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!

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!

Tasting Palestinian Arabic in the Scottish countryside…

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.

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Evening sky over the Scottish countryside

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.

The programme featured many other members of the team working within the UNESCO Refugee Integration through Language and the Arts Chair. Poetry, music, challenging ideas, difficult questions, storytelling and visual art all complemented each other.

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One of the UNESCO-RILA Chair banners

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.

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Tasting Palestinian Arabic in the Solas tent

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!