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!

 

 

 

 

Getting ready!

It is a time of preparation. Our colleagues in Gaza are getting ready for the Eid al Fitr festivities to celebrate the end of Ramadan, while putting the finishing touches on the IT elements of the online Palestinian Arabic course. In Scotland it feels as if the light is gathering strength as days lengthen towards the Summer Solstice. We are finalising reports from the pilot sessions, compiling a course glossary for learners, putting things in place for final reports and evaluations. It feels as if we are gathering pace alongside the season, steadily moving towards the (now very near) day when this course is publicly available, out in the world for people to learn and benefit from.

 

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Screenshot of one of the course’s exercises…

We are also excited about preparations for our slot at SOLAS festival, “Scotland’s Midsummer festival of arts and ideas”. This year, the SOLAS open-air festival has partnered with the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration Through Languages and the Arts (RILA), and the Online Palestinian Arabic Course is part of this. So we are delighted to bring a taster session of the course to the festival! We will cover basic greetings, some numbers, and how to make some Palestinian food. We are planning a fun, interactive session involving food, guessing games, music and poetry because it is just not true that learning languages has to be boring.

 

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Practicing for SOLAS…

Looking ahead, in September we will be heading to Bolzano in Italy to present our work at a European conference on education. We will also host the official launch of the Online Palestinian Arabic Course in Glasgow, which will be held in parallel to a launch in Gaza. Watch this space for more information about both these events. In the meantime, back to writing reports, finishing glossaries and looking for those tent pegs that surely must be somewhere…

 

 

Tent peg image by Jan Uthoff (Wikimedia Commons) GFDL and CC-BY 2.5