Saudis turn to social media as language learning tool

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Multilingualism is becoming increasingly common, especially among younger generations, thanks to easy access to social media. (Shutterstock)
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Teacher Mohammed, a Saudi social media influencer.
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Language enthusiast Loay Al-Shareef.
Updated 04 September 2019

Saudis turn to social media as language learning tool

  • Easy access to digital resources has contributed to the spread of language learning

JEDDAH: Pop music, TV sitcoms and the power of social media have combined to help encourage Saudis to learn more languages. Multilingualism is becoming increasingly common, especially among younger generations, due to the vast pool of knowledge and information available on the Internet.
Millennials from the Kingdom and throughout the Middle East have been benefiting from mediums such as shows, movies and music to learn new languages, with many fluent or able to express themselves in numerous foreign tongues.
And while traditional classroom teaching methods remain the choice of some, easy access to social media and its diverse sources of entertainment is proving to be one of the chief driving forces in contributing to the spread of language learning.
The growth in the global popularity of the South Korean music genre K-pop is one example of how the phenomenon has taken off around the world.
Sara Rifai, 32, a language instructor at Jeddah University, told Arab News: “This generation is more privileged, and learning a language isn’t just a classroom activity anymore where an instructor speaks non-stop and students are limited to their desks.
“Learning a language goes beyond classrooms these days. It is a part of every aspect of the learner’s life. They can also sign up to online courses and download learning apps on their phones.”
Language enthusiast, Loay Al-Shareef, uses social media platforms to spread his knowledge. In 2012, he created a YouTube channel to share his language-learning methods with others, and now has more than 87,000 subscribers. “Back in 2012 YouTube was a trendy platform,” he said.
Al-Shareef, who speaks and teaches English and Hebrew, said: “I want to develop myself in Syrian Aramaic. I like acquiring old languages, semantic languages, and Greek and any language that has to do with ancient religions and heritage, especially Middle Eastern, Abrahamic religions.
“I have loved languages ever since I was a kid, and I learned all the languages through entertainment by watching movies, listening to songs and going to the cinema,” he added.
And Al-Shareef is not the only one to benefit from shows, movies, and music. Kim Namjoon, leader of one of the biggest K-pop bands, BTS, recently admitted on an American TV show that he taught himself English by watching the hit 1990s sitcom “Friends.”
“When I was a teenager all the Korean parents would make their kids watch “Friends.” First, I watched it with Korean subtitles, the second time with English subtitles and then I just removed subtitles completely,” said the South Korean rapper.
Content creator Al-Shareef preferred online learning because it could fit around his busy life, unlike classroom lessons which usually had rigid timetables.
“I always prefer to learn languages online because it gives the learner the benefit of providing them with what they want at the right time. They don’t have to be tied to a schedule,” he added.
Rifai said: “I personally don’t like the traditional way of learning because learners are treated as passive receivers of knowledge, and the teachers are the only source of that knowledge.
“Learning a language should be fun, engaging, communicative and structured. Learners should be allowed to construct knowledge by working together with their peers.
She said a combination of learning in a classroom environment and through social media was most effective.
Al-Shareef said: “Those who want to learn a new language should focus on phrases used commonly in that language. Common phrases are the best way to acquire a new language because a language is made up of reoccurring sentences. If learners memorize and understand 100 to 300 phrases, they can manage day-to-day conversations.”
Many social media influencers have taken it upon themselves to teach languages to their Arabic-speaking followers.
One Saudi influencer dubbed Teacher Mohammed gives short English lessons to his 1.2 million followers on his Instagram account, while another called Ms. Elham teaches English via her Snapchat account and YouTube channel.


Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar becomes international role model for business continuity

Sultan Al-Zaidi (L) and Fahad Al-Jubeir.
Updated 21 September 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar becomes international role model for business continuity

  • Alkhobar has pushed for a paperless municipality and emphasized the introduction of online services for residents

JEDDAH: Alkhobar municipality, along with Europe’s largest industrial manufacturing company Siemens, has been hailed as a role model for management excellence and business continuity.
The municipality has been awarded international certification for its excellence in managing crises and risks under difficult circumstances, in recognition of its administrative achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quality Austria (QA) awarded Alkhobar Municipality and Siemens with ISO 22301 and ISO 9001 certificates, which are concerned with business continuity management, especially during the pandemic.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an independent and nongovernmental body. Its standards are internationally agreed by experts and are seen as the best way of doing something.
Alkhobar has pushed for a paperless municipality and emphasized the introduction of online services for residents.
Its mayor, Sultan bin Hamid Al-Zaidi, said that the municipality’s ISO achievement was in line with achieving the goals of the Eastern Province municipality. He added that the aim was to make Alkhobar a distinguished city, like other places in the province.
The Mayor of the Eastern Province, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Jubeir, said that municipalities were keen to implement the most advanced administrative systems and provide the best services to beneficiaries.
“This comes in line with the objectives of municipal transformation, part of the National Transformation Program 2020 of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan which states that the Kingdom, with its outputs and services, should provide an international role model of quality and mastery, and raise the level of services provided by services and economic development agencies and enterprises,” Al-Jubeir told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHT

Business continuity was primarily done through strategic planning and taking into account the different local factors and needs of provinces and municipalities.

He added that the municipality had launched initiatives and programs seeking to make the Eastern Province and its governorates pioneers in administrative and service qualities, as well as improving public services.
According to QA’s regional manager, Dr. Mohamed Hassan, business continuity was primarily done through strategic planning and taking into account the different local factors and needs of provinces and municipalities.
“These instructions are then transformed into applicable programs and strategies at the amana (provincial government) level,” he wrote in an article. “Since the Eastern Province is, in this respect, the leading province in the Kingdom, the guidelines are finalized in consultation with the EP’s mayor, Fahad Al-Jubeir.”
The article gave examples of Alkhobar’s strategic emergency plans and said it had made arrangements with companies such as Al-Yamama for the prevention of damage from flash floods or storms.
It added that other public contractors, such as Nabatat, ensured that green spaces and parks in the city remained relaxing destinations for people, even on exceptionally hot summer days.
“A successful example of service digitization is the Balady software, which makes all municipality services available to citizens online. Moreover, the Balagat software offers a service in which complaints and suggestions from citizens can be reported and followed up online,” the article said. “If a complaint is not solved within 24 hours, it is automatically forwarded to the mayor of the Eastern Province, Al-Jubeir.”
The ministry’s foresight in initiating plans and preparations, the online software systems used and the high-quality standards in the municipality all helped in increasing the effectiveness of the business continuity management system.