Two weeks ago, the New York Council for Teachers of Arabic held it’s first virtual summer institute under the title “Teacher Strong: Ready for Whatever Fall Throws at Us”. Over three days, over 75 Arabic language educators in and outside the US attended presentations that were devoted to designing engaging synchronous sessions as well as asynchronous assignments, optimum use of tech-tools and assessment for online classes. Presenters used a mixture of Arabic and English in their presentations. And almost all of the examples shred where devoted to Arabic.
Like many educators this is not the first summer institute that I have attended. However, it was the first institute that I attended that was devoted to the Arabic Language. It was definitely a pleasure, and I would do it again in a heartbeat when I can.
But why? For an experienced language educator, aren’t these institutes a “waste of time”?
My answer is a definite NO!
Here are four reasons why. Let’s see if they will help change your mind!
Reason number one: Similar challenges.
Arabic is one of the less commonly taught languages in the Unites States. It is also considered by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) to be a category 4 language. This simply means that learners (whose native language is English) need to spend more time in order to each a certain level of proficiency compared to other languages (categories 1, 2 and 3). Additionally, Arabic is one of the few modern languages that are diglossic. This means that Arabic has two varied forms. The Modern Standard Arabic that is used mainly (but not exclusively) for reading and writing and communication in highly formal context. And regional dialects that are used for daily oral communication. Taking all these facts into consideration, teaching Arabic to non-native, non-heritage learners whose native language is English has numerous challenges. During the summer institute for Arabic language it was easier for me to learn of strategies and tactics that my fellow Arabic language educators use to overcome these difficulties. The old saying Two Heads Works Better Than One is definitely very fitting here.
Reason number two: Common goals
As was made clear in the point above, there are a lot of varieties to consider when teaching Arabic. For instance; Standard Vs Dialect? Which regional dialect, When and Why? Not to mention other variables such as age of learners, whether or not they were heritage and general purpose of learning the language. Summer institutes that are devoted to Arabic are a great start to find educators who have the common goals. That is to say; with all these varieties, these educators have a common goal of what variety they are teaching to which group and for what purpose. Answering these key questions paves the way to a better teaching practice. Experiencing the way fellow educators achieve these common goals is an eye opening that can help chart a clearer course (pun intended).
Reason number three: Networking
It is obvious from reasons one and two above that creating networking with fellow Arabic language educators during summer institutes that are dedicated to one language is a valuable asset that can last well after the institute is over. This actually was one of my hopes coming into the NYATC summer institute. I was happy that at the end of the institute we were able to create a contact list that would enable us to stay in touch well beyond the institute.
Reason number four: Resources
When it comes to educators sharing and exchanging resources, Peter Paccone (2017) says:” Why would any teacher share for free? There are many reasons, but the best one is this: Sharing, because it promotes reflection and learning, makes you a better teacher.” When these resources are designed specifically for Arabic language learners, that is an added bonus as it offers more than reflection. It offers a new material, new perspective, and a new vantage point. It is also important to remember that sharing resources is a tow way road. So always be ready to give and take.
For these reasons (and possible more) I look forward to taking part in the nest institute that is devoted for Arabic language. I will be ready to learn, grow and also share and contribute.
- Links to Contributed Resources:
Formative Assessment; What is it? How to design it? ( Click here)
Arabic Reading Series ; With Reading We Progress (Click here)
- Resources consulted for writing this piece :
FSI Language Learning Difficulty Scale (Click here)
Sharing your Best Work with Other Teachers , By Peter Paccone (Click here)
- Cover Photo (empty classroom)
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