The birds return

As we wrote in a previous blog post, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941 – 2008) – like all Palestinians, and those living in the Gaza Strip in particular – knew all about the personal and collective suffering that comes with not having full control over one’s own freedom of movement, with losing one’s (home)land and with being besieged, controlled and coerced day in, day out.

During the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020, the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (UNECO-RILA) based at the University of Glasgow – of which the Online Palestinian Arabic Course (OPAC) was part – organised an online version of their annual Spring School. Following that, a virtual Refugee Cycle took the place of the Refugee Cycle UNESCO-RILA organises every year. Despite having moved on to other projects, some of the OPAC team members have found the time to come together to make a short Arabic Language taster video, so that it could be used both for the virtual Spring School and the virtual Refugee Cycle. We based the short lesson on the idea of birds that Darwish talked about in his poem “The Earth is Closing on Us“.

The birds in our video speak to everyone’s need and wish to escape any cages by which they may be trapped, including our Palestinian friends and partners in the Gaza Strip, who have been virtually imprisoned by a blockade for well over a decade. We offer this short taster to all you now, so you can learn a few words of Palestinian Arabic and play around with the wings that knowing a new language has the potential to give you.

A Palestinian Arabic language taster

Our friends and colleagues in Gaza can help you learn more, if you liked our taster: just click here!

Celebrating connections!

It’s been a while… The end of the Online Palestinian Arabic project has meant a flurry of end-of-project activities to promote the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP)  course at the Glasgow end of the screen, and the start of teaching for the Gaza team. A substantial number of people has already made inquiries on the OAfP course, and several learners have already started learning Arabic with our wonderful Gaza colleagues. You can watch here the latest promo video the Gaza team produced, to advertise the OAfP course and all the other Arabic courses they offer, which cater for all abilities and needs.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, at the University of Glasgow we celebrated all the collaborations between our institution and the Islamic University of Gaza. As well as the Online Arabic from Palestine project, which is based in the School of Education, two other important collaborations were also celebrated. One was the EAST project which, for the past four years, has been twinning overseas student-engineers in Glasgow (at UofG School of Modern Languages and Cultures) with engineers in Gaza over five weeks each summer, to discuss authentic engineering issues through the medium of English. The other cause for celebration was the arrival at the University of Glasgow of twenty Master’s students from the Islamic University of Gaza, most of whom managed to miss a lesson (thanks to their very understanding teachers!) to be with us and with their IUG colleagues on the other side of the screen.

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Celebrating Glasgow-Gaza collaborations

The Master’s students are in Glasgow on an Erasmus+ scholarship. Some will stay for the whole academic year, some can only study with us for six months. All tell long stories of hope, uncertainty, happiness and tiring journeys. Sandra White, the Member of the Scottish Parliament who represents the constituency for the University of Glasgow, was with us to celebrate all our great projects and the ongoing partnership between our universities, as were many of the people who have been (and still are) working on both sides of screens  – and through screens – to make these projects happen. No wonder there were so many smiley faces! 😊

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ps – don’t forget that you can register to learn Arabic with IUG teachers by contacting us through the contact link above or through the Arabic Center. Also, don’t forget to follow the Arabic Center on Facebook and/or Twitter for the latest news!

The Online Arabic from Palestine course and the UN International day of Peace

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.

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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:

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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)

Look out for news about the launch!