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!

 

 

 

 

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!