As you may remember, we are designing and delivering an Arabic language course for Scottish primary staff, so they can welcome Arabic-speaking children and families recently arrived in Scotland (the ‘New Scots’) in their own language. The project is funded by the AHRC and will last till the end of 2022 and as soon as the word went around about this opportunity, we had lots of Scottish primary education staff interested in taking the course. It was heart-warming to see how much Scottish educators care, and the lengths to which they are willing to go to create a welcoming and caring environment for children and families who chose to make Scotland their home.
At the end of July, most of the Scottish primary educators and Arabic learners have completed five out of the ten 2-hour lessons the project offers. To get an idea of how the project is doing, the Glasgow team conducted brief interviews with over half of the staff learning Arabic, to explore their reflections on the course, what they liked, what they found challenging, how close the newly developed Arabic course matched their needs expressed in pre-course needs analysis, and what they would like to see for the next block of lessons.
During our mid-course interviews, the Scottish educators and learners of Arabic showed great enthusiasm and positivity towards many aspects of their learning, including their Palestinian teachers, the teaching materials, and reflected on how this has already positively impacted Arabic-speaking children. The Scottish educators told us how professional and patient their Palestinian teachers are, how they responded to all their inquiries about the language and how they engaged the Scottish educators in different role plays, to practice their learning as much as they can.
The course design and materials increased learners’ motivation as they are carefully developed to respond to educators’ needs in their daily school context. Some Scottish staff were enthusiastic to try out some of the expressions they learned with the children directly after each lesson. They also told us how the teaching materials were suitable not only in terms of functionality and usage in their day-to-day context but also in terms of their level, as they were “just the right amount” in each lesson. Scottish educators described how Arabic-speaking children are excited to know that staff in their school are learning their home language, to better understand them and celebrate their identities and knowledge. Children are also becoming impromptu teachers of Arabic themselves, preparing lessons for their educators, giving their educators some “homework”, teaching them new expressions and correcting their pronunciation!
As Scottish primary educators start their new school year after a well-deserved break during the summer, teachers in Gaza are putting the final touches and getting ready to teach the next block of the course in the coming few weeks! Watch this space for more news on how the Welcoming Languages project develops!