Tag: multidialectal approaches
We Can Learn Arabic site updates
When we launched the We Can Learn Arabic website in 2020, one of the most exciting aspects was the ability to make regular updates as we test the materials in class. We added new units and made tweaks to the activities in 2020 and 2021. In Summer and Fall 2022, as part of our research […]
Multilingual and Multidialectal Approaches: Setting up a research team
This fall semester I’m launching a new research project, “Multilingual and Multidialectal Approaches in the Arabic Classroom.” Thanks to funding from the Qatar Foundation International, I also have a research team, including undergraduate and graduate students. This means that I’ve spent the bulk of my semester so far setting up this project, so I thought I’d describe that experience here. Hopefully I’ll be able to give more updates throughout the semester!
Does a multidialectal approach mean teaching all of the dialects?
This is a question I get frequently when I advocate for a multidialectal approach to learning Arabic. The short answer is no.
The longer answer is also no, but with a much lengthier explanation, which I thought I’d give in this post. In general, there are two types of people who ask this question. The first category is those who want to discredit dialect teaching completely (every village has its own dialect, how can you possibly choose, MSA is the answer). The second category is people who find the idea appealing, but the process confusing (does this mean teaching every word in major dialect groups? Isn’t that a lot to ask of students? How do you do this all in class?) This post is aimed at that second category, as those coming from the first have an ideological perspective I will always be at odds with.
November Updates: Daycare, Book, Article, Award!
November is traditionally the crunch month in the academic calendar, marking the almost end of a long semester (Weeks 11-15 of 17 at my institution). Everyone is tired, stressful assignments are coming up, we’re behind and there’s less time to catch up, it’s getting cold. This year, of course, we also have pandemic anxiety and fatigue, and with case counts rising sharply, New Mexico entered a full lockdown on November 16. Not to mention the weeks of election anxiety and transition stalling*. At the same time, November also brought several bright points in my academic career, so I thought I’d share those here!
Introducing: the We Can Learn Arabic website!
As I’ve detailed in my curriculum development posts over the last two years, we have slowly been replacing our textbook with our own materials, generally based on texts we find on the internet or create ourselves. Although I’ve frequently been asked when we will make our own textbook, I’ve actually never been interested in making a textbook–my dream has always been to create an open access website that serves as a textbook in the sense that it provides materials and structure, but is also flexible enough to be adapted by teachers in a variety of contexts.
Today, I’m excited to announce that my dream has come true, in the form of the We Can Learn Arabic website! In this post, I’ll describe what we’ve done so far, as well as some future plans for the site. While we use it in place of a textbook, it could also be used alongside a particular textbook or materials of choice.
Why awareness of language ideologies is important
“Ideology” can be a dismissive turn people use to critique or undermine certain ideas or practices by contrasting this “ideology” with facts, or science, or reality. On the one hand, the dismissers are right—these are “just ideologies.” On the other hand, it’s also not the case that there is a reality free of ideologies. Ideologies may simply be a collection of beliefs, but these beliefs shape our perceptions and experiences of what we call “reality.” Thus, the problem is not the existence of ideologies, but rather our lack of awareness of how ideologies are always shaping our world. Below, I’ll address some reasons I think it’s critical to be aware of language ideologies in the language classroom.
Bringing emotions and ideology into the MSA/dialects debate
The meme above seems to be making the rounds for everything these days, and the image above popped up in my Facebook feed the other day. I smiled, because it my experience it captures a common conundrum in Arabic teaching—we usually focus on Modern Standard Arabic, MSA, الفصحى in the classroom, much to the dismay of many Arabic students, especially those who go abroad. In my own research on Arabic study abroad students, many of them complain about the “uselessness” of fus7a, and support studying Arabic dialects prior to study abroad, so they don’t lose time learning 3ammiyya (although my research also shows they pick up major dialect features quite quickly, sometimes within a few weeks of going abroad). Students and teachers that oppose dialect teaching typically point to the regional variations in dialects, and that students travel to different locations and teachers in the same program may be familiar with varying regional dialects. In this perspective, MSA is seen as being a “neutral” variety because it is used across geographical regions (although research also shows that there is geographical variation in MSA, and speakers of different regional varieties do not necessarily switch into MSA to speak to each other). Thus, whether to teach dialects or not is a seemingly never-ending debate with strong feelings (and not much research) on both sides.