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‘It’s your duty as a UAE expat to learn Arabic while here’

It is the duty of expats living in Dubai to learn how to speak Arabic, a senior education official has said. Fatma Al Marri, CEO at Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said: “Imagine if you are in a foreign country for two years, you will grasp the language. But here in Dubai there are some expats I’ve met, even if they’ve been here for 30 years, they still couldn’t speak Arabic.

“Sometimes I encounter expats who can speak Arabic fluently but they would say that they’ve learned Arabic while they were in Saudi Arabia.” She was speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of an event called ‘Living Arabic’ held on Saturday at Jebel Ali School.

Al Marri admitted that there are many challenges in having majority of the residents speak Arabic. For one, she said, in private schools most subjects are taught in English. Arabic is a challenge to most of the children and “they don’t like Arabic and find it boring”.

To face this challenge, Al Marri said they have launched Living Arabic since last year. “Through this project, which is geared towards both the native Arabic speakers and expats, what we are trying to do is make Arabic language fun for the students. We also tell them that the language is very important in their daily lives,” she underlined.

Al Marri said their strategy is first focused on improving the quality of teachers – since they are the ones who will instil the love of the Arabic language among students.

Innovation in teaching

There is also knowledge sharing and discussion of best practices. Teaching Arabic is also based on scientific research and innovation such as employing digital technology. Islamic studies is also incorporated not just to teach the religion but more importantly to imbibe the manners, values and philosophy that are “intrinsically connected with the Arabic language”.

Al Marri noted that all school curriculums have Arabic subjects and parents can take advantage of this by learning the language with their children at home. She also pointed out that although Dubai is a multicultural and modern city, there are many opportunities for residents and even tourists to learn Arabic. Learning Arabic is also highly recommended for expats because it will give them economic benefits and better employment opportunities.

“Arabic can also face the challenges of globalisation. We want our (Arabic) students to speak English as a foreign language and Arabic as their mother tongue,” added Al Marri. Meanwhile, Manal Al Habbal, head of Arabic and Islamic Education at Jebel Ali School, said learning Arabic is tough as it is considered as one of the top five hardest languages in the world.

“So we are preparing the proper mindset of our students, especially the non-Arabic speakers, that they are learning a tough language. Then they will take it as a challenge and when they learn Arabic, it will give them a sense of pride and achievement,” Al Habbal said.

She added that students who learn and master Arabic will have a promising career in the region.

source : Khaleej Times

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