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.
Ghazi Abuhakima delivered today’s keynote speech about standardised assessment and its impact on curricular development, He mentioned the importance of teaching culture as part of teaching Arabic. So far so good. However, he seemed to be say that by teaching culture he means teaching verses of the Quran and/or Bible. Hmm, I would class this as religion rather than culture, and of course religion plays a part in culture, but do we really need to be teaching our students verses of the Quran or Bible in order to teach them language? I am not sold on this and think cultural activities and phrases would convey culture more appropriately in a language classroom.
Why are Egyptian mothers not using Arabic with their children?: Gihan Hussien
One of the reasons I set up Kalamna was to create an Arabic language community while living abroad. So it was surprising to hear that the language community in Egypt is facing similar issues! Parents of bilingual children seem to be tackling the same issues and struggling to balance both languages. One of the main failures I can see is the lack of high quality Arabic resources. There simply aren’t enough written or spoken in an accessible form of the language. Many new, high-quality resources such as books, songs, videos, apps and games, are produced in Standard Arabic. This is done mainly for commercial reasons, which has a negative effect on mother tongue literacy in Arabic.
Teaching media Arabic to native speakers: Heba Salem
I quickly switched sessions to catch this talk and I’m glad I did! A familiar problem for many native speakers of Arabic is underexposure to Standard Arabic. This talk resonated with many of us precisely because it addressed a need for further training and proficiency in Standard Arabic. In this case it was amongst AUC media and communications students, but many of us wished we had it. It was incredible to see how much progress these students made and how engaged they became after completing the course.
Arabic and social media at a higher level: Francesco Sinatora
The social media theme continued with Francesco’s excellent talk. He described the integration of sociolinguistics into his language course and the practical aspects of it using social media. Students studied posts written in different dialects and were able to decipher even the most colloquial ones! This shows a great, real-world application of sociolinguistic theory and a wonderful example for students to see authentic Arabic in action.
Using caricature to teach culture: Amany El Saed
Lastly, one of the funniest and most lively talks of the conference. Amany uses caricatures for teaching culture in Arabic, getting students to read and translate Arabic caricatures. They also create and translate ones from their own cultures and languages. A fantastic approach to teaching culture that was well-received by the whole audience. And one I’m sure we can all apply in our teaching.
All in all it was a fantastic event, with lots of interesting and thought-provoking talks. I’ve met so many people. Some I already knew personally, others through their work or social media, and others still I met for the first time.
The hospitality of the AUC organisers was second to none. The food and weather spectacular as expected. If you’ve enjoyed reading about the conference, you can also read about this Teaching Arabic Grammar workshop.