lindstromberg, 2010; Ritchie & Bhatia, 2009). Since most Saudi Arabian students do not study English in their country, they are not aware of these functions of the prepositions. As a result, they end up using them recklessly and making common mistakes. For instance, it is common for Saudi Arabian students to use extra spatial prepositions where it is not necessary (Delija & Koruti, 2013). This makes it difficult for such students to learn and understand the effective usage of the prepositions in various English tasks.
The process of learning spatial prepositions is not easy for non-native speakers of English. This is due to the fact that these prepositions tend to be confusing to the students. For the case of Saudi students, many of them tend to use the spatial prepositions wrongly. They omit them in sentences and this affects the meanings of whatever they communicate. Some use extra spatial prepositions where they are not required. There is need for educators to be aware of these difficulties. This will help them to come up with effective strategies that can be used to address them.

Delija, S. & Koruti, O. (2013). Challenges in Teaching Prepositions in a Language Classroom. Journal of Education and Practice, 4 (13): 124-130.
Fion, Y. M. (2005). The Acquisition of English Spatial Prepositions by ESL Learners. Master’s Thesis.
Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. M. (2014). An introduction to language. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Jie, X. 2008.  Error theories and second language acquisition [Electronic version].  US-China foreign language, 6 (1).
Lindstromberg, S. (2010). English prepositions explained. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.
Ritchie, W. C., & Bhatia, T. K. (2009). The new handbook of second language acquisition. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

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