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.

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

Updated 18 min 3 sec ago

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

  • The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date

RIYADH: More than 1,500 performers and 25 floats took part in a parade and carnival on Thursday night that officially launched Riyadh Season’s Boulevard zone. The crowds that gathered for the fun-packed event were also treated to motorcycle displays, fireworks and other surprises.

The Boulevard lit up at 9 p.m. for the start of the 90-minute event, which featured some of the international artists who will perform as part of Riyadh Season. Afterwards, the zone’s food and drink outlets, outdoor cinema and fountain shows officially opened.

The audience watched the parade, performances and displays from specially constructed stands. Food trucks offered a selection of tasty snacks, and organizers also provided prayer rooms, toilets, first-aid stations and other facilities.


GEA president Turki Al-Sheikh gave an opening speech: “Our dearest people, in the beginning of this season, we welcome you and our guests in Riyadh.

“I want to share a story with you all; once upon a time, I was from a middle-class family. My mother and father would gather both their salaries to have us travel to see the world, and then we would stay in Riyadh for a year. These were our capabilities (at the time) and there was nothing to do in Riyadh. Who would've thought that we’d see all of this in Riyadh, and in our beloved country?

“This wouldn't have been possible without -of course Allah first- a person who has the qualities and vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

He tweeted: “Riyadh traffic police estimated we have exceeded 600K which means ten times the capacity.”

In addition to the opening-night festivities, the Boulevard zone, which covers 400,000 square meters, will host a wide range of entertainment options and activities for all ages, including the outdoor cinema, restaurants, and sports, music and theatrical events. It has three main venues: The 22,000-seat Mohammed Abdu Theater, the 6,000-seat Abu Bakr Salem Theater, and the 2,000-seat Baker Al-Sheddi Theater.

The parade is just one of more than 100 events featuring local, regional and international performers taking place during the Riyadh Season festival, which continues until mid-December at 12 zones across the city: the Boulevard; the Front; Riyadh Car Show; Winter Wonderland; Riyadh Stadiums; the Diplomatic Quarter; Al-Muraba’a; Al-Malaz; Wadi Namar; Nabd Al-Riyadh; Riyadh Safari; and Riyadh Sahara. It has been organized with the support of Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and president of Riyadh Season.

The ambitious 2019 Saudi Seasons initiative, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in February and includes 11 local seasons covering most parts of the Kingdom. Designed to promote the fledgling Saudi entertainment sector and boost tourism, it is attracting some of the biggest names in world entertainment.

The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date. It follows a folklore parade at the Mawtni (My Nation) cultural event in Yanbu to mark Saudi National Day this year, and a parade during the Jeddah Season festivities in the city’s Obhur district.

The parade had a special surprise; the appearance of DJ Carnage who took to the stage dressed in complete Saudi attire and performed his successful electronic show.

The musician also took to Twitter to celebrate the night and how he had had a hand in “making history,” tweeting: “A huge thank you to @Turki_alalshikh  ..... what you did for your country last night... was so special... thank you for having me... we made history.”