This post is about the Third International Conference on Arabic Language and Linguistics: Heritage and Innovation. It took place at the American University in Cairo, 14-17 Dec 2019

This is a round-up of the talks I attended and my personal highlights.

Day 2

Our keynote speaker today was Munther Younis of Cornell Universiy. Munther is a familiar name in TAFL due to his development of the Integrated Approach. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the teaching of both Standard Arabic and a dialect at the same time. Munther developed this approach over twenty years ago, and many saw it as controversial at the time. Today several universities have adopted the integrated approach, and it is becoming a familiar and accepted TAFL approach.

But today’s talk was even more controversial. Munther introduced the topic of his latest book about his rereading and reinterpretation of some words and verses in the Quran. See the words قطنا، يَخِصِّمون in the pics below as examples:

Can you spot where the text looks like it’s been changed in this manuscript below? Munther provides an alternative reading below it.

Teaching integrated Arabic in Lebanon: Layal Merhy

Layal presented the practical way they use the integrated approach in Beirut. It was one of the very few talks given actually in Arabic! It was interesting to how they apply it: they present and use Standard and colloquial varieties in class. Equal but separate time is given to both.

Multilingual and multidialectal practices: Khaled El Masaeed

Next, Khaled presented a study of translanguaging practices in Arabic, based on recorded conversations between learners and speakers of Arabic. His study shows it is common practice to switch between languages (Arabic/English), as well as different varieties of Arabic. Interestingly, it shows that monolingual/dialectal policies are counterproductive, and questions the monolingual/dialectal rule in teaching Arabic. 

Badawi’s levels and Facebook: Shahira Yacout

One of the most interesting talks was this one about Badawi’s contemporary language levels and their application on Facebook. Social media plays such a big part of our lives now. So it is refreshing to see a study of the everyday language we use. I have written a whole PhD thesis on the subject, so it was validating to hear this study showed similar results. As for the question: are Badawi’s levels reflected in Facebook? The answer is YES! This has implications for TAFL – we need to understand our sociolinguisic reality and adapt our teaching to reflect it.

Orthographic variation in social media Arabic: Amera Eid

Rounding off my favourite overall panel, Amera showed how rich and varied online orthography is in Egyptian Arabic. How can we address this variation? Do we need to? So many thought-provoking questions! 

Instructional coaching for Arabic teachers: Laila Familiar

After lunch Laila Familiar talked about her instructional coaching for teachers. It was really interesting to hear how it’s teacher-led and addresses the whole self, not just the brain!

The importance of planning: Letizia Lombezzi

Next we heard from Leticia about the importance of planning. I certainly remember thinking in my early teaching days that I could easily ‘wing it’ through class. Now I spend more time than ever on planning! There is short as well as long term planning to do, which helps us stay sane and improve our practice.

The integrated approach: Jonathan Featherstone

Lastly, we heard from Jonathan Featherstone, another integrated Arabic practitioner at Edinburgh University. Insider tip: he has just finished working with Munther Younis on the Egyptian version of the Arabiyat al-Nas textbook. It’s out later this month! Here are some examples of how Jonathan uses the integrated approach in practice:

After the talks I managed to squeeze in a visit to the fabulous Balsam children’s bookshop in Cairo. I snapped up some real treats! Can’t wait to start using them in our classes soon…

That’s it for Day 2.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s my Day 1 summary.

And here’s the Day 3 summary too