The Welcoming Languages team is hard at work!

The Welcoming Languages project pilot project has now reached the evaluation and dissemination stage. Our international Glasgow-Gaza team has been hard at work, and we have prepared a final report with recommendations and a report for children (in English and Arabic). All reports are available here.

Scottish educators (among them a headteacher, class teachers, EAL teachers, family support staff, clerical staff, etc.) in 4 Glasgow schools completed a 20 hour beginner Arabic course. The course was designed around the language needs the staff had highlighted at the needs analysis stage. It also took on board the needs identified by the Arabic speaking children and parents/carers. Read more on the needs analysis here (full article coming soon).

Below you see one of the Scottish educators introducing herself at the end of the course:

When we met with staff at the end of the project, all the 19 participants were extremely positive about the project’s practical and symbolic consequences on both children and their parents/carers. For example a class teacher told us:

“It’s been good to have like basic commands, to say to the children ‘Let’s draw’, ‘Let’s write’, ‘Stand up/Sit down’, ‘Listen’… and for them… they value the fact that we’ve been learning Arabic [inaudible] and we’re saying something new to them, like ‘Marhaba’ or ‘Saba al kahir’, you know, and they are looking at you like ‘Ah! I can’t believe you’re learning Arabic’… to see the smile on their faces when they hear Arabic”

Some teachers also considered the effects that taking the course had on their awareness of the challenges the children and families experience and, as a consequence, also on their practice, as this EAL teacher told us:

“It’s been really nice just to have a little bit of commonality, and and also it’s allowed me to kind of build an awareness of how difficult it must be for the children who come to Scotland and don’t have English. And actually when… when the shoe’s on the other foot and you’re learning a new language that you know nothing about, it’s really, really difficult. So it’s kind of made me reflect a little bit on my teaching”

The children were very positive about the experience too. They became the experts and were able to help staff in their schools practice their Arabic. Some of the children even created extra homework for staff, and took great pleasure in knowing that staff were taking an interest in the language they speak. You can hear some of the children’s feedback here (scroll down for audio clips).

The WLs team have also been busy making sure that the project’s outcomes reach as wide an audience as possible. On the 13th of December 2022 the team organised an event at the ARC (UofG) during which the final report was presented. Check out the news item here and the video of the event below:

On the 2nd of February 2023 the Welcoming Languages project international team was hosted at the Scottish Parliament by Kaukab Stewart (MSP for Glasgow Kelvin) to hold an information session for MSPs. During the event, MSPs showed great interest in the project and expressed their full support for it.  

We are really proud of what we achieve so far, and we are already planning ways in which we can take this forward in the future!

Take a peek at the Online Arabic from Palestine course

Despite updating this blog more seldom, we keep on labouring in the background. We hope that soon this space will go back to being buzzing with information on the amazing work that IUG’s Arabic Center and the School of Education at the University of Glasgow can do when they join forces. For several years, we’ve been busy finding ways to teach Arabic language with a Palestinian flavour, and to put teachers in the Gaza Strip in touch with Arabic learners everywhere in the world, through the online means that – during these times of pandemic – we’ve now all grown so accustomed to.

The video below was produced by our colleagues in the Gaza Strip. It gives you a peek of what the Online Arabic from Palestine language course for beginners, which we designed and developed collaboratively a couple of years ago, looks like, and a small taster of what you may expect if you were to decide to learn Arabic with teachers based in Gaza. Take a look:

We are very proud of the Online Arabic from Palestine course, which has already attracted many learners from all over the world. If you would like to have more information on how to take this course (or other courses that the Arabic Center offers) check out this link.


And now… a book!

It has been a while in the making, but it is finally here: an edited collection on the experiences of collaborating online, and across borders.. The book is entitled Multilingual Online Academic Collaboration as Resistance. Crossing Impassable Borders and is published by Multilingual Matters. Authors from a range of academic backgrounds discuss, over nine chapters, an overview of online collaborations between universities in Europe, the USA and Palestine. The chapters recount the challenges and rewards of online collaborations which promote academic connections and conversations with the Gaza Strip , and which forge relationships between individuals, institutions and cultures.

The book’s cover

It took the book editors and contributors a lot of effort and a long time to perfect a manuscript that weaves together different academic traditions, styles and disciplines, one that was entirely planned, discussed and put together through online collaboration, precisely in the same way (and with the same challenges and rewards) the projects described in each chapter. The book also came together through times of worry and grief. Almost 200 people were killed and tens of thousands injured during the Great March of Return in 2019, as we were writing the book, and several our Palestinian colleagues experienced repeatedly frustrated (and frustrating) attempts to travel out of the Strip for work or personal reasons. However, the time during which the book was taking shape also knew moments of joy and celebration, such as when two of our Palestinian colleagues finally managed to leave the Gaza Strip and were able to visit us in Glasgow.

The book starts with a prologue, which reproduces a WhatsApp conversation as an example of the frustrations we experienced, and with an introduction by the book editors. Part 1 collects chapters on ‘English as an Additional Language and Online Technologies’; part 2 consists of chapters on the topic of ‘Finding Motivation for Language Learning in a Situation of Forced Immobility’; part 3 discusses ‘Palestine and the Arabic Language’; while part 4  collects chapters that focus on ‘Making Connections’. An afterword by Alison Phipps recounts the delight of being together in person, after many failed attempts.

The book’s content

As we were putting the finishing touches to our book, the Covid-19 pandemic – and consequent lockdown – meant that the online work we had learnt to rely on, in order to keep collaborating despite the blockade of the Gaza Strip, had become the only way of working for many people around the world. Our long experience of shouting “Can you hear me?” at a computer screen was, suddenly, the experience of most academics who had, until then, taken for granted the possibility of meeting colleagues and students face to face, of travelling to conferences, of taking up international fellowships, of shaking hands, and of sharing books, offices but also food and drinks with colleagues around the world. The experiences of working online which the book was discussing was suddenly an experience shared by many, many more people. Our colleagues at the Islamic University of Gaza, like academics everywhere, were stuck at home working remotely. But they were mostly unfazed. While the threat of a pandemic was especially alarming for a country with a health system much weakened by a blockade that has now lasted more than 12 years, the sense of alarm and panic and the need to suddenly – and radically – change one’s life and taken-for-granted practices was nothing new to them, and so they were sending us messages of solidarity and affection, and strength…

For anyone interesting to purchase the book, a promotional 50% discount is available until the end of August. Below you can download the flyer with all the necessary information on how to buy the book at a discounted price.