Happy Arabic Language Day!

Below is a short post by our newest team member. Welcome Nihaya! 

…but first a video of people practising their Arabic  (with a Skype welcome from the wonderful Gaza team! 😊 )

On December the 18th 1973 Arabic became an official language in the United Nations and so every year, on this date, we celebrate “UN Arabic Language Day”.

Arabic is considered one of the most important languages in the world. It’s the language of the Qur’an. Muslims from different countries read Arabic even if it’s not their first language. Arabic has a variety of different dialects, and it’s spoken in 22 countries. Despite the fact all these countries speak Arabic, it’s sometimes hard for Arab-speakers from one country to understand what Arab-speakers from a different country are saying as dialects can be quite different.

Did you know that some English words were borrowed from Arabic? Words such as alcohol and coffee, which are major words for daily life for a lot of people. Also, words such as lemon, algebra, and cotton are originally Arabic words.  Some might think that Arabic is a difficult language, yet nothing is hard with good teachers and practice.

By enrolling in our online course, you will discover a very rich language (and one easier to learn than you thought!)

‘A morning (full) of jasmine’

(In this new post, team member Grazia reflects on the perfume of languages…)

Can you associate your native tongue with a smell? With a taste? With a particular word?  

Well, this could be an interesting experiment to do! What does your language smell like? What does it taste like? You may find those questions a bit extravagant but give it a try! You will be surprised to find yourself thinking of particular places, meaningful memories, and dearest people… And – to your surprise – you will discover that probably you can associate a smell and a taste to your native tongue! 

So, in my personal experience, Arabic has the perfume of jasmine and it tastes of Arabic coffee! I will tell you about the coffee another time, but why jasmine?  

In Arabic there are many ways to say ‘good morning’. Many of you will probably have heard the greeting par excellence ‘As-salam ‘alaykum’, literally ‘Peace be upon you’, to which you reply ‘Wa ‘alaykum assalam’. Also you may know ‘Sabbah al-khayr’, literally ‘Good morning’, and its reply, ‘Sabbah an-nur’, literally, ‘A morning of light’. These, in addition to the more generic ‘Marhaban’ and ‘Ahlan’, are the greetings that you will first learn in any Arabic language course.

However,  in colloquial Arabic there are many other ways to greet someone in the morning, for which it is difficult to find an equivalent in other languages… and here it gets really interesting! For example, you may hear people saying to each other ‘Sabbah al-ward‘, ‘Sabbah al-fool‘, ‘Sabbah al-’ishta’! These greetings – which literally mean: ‘morning of flower’, ‘morning of jasmine’, ‘morning of cream’ – may be translated with ‘I wish you a morning full of flowers, a morning full of jasmine, a morning full of cream’… Isn’t this poetry?  

(…now can you guess how to say ‘morning’ in Arabic?)

What we are doing these days in our offices in Gaza and Glasgow, in addition to the preparation of a teacher training course, the revamping of the Arabic course’s website, and the promotion of the Online Arabic from Palestine course, is to integrate our language course with linguistic and cultural information to enrich it even more! We hope to provide learners with useful cultural information, but also with some beautifully colourful notes, which may not be indispensable for a beginner learner, but which can enrich the course with a new flavour… or a new smell.  

Such small words, phrases, gestures, cultural notes may bring you closer to the Arabic language and its cultures! 

Guess what? We’re working together again! 😊

After the launch of the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) course, we felt a bit sad. Sure, it was great that the course was finished on time, and that it was now being taught by our colleagues at the Arabic Center, but at the same time this meant that our ‘baby’ had grown up and left home, and now the home felt a bit empty. So, when we were offered a chance to do some more work on the OAfP, we couldn’t believe our luck and we grabbed it with both hands!

Now the joys of Skype communication are back in our weekly agenda, as are the emails that have a mind of their own and self-format in Arabic and English (apparently at random). The sharing of pictures and information on WhatsApp is back, and so is the sending of Facebook messages and emoticons to each other. In short, we’re back to our working closely together through screens of all shapes and sizes, to being colleagues in this ‘bounded’ world of ours that sits at the crossroads of ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ reality. A world that we’d been missing for a couple of months, even though it can sometimes be quite a difficult one.

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Here we go again…

During this new project we are putting together a teachers’ guide for the Arabic course and training new teachers in the Gaza Strip so that they can teach the course and make the most of our wonderful materials. We will also revamp the course’s website and we plan to do a lot of promotion of the course through holding workshops (in the UK and the Gaza Strip) and an online symposium…

…so, once again: watch this space!