Mashallah! The Online Palestinian Arabic Course is almost ready…

We have now finished piloting the first two units of the Online Palestinian Arabic Course. There are adjustments we need to make, but we are well on our way to have the course ready for the end of June. Soon, Inshallah, the course will be available to anyone interested in learning Arabic with a Palestinian flavour, taught by experienced and trained teachers based in the Gaza Strip.

So, here are some details about the course (below we offer you the preview of one of the course’s videos!)

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Here are a few quotes from the evaluation questionnaire completed by the volunteer learners  who piloted the course:

“We were in Palestine, with Palestinian food, habits, accent and this made me [feel] very close to the people there.”

“I really enjoyed the one to one lessons with a lovely teacher and the opportunity to see a little bit of the life in Gaza”

“I really enjoyed the tailored approach of my teacher who sometimes added content when I was curious to learn but also brought me back to the main content of the class.”

“We got to speak a little about life in Palestine and my own life – though it wasn’t necessarily extending my Arabic, it humanised the whole experience and created a bond across borders, which for me, is one of the things that makes the learning experience so unique and valuable.”

“I really enjoyed the videos – I found them to be a great tool for focusing the lesson around.”

And now, to whet your appetite for this amazing new course, here’s one of the videos which introduces one of the latter lessons. In this video, Italian born Sarah and Adam, guided by their Gazan teacher Anas, take a look at some Palestinian artifacts, including a key, the symbol of Palestinian right to return.

As well as the key, the brother and sister also see a shawl and a dress decorated with the wonderful traditional Palestinian cross-stitch patterns.

By doing this course, you’ll be able to understand Adam, Sarah and Anas only after a few weeks! Get in touch and the admin team at the Arabic Center will tell you what you need to do to start this great adventure!

Knowledge exchange (beyond borders): some good news

After the sadness and frustration of the last blog post, here is some good news: tomorrow we will attend the Language, Translation and Migration Conference and Public Summit 2018, held at the University of Warwick and organised by the Migration, Identity and Translation Network.

We are delighted: this is a chance to share our learning and experience, to meet and exchange ideas with other people working in the field of education and to get more feedback about the OPAC project. Our happiness also has some sadness, though, because our colleague Dr Nazmi Al-Masri from Gaza will not be able to join us in Warwick as planned due to the brutal realities of travelling out of Gaza, and we don’t know when he will next manage to leave his country.

But, returning to the positive side of this news, we are ready for our presentation for Warwick. This will focus on the OPAC course as a  transcultural creative practice, a practical and useful way to challenge the siege which oppresses the Palestinian people, their culture and their language. Working on this is helping us to see again the wider context in which our project is developing, which at times we have lost sight of when caught up in the minutiae of lesson plans and IT problems.

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In particular we are re-discovering  the role of language learning and exchange as a key element of hospitality, in the context of  creating welcome and safety for Arabic speakers who come to Europe seeking refuge from conflict. We plan to highlight this use of our course in Warwick and look forward to meeting other researchers who are working to connect language education to issues of migration.

This news really has been a welcome reprieve after weeks of feeling a bit stuck and downhearted. This series of ups and downs really does prove the point that we will bring to the conferences: building this OPAC project is a creative practice, and like all creative processes it has its moments of clarity and moments of doubt. We know it will all be fine (more than fine) in the end – but we look forward to sharing and receiving support from like-minded people before we get to the end!

 

Teaching, learning, remembering

Today is the 70th Nakba Day, the ‘Day of the Catastrophe’. People are gathering in Palestine and across the world to  mark the catastrophic displacement, death and destruction suffered by the Palestinian people when the State of Israel was formed in 1948. They are also gathering to protest the fact that “…the Nakba is an extended present that promises to continue in the future”, as the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote in 2001.

Today is also the 7th week of the ‘March of Return’, confirming the truth of Darwish’s statement: people in Gaza have been marching to the border with Israel to protest against the ongoing blockade and travel restrictions and to demand their right to return to the lands from which they and their families were forcibly removed.

Today is a day in which we in Glasgow feel – more than ever – the urgency of supporting our colleagues in Gaza. So this is a blog about teaching Arabic with a Palestinian flavour in Glasgow as an act of creative solidarity.

In February we wrote about being invited to run a taster session of the OPAC course at the UNESCO Spring School.   Our preparations since then paid off: the session was a delight for everyone involved. We wanted to create a welcoming environment, so set the scene by setting the classroom up as a cafe, with Palestinian dates to welcome people and give them energy:

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Waiting for our ‘Arabic taster’

We started by explaining the background to the current situation in Gaza, using maps and statistics to try to describe a reality far beyond what any of us in the classroom have ever experienced. Our Palestinian colleagues were present in our thanks and acknowledgements, even if they could not be there in person.

Then we moved straight into the lesson, showing participants the video of Unit One, Lesson One: greetings and introductions. We were impressed by how quickly everyone picked up the key vocabulary! Very quickly participants was walking around the classroom exchanging names and greetings. They were equally quick in joining in the numbers game which helped them learn the numbers from 0 to 5 – a necessary step before mixing their very own recipe of za’atar and olive oil:

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Olive oil, mixing cup, ready for the za’atar

While teaching the words ‘za’atar’ and ‘olive oil’ in Arabic we also invited people to appreciate the smells and colour of the herbs, spices and oil as sensory elements connected to the capabilities of expressing senses and imagination. We spoke about the significance of olive trees in Palestine, of how they are seen as symbols of endurance and rootedness to the land that nourishes them and its people. They also symbolise peace, and planting olive trees in Palestine is a political act of resistance and hope:

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Hope is planting an olive tree

Za’atar is eaten with bread – another useful word to know in Arabic, and an element of Palestinian hospitality which is also highly charged and symbolic. We introduced participants to Mahmoud Darwish and his poem ‘Ummi’ (‘My Mother’), as put to music by the Lebanese singer Marcel Khalife.

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Bread, za’atar, olive oil and dates

The poem starts with  ‘I long for / the bread of my mother’ and  lists things the poet longs for and misses connected to his mother. Darwish is moved by the many memories of the homeland he has lost.

Which brings us back to Nakba Day, and how to remember a catastrophe that is still happening. We remember and protest with our bodies, but also with our words. We teach people words in Arabic so that the language spoken by Palestinians becomes real, a lived experience, a new landscape full of richness and beauty as well as protest and anger. We teach and learn languages because shared words help us to grow as humans in resistance and hope, despite destruction.

 

 

 

Olive tree image by Palestine Solidarity Project  https://www.flickr.com/photos/palestineproject/6099524658