The video-story that will guide the Online Palestinian Arabic Course (OPAC) is taking shape. This will be filmed in Gaza, and the result will be one short video associated with each lesson, to act as a prompt for language learning, and as a thread that will guide the students throughout the Arabic course.
We have the main characters: two siblings of Palestinian background (but born and raised in Italy) and Anas, an Arabic teacher in Gaza. The first meetings between them are online, but then Sara and her brother Adam arrive at IUG to study Arabic with Anas. We will follow the three of them, as they explore IUG and take photographs; as they walk through the market and do their shopping; we will be with them when the go to the restaurant and when they visit each other’s homes. We will discover the symbolic meaning of a key for those who were left homeless by the occupation, and what it means not to be able to visit relatives who live so near and yet so far, beyond the tightly controlled borders of the Gaza Strip.
The storyline has undergone several re-writings so far. Practical considerations are shaping it, as well as cultural and linguistic ones. The need to ensure that the filming can be done within the time and the budget available; the cultural improbability of a single woman meeting her male teacher unaccompanied (as the Glasgow team had planned in the first draft); choosing names for the characters that are both easy to pronounce and contain letters of the Arabic script that will be introduced at the very start; the need to ensure that the videos can be understood even without a bridge language – these are just some of the considerations that have gone into developing the OPAC videos.
At the heart of the storyline, however, is the wish to ensure that we build into the narrative the capabilities of emotions; the capability of senses, imagination, thought; and the capability of affiliation. This is so that through the simple situations in which we encounter them, the characters can help learners to understand life in the Gaza Strip; to appreciate the love, grief and justified anger that are the result of living in this particular part of the world; to use their senses to share hope and beauty. We are aware that developing these capabilities with the limited language of a beginner’s course will be quite challenging, but we think that through our storyline, and the activities we are planning linked to it, we will manage to achieve this ambitious aim.
The work of co-writing the storyline is already shaping the team’s own capability of affiliation. As we put ourselves into each other’s shoes to see the storyline from each other’s point of view and shape it to suit both contexts, we are learning more about each other. The ‘abstract’, computer-mediated knowledge we have of each other’s worlds is rendered more real as we create this story together.