The sun was shining in the Gaza Strip, yesterday morning, when the Online Arabic from Palestine language course for beginners was launched officially at the Islamic University of Gaza. The weather was much less kind to the Glasgow launch, yesterday afternoon, when people had to brave the Ali storm to come and celebrate the official release of the new course.
As so many times before during the many months of collaboration that led to yesterday’s launch, the Glasgow team was in Gaza, speaking from a screen to a room full of proud people, while our Gaza colleagues were later a presence on a screen in Glasgow, telling about their experiences and roles in the design and development of the Online Arabic from Palestine course. As so many times before, we documented the events, sharing the dizzying kaleidoscope of photographs of people on screens and in person in each other’s rooms from each other’s points of view…
But sometimes miracles happen, and people manage to escape the confines of screens and meet in real life. Sahar, our IUG colleague (who is Sara in the course’s videos) arrived in the UK just a few days ago to study. Despite having a million things to do and having to recover from her long journey, she was willing – actually, delighted – to travel again to be with us, on this side of the screen, in the room she knew so well from all our Skype meetings over the years (“It’s much bigger than I thought!” was her first comment).
So our colleague and friend Sahar was with us outside the screen, decorating with leaves the table for the post-launch celebrations, gifting Palestinian embroidery bracelets, slicing pomegranates, taking people through the course at the launch event, and being enthusiastic about everything (despite Ali!). And showing everyone that screens can be portals, through which flesh and blood connections can be made.
It is Eid al-Adha, and our colleagues in Gaza are getting ready for the celebrations.
Eid Mubarak everyone!
Public places in the Gaza Strip, such as the Islamic University of Gaza, are closed, but work on the Online Arabic from Palestine course is still ticking along. It’s now time for the last few tasks. After some to-ing and fro-ing of samples over WhatsApp, the course’s cover is ready, thanks to Gaza designer Maha, who volunteered to do this in her free time.
Most of the course is now available on the Moodle platform of the Islamic University of Gaza, and we are busy planning launch events in Gaza and Glasgow on the 19th of September. We chose this date because we wanted the launch to coincide with the UN International day of Peace. We had to anticipate the date a bit (the actual date is the 21st) because this year it falls on a Friday, and our colleagues in Gaza will not be at work. However, we hope that the date we have chosen for the launch will bode well for our course, for the future of the Gaza Strip and of Palestine, and for the building of language bridges to foster understanding and friendship.
We have worked very hard to make this a course that is different from all other Arabic courses (and many courses also in other languages). This course is special because:
it is delivered from Gaza by trained and experienced Palestinian teachers based in Gaza… (the next best thing to travelling there)
it talks about the challenges of living in Gaza and of being Palestinian, as well as teaching you to introduce yourself, ask for sage tea, buy a thwab (don’t know what a thwab is? If you take the course, you will!)
it teaches you about Palestinian food, music, traditions, poetry and art, and also to know the difference between Modern Standard Arabic and the Palestinian dialect, so you are aware of these differences.
It introduces each lesson with videos that will take you to a Gazan marked, to the library of the Islamic University of Gaza, to a Gazan home and to Gaza’s cafes, shops and restaurants. We are really looking forward to showing you all these lovely places in Gaza!
Of course, the lessons are designed to teach you Arabic in a Palestinian and Gazan context. Below are descriptors of what you will be able to do at the end of each level. We have adapted the Common European Framework for Languages as a guideline for this. By the end of each level, you will be able to:
We hope that many people will be interested in learning Arabic from Palestine. If you wish to get more information and/or book a place in the forthcoming course, please contact us using the form on this blog or directly via the Arabic Center (the link is available on our Home Page)
Bright blue skies don’t often happen in Scotland, especially not for a whole weekend. But last weekend the sun shone on Solas Festival, on the multicoloured tents and on the people gathered to enjoy and share music and ideas.
This year’s festival theme was “drift”, which was nicely complemented by the white clouds occasionally drifting overhead. Alison gave a lecture as the UNESCO chair – you can watch it here – during which she talked about undertaking work in Gaza and about the Online Palestinian Arabic Project (as well as many other things!). Our Gaza colleagues were held very close in the thoughts of many, across closed borders and travel bans.
One of the final events in the programme was a taster session for the OPAC course, similar to the one we ran at the Spring School. Lots of people chose to leave the sunny field and come into a hot tent to hear about Gaza, Palestinan Arabic and how our unique course is structured.
They learned how to greet each other, how to count up to five and how to make Za’atar; they heard stories about olive oil, bread and music as part of Palestinian culture, and listened to Marcel Khalifeh singing Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry of longing for his homeland. By the end the tent was full of loud applause, smiling faces and the sound of people enjoying ‘khubz wa zeit zeytoun wa za’atar’ before heading back out into the sunshine to enjoy the rest of the evening.
It was a delight to share the project as part of such an interesting festival. The positive feedback confirmed what we hoped: the OPAC course is fun, important, useful, accessible. Contact us to find out more and join!