Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics

Committee Chair

Emily A Thrush

Committee Member

Teresa S Dalle

Committee Member

Sage Lambert Graham

Committee Member

Angela Bosche Thevenot


Acculturation experiences concerning both the native and mainstream cultures represent a significant psychological outcome of L2 learning and acquisition. This study examines how acculturation orientations of Saudi ESL students might or might not be correlated with or predict their English-speaking proficiency. It also explores how gender variation influences learners’ acculturation orientation and, subsequently, their English-speaking proficiency. In addition, barriers and concerns that could inhibit their acculturation process are investigated. This study also measures Saudi ESL students’ perceptions of the extent to which ESL programs are culturally comfortable. To this end, the study details acculturative stressors Saudi ESL students encounter within academic and nonacademic environments. Using a nonexperimental mixed-method design, the data were collected using three methods: a structured web-based survey, an open-ended question, and semistructured interviews. The web-based survey includes items pertaining to English-speaking proficiency, acculturation modes, and acculturative stressors. It was sent through the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) mailer system to more than 13,000 Saudi ESL students and received more than 1,200 complete responses. The open-ended question in the web-based survey yielded 129 responses exploring more acculturative stressors experienced by Saudi ESL students. The semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 ESL students to investigate acculturative stressors within ESL class environments. Quantitative results suggest that male students improved their English proficiency more significantly than female students after arriving in the United States; male students showed significantly higher acculturative levels to the mainstream culture (i.e., American culture) than female students. However, acculturation levels of both male and female Saudi ESL students to the mainstream American and/or home culture (i.e., Saudi culture) do not mediate or hold a causative correlation with the improvement of Saudi ESL students’ English-speaking proficiency. Meanwhile, female Saudi ESL students more often significantly agreed that the family obligations acculturative stressor causes difficulties in adjusting to the mainstream culture than their male counterparts. Qualitative results reveal that academic stressors, sociocultural stressors, and perceived discrimination and rejection are the most commonly reported acculturative stressors in both academic and nonacademic environments. Although a set of different stressors was found in Saudi ESL students’ responses, the qualitative data revealed that all participants expressed overall positive perceptions toward their ESL class environment. In light of the results of the study, practical implications are drawn and directions for future research are suggested.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.