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Re-linking Arabic Instruction with Its Socio-cultural Environment: New Challenges and Opportunities

Panel VII-22, sponsored byDartmouth College, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
This panel addresses the imperatives of implementing new pedagogies and updated approaches to teaching Arabic as a foreign language in a world that continues to change on many fronts. Although the demand for learning Arabic in American universities continues to grow at different paces through the years, it has not been accompanied by adequate development in content and pedagogies despite individual efforts some teachers are making. Further, students, including heritage language learners, are more invested in the quest for re-linking Arabic instruction with their social contexts. Papers in this panel will reflect on the efforts teachers are making to create new spaces for new pedagogies and new connections with communities in the Middle East through an efficient adoption of a proficiency-based curriculum based on folktales and migration stories, teaching the Medina as a space for indigenous knowledge while keeping an eye in the new trends of Heritage students who are interested in these learning processes. We will examine how these relationships between the Arabic classroom and the Arabic-speaking communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the US can be further strengthened.
  • Mr. Jaouad El Bakili -- Presenter
  • Mrs. Jamila Chahboun -- Organizer, Presenter
  • Housni Bennis -- Presenter
  • Dr. Mokhtar Bouba -- Presenter, Chair
  • Dr. Rayed Khedher -- Presenter
  • Mrs. Jamila Chahboun
    The number of heritage learners (HLs) has increased in recent years, but their different unique linguistic and cultural needs are yet to be addressed, especially in Arabic teaching programs. These students are valuable asset to language programs and to the college institutions in general. In this paper, I will examine the challenges Dartmouth College heritage learners (HLs) face while learning Arabic in a curriculum that is designed for students with little to no prior knowledge of Arabic. I will shed light on their motivations, expectations, and perceptions of their learning abilities with the goal of proposing future course design that addresses their needs. I draw on qualitative research based on surveys and interviews with HLs at Dartmouth College to address the following questions: How to develop strategies to enable HLs apply their prior linguistic and cultural knowledge for deeper exploration? How can we support their appreciation for the diversity of the Arabic language and culture? What are the benefits and possibilities for creating a special Arabic language program to address these needs and challenges? One of the goals of this study is to develop our pedagogies and course content in the Arabic Department at Dartmouth and to create a class for heritage learners (Arabic 4) for better engagement in learning Arabic and to build a cohesive, authentic, and equitable learning environment for them.
  • Mr. Jaouad El Bakili
    Educational institutions and teachers need to integrate cultural components in their activities and curricula. Language teaching is one of the major influential disciplines in spreading cultural awareness and leveraging students’ intercultural sensitivity and transcultural competence. Notably, language symbolizes cultural reality, and each sign of a language system has a cultural value. Speakers of a language identify themselves and others through their native language, which also refers to their social identity (Cultural Identity). Failure to bridge and reconcile cultural differences between heritage learners (HLs) and non-native speakers leads to misinterpretation and increases cultural tension. The current research investigates strategies and approaches that contribute to developing students’ intercultural and transcultural competence. In addition, the study presents means of assessing both heritage learners and non-native speakers’ levels of acceptance of other cultures and introducing new methodologies, practices, and guidelines to improve students’ cultural proficiency. Moreover, it sheds light on certain aspects to be included in Arabic culture proficiency guidelines, such as degree of interaction, formal and informal registers, speaking styles, discourse functions, non-verbal communication, and etiquette/ behavior/politeness formulae and appropriate forms of address. Finally, this study highlights how to contribute to forming individuals who are not only proficient in a second language but who are also aware of the differences that exist among cultures, which are open to diverse perspectives and beliefs, and who are appreciative of insights gained through open cultural exchange.
  • Dr. Mokhtar Bouba
    Old Medinas in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have served as valuable spaces for education and learning of crafts, architecture, language, and arts, where indigenous vocabularies and skills have been created and shared. Although these ways of knowing and learning are still taught to younger generations by Maalams, even Arabic teaching programs can benefit from the masters of these crafts and their pedagogies. Indigenous methodologies are actively evolving areas of study, praxis, and exploration that are yet to be used in the field of language instruction for their benefit to the language curricula in which instructors can design innovative materials, engaging assignments, and activities that are both creative and real. This paper explores the Medina as a classroom where learners engage directly with inhabitants as custodians of these spaces who use indigenous methods every day to teach crafts and language skills, which can support Arabic instruction. I will examine how Arabic curricula can use Mujawara (DEFINE) and indigenous mentorship, developed and practiced by craftsmen and women in North Africa and the Middle East for many centuries, to teach Arabic to young learners in a way that contextualizes learning and brings it to life. I draw on research in indigenous education, language instruction, and study-abroad fieldwork to argue for Arabic language pedagogy that is grounded in exploration of the Medina to create tangible, rich content that is contextualized in real Arabic-speaking cultures.
  • Housni Bennis
    ACTFL’s World Readiness Standards advocate the importance of enhancing intercultural competence among learners of foreign languages, including heritage speakers. Folktales provide a rich valuable material to entertain and educate; they help not only present the values of a given culture, but also, and most importantly, show why and how these values are held in high esteem. This paper proposes that adopting a proficiency-based curriculum based on folktales would foster intercultural competence. It will show that an interactive-communicative learning strategy informed by a pedagogical framework based on the three modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal and presentational) would develop students’ critical skills such as logical reasoning, critical views, inferencing, forming persuasive arguments and debating. This, in turn, would foster a deep understanding of the relationship among practices, products, and perspectives of cultures.
  • Dr. Rayed Khedher
    When employed creatively and adequately in the classroom, storytelling can be a powerful pedagogical tool that one can use to enhance learning opportunities and communicative competence of students of foreign languages. A growing body of literature suggests that using storytelling in teaching foreign languages provides several valuable outcomes, including helping students to understand and appreciate other cultures other than their own. However, in the context of teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (AFL) these outcomes still present several challenges mainly the divide between Fusha (standard) and Ammiya/Darija (colloquial). Another challenge is the identification and selection of story-based teaching materials that suit the learners’ needs and the curriculum used for teaching. This paper addresses these discrepancies by investigating the attitudes of AFL learners towards an integrated approach in acquiring a contextualized communicative and cultural competence via migration stories, and virtual encounters with migrants and refugees from Tunisia/Sicily. My goal through this study is to assess the effectiveness of migration stories as authentic human experiences in augmenting students’ learning motivations towards a holistic Arabic language acquisition and cultural competence proficiency.