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.

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

Updated 16 September 2019

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.