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Dubai Abulhoul: Changing the way the Arabic language is taught in our schools
February 13, 2016
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

I remember very clearly how my friends and I would stare at the clock in disbelief during our Arabic classes in school. How was it possible that only during our Arabic classes, did time never seem to pass by? To come to think of it, it seems like my friends and I worked more on our Math skills than our Arabic, given the amount of time we spent calculating the number of minutes left before class was over. We would roll our eyes and pray for a false fire alarm to go on, just so we could escape our Arabic teacher’s rant on “how important our Arabic language is”. It was a lecture that we have, I assure you, heard one too many times.

I am approaching this subject neither as an expert in curriculum reform, nor as an Arabic teacher. It is important to note, on the other hand, that both the “experts” in curriculum reforms and Arabic teachers have significantly contributed to the worsening of the issue.

It is safe to say that Arabic classes were the ones that we have, ironically, felt alienated from the most as students. My generation has been criticised on and on again for how it favours learning English over Arabic, but the difference in which both languages are taught can easily show you why.

We, as a generation, have always been lectured on how beautiful our language is, but our Arabic classes have never really showed us that. The selection of dense Arabic literature and texts, that portray anything but the language’s beauty, has pushed the youth away from the language itself. Moreover, Arabic grammar lessons have been taught mostly through memorisation and force-feeding students the rules. Even teachers themselves, as well as parents, are frustrated with the way in which the language is being taught. However, the frustration has unfortunately not been translated into a new, innovative curriculum. Instead, teachers have blamed students for their indifference, and go on with their lectures of how we, as a generation, do not care about our own language. In return, you end up with students that know neither enough Fus-ha to speak for 5 minutes straight, nor enough English to properly read through a dense book.

Personally speaking, my love for Arabic literature has been cultivated by what I have read outside of class instead of in it. Every time I open a book by Khalil Gibran or Naguib Mahfouz, I stand in awe of the beauty of their words. Why aren’t thought-provoking Arabic texts, that do the language justice, being taught in schools? What we need is an Arabic language curriculum that is targeted to capture the attention, as well as the interest, of young minds. In the past years, all that the Arabic language curriculum has taught the younger generations is how important and beautiful the Arabic language is; I can only hope, in the next few years, that a new curriculum can be introduced to show them why.

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The author is an Emirati novelist-writer

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