Learning Arabic as linguistic solidarity

Only last week, the Israeli parliament passed a controversial law that downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with “special status”, thus denying its sizeable Arab speaking population (one fifth of the total, the vast majority of which are Palestinians) the dignity of having their language and culture publicly recognised. This law appears designed to humiliate and declass even further Israel’s Arab population.

In the besieged Gaza Strip, where life becomes harder by the day, our Palestinian colleagues keep on working to put the finishing touches to the Palestinian Arabic course. Inshallah, it will be ready by mid-August for anyone interested to start learning Arabic online with capable teachers based in the Gaza Strip. Learning can be delivered to individuals or to small groups using digital technologies. Below are a few screenshots from some of the course’s lessons, as a small preview:

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Unit 4 lesson 2: at the House of Sweets (Gaza Strip)
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Unit 3 lesson 2: at the Souk Al-Zawya (Gaza Strip)

At this particular historical juncture, when some Palestinians are denied the equal dignity that comes from public recognition of their language and identity, learning Arabic steeped in Palestinian culture seems even more important: a way to enrich one’s knowledge and to open up new and exciting opportunities for communication, but also an act of ‘linguistic solidarity’ with the people whose language has just been declassed.

In the next few days, we will post here all the details about the course, so watch this space!

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!