‘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!

Meet the Palestinian teachers!

After the celebrations of the last months, which saw the launch of the Online Arabic from Palestine course, and the arrival at the University of Glasgow of twenty Masters’ students from the Islamic University of Gaza, our team has been busy planning future projects (so watch this space!)

Meanwhile our online intercultural community of students and teachers is expanding. A growing number of learners from different countries are enrolling to take the Online Arabic from Palestine course, people with different cultural backgrounds, interests and expectations. This is really motivating for the Arabic Center’s teachers, who are busy developing even more tailored activities to maximise the students’ learning experiences. The teachers use the innovative course that has been developed but are also integrating it with their own ideas and teaching materials, making our great course even more flexible and suitable for all different needs. They are truly dedicated and creative professionals.

There is some trepidation in the air thanks to these online encounters! When enrolling as a language learner into a new course, you might feel excited, curious, hopeful and even, let’s admit it, maybe a little bit worried, or anxious… One of the first questions you ask yourself is who and how the teacher will be. This is always true, but even more so for one to one lessons, where there’s no way for you to hide 😊 The same happens to the language teachers, who, at the beginning of any language course wonder who their new students will be, how the course will go, whether the students will be rather shy or extrovert, whether the lessons that have been planning will meet the needs of the students and so on.

In this short promo video Lubna, Neveen and Jehad, three of the teachers at the Arabic Centre, introduce themselves. You can see their smiles, hear their voices… even before the first lesson! During the course you will get to know them a little bit better, and they will get to know you a little bit too since – remember – the aim of our course is not only to be introduced to Arabic as a foreign language, but also to create connections and get to know each other’s worlds.

If you decide to take the Online Arabic from Palestine course (you know you want to!) remember that you can contact the Arabic Center through our contacts section or directly on the AC’s website!