How’s your Arabic tongue? Hey wait; You have to walk down in any Arabian capital to see the names of most stores in English! It goes against pride in the language in any other country, and if you rashly speak with your Arabian friends in Standard Arabic instead of common slang, It’s gonna turn into a laugh. Imagine if your luck has driven you for a job so you will be amazed that one of the Crucial justification for an appointment is to master English “fluently” while no one thinks about testing your Arabic mastery.
In fact; Arabic mastery is not a “Foregone conclusion”; University graduates cannot speak their language, even in Arabic -based jobs such as “teacher” and “lawyer.” The curriculum conjures up the desert tent and ancient poetry in a leap that is lacking in establishing the awareness of the junior learner and tasting that language in his daily life first.
Perhaps that’s why those who are interested in Arabic feel that the Arabs themselves have a lack of trust in it, despite the fact that it is sacred to Muslims as the language of the Holy Quran, and that it is on the other hand the fifth language among the most widely spoken worldwide, and is growing in its learning centers around the world. Arabic is a unique language and meaning, “Mother of the Earth”; It is the tree that has been brought to its roots early and its branches stretched, becoming unrivaled in vocabulary, combinations and styles, and perhaps the only one that has maintained its authenticity and has not changed at a time when its vitality has enabled it to regenerate and develop modern vocabulary.
However; It’s assumable that All of these unique characteristics aren’t enough for Arabians, and mistrust has prevailed and has extended to the arrival of language learners who often do not write in it, especially those from Europe and the Americas.
Dr.Said Daifullah the Egyptian linguist will discuss in an interview with “Kalemon’ his experience in teaching Arabic for non-natives; as a member of the Literary Studies Committee of the Supreme Council for Culture, He’s also a professor of Arabic Criticism and Literature at the American University in Cairo. He has devoted himself to Arabic Language in standard and slang.
What are the obstacles to effective learning of the Arabic language?
It is necessary to reconsider the methods of teaching the Arabic language, which have become ineffective, whether in formal education or free learning, and among Arabic speakers or other peoples of the world; The key to development is to build an independent student who does not depend on memorization, but interaction, group learning, discussion and research, and expressing himself in different situations, automatically and soundly.
For example, there is a common mistake in relying on dictionaries to learn new Arabic vocabulary, whether it is (Arabic-Arabic) or (Arabic-foreign) in any language. for weights; The word that I do not understand, For example we have the pattern for the subject, Like “player” or “speaker” it means that someone did something and it can be guessed from the same sentence and the topic you are discussing, or the Pattern of “object” such as “be accepted” means that someone did the action towards me, so I became the object of it, and so on for the rest of the Patterns, and this is the advantage of the Arabic language in its morphological system.
The role of the teacher is no longer a tutor for a group of listeners, but rather a coach who helps you to extract the meaning from the original root Often out of context, (خرج- يخرج- خارج- مخرج- خريج-متخرج- مخرج) thus disrupting your intuitive understanding of it in its place.
The second point in the problems of traditional curricula is that it is based on memorizing grammar rules, without training students to discover the relationships of words that result in their articulation, Easily.
The third aspect of the required change is that the student, after understanding weights and word relationships, can guess using the semantic fields associated with the topic. If we are talking about an economic topic, “مستخرجات” will be associated, for example, with mining, gold and petroleum, and it is not required that I understand its meaning, and it is sufficient for me to know its root from “خرج” and that it is “passive”, in addition to providing students with the most common words in each semantic field and topic, and this helps a lot in understanding because with the passage of time and the accumulation of reading and speaking, repetition of words occurs and their understanding becomes easier.
Then the fourth point in modern language education is to rely on the student’s cultural background, to summon it in every subject, and to read about it in mother language firstly, which does his mental structure and four skills.
Is it easy for beginners to learn this way?
I drew attention to an important matter, which is that this system is useful for beginners and also necessary. Without educating students to rely on themselves in guessing meanings, the road will be long and difficult for them to understand, produce meanings and express in that language. It is what we call “mental laziness” when the student comes up with the dictionary and extracts the difficult words and it is over!
The disparity does not occur in the style, but in the quality of the text we are dealing with. We rely on simple, graduated texts according to the students’ ability and refinement of their talents, and this gradation is enough to make the shift. On the other hand, the role of the teacher is greater whenever the stages are primary in learning, and gradually decreases over time to create enjoyable personal experiences.
How do you choose literary texts for teaching foreigners the Arabic language?
Part of these criteria is the students’ tendencies and cultural background, then the teacher’s confidence in the text, its creativity and its suitability to the field of learning at the same time. We do not look for texts that are concave in their language or highly specialized, or far from the scope of daily life. Rather, we use the Standard Arabic language, which we find In newspaper articles, magazines, novels and poetry, the best example is the selection of texts by Naguib Mahfouz, Al-Ghitani, Mahmoud Darwish, Salah Jaheen, Ahmed Abdel-Moati Hijazi, Al-Tayyib Saleh, Al-Abnoudi and others.
The exception in the issue is when the student is a specialist or targets a specific field in linguistic studies, such as the Arab or Islamic heritage, it is very useful to navigate in classical texts, but it is a stage that usually comes late after learning the language and fluency in it.
What are the motives for foreigners to learn Arabic?
There is a delightful boom in the numbers of Arabic language learners worldwide, and a corresponding increase in quantity and quality in Arabic education centers and curricula, and after the spread of the Corona pandemic, many of them are happening remotely through technology, and this is a great advantage for spreading the Arabic language.
Of course, the political events contributed to creating a large segment of people’s curiosity to understand the Arab world and the currents that control the religious and cultural scene to form a point of view, especially after the September 11th,2011, attacks, but learning the Arabic language in Egypt, for example, is often motivated by finding a job in an Arab country, or communicating with Arabs for those who settle for a period in an Arab country, and often have research motives, as if the student is primarily a researcher at his university for graduate studies in a subject related to the Arab world, which is what we notice a lot in Asian students, and there is a group motivated by a passion to get to know Arabs freely, and this is common among researchers of the East middle class, intellectuals, etc.
Honestly, Don’t your students feel alienated in the Arabian streets?
Yeah; And this is what we suffer from a lot, which is “bilingualism.” The standard language is the same throughout the Arab world, but dialects and vernacular languages are used in their daily lives, and these are very many, and that is why Arabic language teachers in universities around the world differ in solving this problem between those who are limited to classical education. It is left to the student to acquire colloquial language through practice, and there are those who warn against speaking colloquial and consider it dangerous. This is a prevalent trend, for example, in Sharia schools and Al-Azhar Al-Sharif. Therefore, Asian students maintain the eloquence of their expressions, and perhaps this means that they are studying the Holy Qur’an and its sciences, and their progress in understanding it is linked to their eloquence.
There are those who combine classical and colloquial education; I tend to the second direction in general, and I do not see that it affects the integrity of the classical language, just as you study English and use common colloquial words after you have mastered the eloquent words in return, and I tend to teach colloquial through fine literary texts such as those formulated for us by the great writers like:“Jahin” ,“Haddad” and “Al-Abnoudi”, this vernacular bears a density of expression and meaning and is inlaid with classical Arabic, but in a way that is close to the normal spoken language.
Modern standards of second language education have become an integral part of the ability to express and comprehend in standard and colloquial terms, and not only classical, because the absence of colloquial and popular proverbs means the absence of interaction often with the society in which you live.
What do you mean by the crisis of transcendence over Arabic?
There is a very unfortunate phenomenon; When a student masters the Arabic language at the university, he is satisfied with performing it inside the classroom, but he does not use it as the language to express himself later after graduation, or outside the university. we find that most students write in their personal blogs and social pages, and share articles in newspapers and magazines in their own language, despite it being related to the Arab world!
It was believed that the Arabs are not the first to speak, but rather the world as a whole, and the global language currently is English, and of course, this is a huge mistake and involves a condescending look!
And part of the reasons is based on the traditional images that colonialism created for the Arab world as being in a less civilized rank, and this belief prevails among the European and American student a lot, but the opposite happens with the Asian students and we find from them more keenness to express themselves in Arabic, whether inside or outside their country, given that This is one of the criteria for mastery in the language, unlike the European student who believes that once he has mastered the language, he does not have to deal, speak or write in it!!
I feel sorry that the only student among all those I have taught for over the past years was the one who was able to prepare a literary criticism study in Arabic and publishes it in the literature newspaper “Akhbar AlAdab” ; which lead to her study that is comparing Naguib Mahfouz and a Chinese writer.
I think that it is time to make the written and oral expression in Arabic a standard for mastery. If we look at all the languages of the world that we learn, and take the example of Spanish, we will find that they require you to read, write, speak and write in Spanish for your certification, and this is what we need. In this aspect, I commend the keenness of the Arabic language departments in Egyptian public universities To prepare studies in the Arabic language regardless of the nationality of the student.
What about the Egyptian parliament’s project to empowerment Arabic language?
It is an ambitious project that dedicates dozens of recommendations and calls from the Language Academy and intellectuals to make the Arabic language a language of daily life and respect it. It is not appropriate for shop signs to be written in a foreign language, as a member of the Literary Studies Committee of the Supreme Council of Culture I suggested restrictions be placed in the unions for members of any profession to be proficient in the Arabic language, both written and spoken, and for this to have prepared training courses, and the matter becomes a condition for career advancement as well, and here it will speed up Everyone to learn standard Arabic again and practice it.
My only complaint about the new project is the idea of punishment, and I am inclined to the principle of motivating in the adoption of Arabic language, because punishment perpetuates hatred and it is required that we return to gratitude for our national language, just as we find the French keenness and Enthusiasm on their language, for example. This is what we must cultivate, And to associate the language with our being, identity and existence. To feel ashamed that a public prosecutor cannot prepare a sound petition, or a lawyer, or a journalist, as this is a national disaster.
On the other hand; Praiseworthy jealousy over the language should not take us to contradict the imperatives of the age, and to say that medicine, engineering should be Arabized. Taking new developments requires that students know the modern language of science. Unfortunately, we have been delayed in advance of civilization; we are no longer the symbol of knowledge or progress to the world.
What do you think of the Arabic curricula offered to students in Egypt?
There have been required changes and updates, but it still lacks what makes the student close to the language in a modern and enjoyable way that develops the language taste and the four skills of learning, especially the skill of proper expression. And all of what we mentioned are modern methods of guessing words and linking them to context, essay writing, expression, research and interaction, I know that we want space Greater than interaction with the student but should not remain a formality!
Does Arabic language need sovereign decisions for protection?
Of course it is inevitable; in a country like China, we find language tests in all government institutions and a necessary condition, and the loss of the ability to express in fluent Chinese is a real defect in society and the media. By the way, China is one of the countries most interested in teaching Arabic as a cultural and economic destination.
Here, it is worth commending the keenness of some sectors of the Egyptian state on the issue of mastering the standard, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular, which conducts periodic tests to ensure the integrity of expression among members of the diplomatic corps, and we hope that this matter will be circulated to all ministries.
Therefore, the matter is not the texts of the constitution that do not leave any room for doubt about the value and status of the language, but rather the activation of that in reality. Society must see the advancement of those who possess the mastery of language in employment and learning, not to find a university professor who cannot speak Arabic, so how was he promoted then, and not to find An announcer on the radio does not speak classical!
I am with openness to the times; Learning the international language is inevitable, but it is unfortunate that the new generation rushes to master English fluently and forgets their mother tongue, because we did not inherit them with confidence in it, and we did not rejoice or be proud of what they have accomplished in it at the level of reading, learning and creativity.. I know that there are many who has Loyalty to the mother tongue, but what percentage of them are from society, from business owners or employers, that is the question! And those generations will realize later that the world does not respect a nation that does not value its language and is satisfied with merely assimilation into the other that imposes its language and presence in various ways.