There has been quite a lot of talk recently about the development of the teaching and learning of Arabic in the region’s schools. Many are arguing that English is becoming too dominant. It has been noted that young people are no longer taking the Arabic language seriously, with many choosing to communicate only in English. According to the Arab Youth Survey 2015, which polled 3,500 youths aged 18 to 24 years old, Arabic is seen as the language of their parents and the language of their identity, but when it comes to jobs and social mobility, English is more important.
Many young people who move to the Middle East region and attend school, leave after many years without being able to speak a word of Arabic. Some complain that they find Arabic to be quite a difficult language to learn, while others complain about the methods used in the teaching of Arabic. They find these methods to be outdated and quite boring. But there are persons who are fighting to revamp the teaching and learning of Arabic. One such person at the forefront of this fight is Mostafa Elabbady. In this “A Moment With” feature, we learn about the work he is doing to transform the teaching and learning of Arabic among second language learners.
Mostafa Elabbady, was born in the city of Aswan, south of Egypt and attended public schools. He earned his degree from Assuit University, in English language and literature. He now works as a training manager at an institute in Dubai. Mostafa is the founder of Think in Arabic©, an innovative method of teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers. He has made several TV appearances and has also been featured in newspapers, speaking on best practices of teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers. He has been busy training Arabic teachers on his methodology of teaching Arabic “Creative Methodologies for teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers “. Mostafa has been teaching and tutoring Arabic for children and adults for many years. He has published numerous books and developed several mobile apps for students who are learning Arabic. In addition to teaching and tutoring, Mostafa has extensive journalism experience, working in newsrooms, translating and editing books, as well as writing television programs. Mostafa is determined to change the way people learn Arabic.
How did you become involved in the teaching of Arabic? Why did you become a teacher?
I started my career in teaching, back in 1990 as an English teacher in Egypt.
I later became a Teacher of Arabic, in 2007, while working as a TV journalist, as a means of supplementing my income.
What inspires you most?
Reading a new great book, watching a new meaningful video, meeting new awesome people, visiting a nice place that I had not visited before, and professionally I am so excited and happy when I see the method and resources I developed, being used. I am also inspired when the students that I have taught use the Arabic language in communicating with others.
Share two major challenges that you faced (this can be personal or professional). How did you overcome them?
One major challenge that I had, was when I wanted to finance the development of the Arabic IOS applications and print the resources. I had very little money because I had left my job at that time and had decided to change my career from media to education. The solution came through a student of mine, Amanda Turner, who lent me a great deal of the amount needed, please allow me here to express my gratitude to her for the great support and help she gave me.
The second major challenge I am still having is, reaching the decision makers in schools to show them how great my methods are. I am confident that I can help their students to get great results in Arabic, However, it is difficult to get through the gatekeepers in the region’s schools, but I will not give up.
What are two projects you are working on to help to improve the teaching and learning of Arabic regionally and further afield?
Right now I am working on updating and improving two major apps which are “Easy Reading Arabic” and “Arabic Alphabet letters and sounds”, which are both very important in developing the reading, writing, listening and eventually speaking skills. I am currently involved with a few schools in Dubai to improve the teaching and learning of Arabic language in their schools. Internationally, global online websites are using the “Think in Arabic ©” method and resources in teaching Arabic. Thousands of individuals are also using the apps.
Share two ways in which the work that you are currently doing positively impacts the teaching and learning of Arabic.
Compared to English or French, Arabic language learners do not have enough resources – this constitutes a major challenge. When I thought of having an international impact, I thought of developing apps. I merged the digital resources with the physical paper, I also created a YouTube channel to help those who cannot download the apps.
Why is it important for today’s students across the Middle East, both Expats and natives to have a good grasp of the Arabic language?
I believe many problems happen just because of not being able to understand each other’s language or culture, so having a good grasp of Arabic will help in building bridges between the world and Arabs. Also, knowing the Arabic rich culture and arts will help students in finding good jobs, in many fields in the future; as journalism, political affairs, diplomacy, trade and many other areas, where knowledge of a foreign language is a great way to excel.
What should schools do to encourage expat students to pursue studying Arabic as a second language?
This is a very important question. Each school should encourage students to learn Arabic language by showing them what is in it for them. Students should know the benefit of learning Arabic and how it will be of great help to them, even to understand the connection between languages. As you may know, there are thousands of words in English with Arabic origins like Sugar, glass, cup, syrup, baby, waist, neck, camera, alcohol, algebra, schedule, algorithm, cipher, etc. Schools should have Competitions for different skills in Arabic such as; reciting poetry, writing essays, short stories and novels. Provide the needed resources for students to help them in learning Arabic.