Shifting Winds in Arabic Teaching

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Shifting Winds in Arabic Teaching

Teaching conversational skills in an Arabic classroom may seem like a traditional approach. But 18 years ago, when Munther Younes started integrating instruction of the formal written language with a spoken dialect at Cornell University, he was considered a pioneer. Younes says Cornell's approach is unique in that it integrates the two into a single track, whereas other programs approach the two as separate tracks. Arabic is characterized by a so-called "diglossic" situation in which the formal, uniform written language, Modern Standard Arabic, differs considerably from the various spoken dialects. Many Arab language classes focus on learning the written language, sometimes to the total exclusion of the spoken language. The reasons for sticking to the written language are varied and include a fear of confusing students by constantly switching between dialects. However, many experts view Younes' integrated approach as the future direction of Arabic instruction. When outlining his approach to teaching Arabic, Younes says he "capitalizes" on the many shared aspects of the written and spoken forms. Younes specifically teaches the Levantine dialect, spoken by Israelis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Palestinians, and Syrians, which he says is "mutually intelligible" with Egyptian and other major Arabic dialects. Younes' system has been criticized because mixing the two can confuse students learning the language, but Younes points out that such confusion must be dealt with anyway. "We don't want to simplify the situation in a way that will deceive the students," he says. "If we have to give the students two different forms, we try to help them distinguish them, which is a sociolinguistic skill that they need to develop anyway."

From "Shifting Winds in Arabic Teaching"
Inside Higher Ed (10/01/08) Redden, Elizabeth

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - October 2008
« Last Edit: 01 Nov, 2008, 00:32:47 by wings »


 

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