Learning curve: Hanna Lenda’s educational games are a hit with parents and teachers

Lenda and her Tunisian husband prioritized instilling a love of their mother tongues in their children. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 June 2020

Learning curve: Hanna Lenda’s educational games are a hit with parents and teachers

  • The designer launched her Daradam brand to meet a need for fun educational resources in Arabic

DUBAI: They say necessity is the mother of invention, and for French-Hungarian entrepreneur Hanna Lenda, her endeavor to design educational and playful games in Arabic was sparked by the arrival of her firstborn son, Adam. Lenda and her Tunisian husband — who live in Nantes, France — prioritized instilling a love of their mother tongues in their children. 

“When Adam was born, I started to buy children’s books and games in English, Hungarian, French and Arabic — this was nearly 10 years ago,” Lenda explained to Arab News. “And I said to myself, ‘Why does all the Arabic stuff not look as cool as the other languages?’ Arabic is just as beautiful; it’s a language of poetry. This beautiful language doesn’t deserve to look outdated.” 

So, in 2016, Lenda — who has a master’s degree in product design — established Daradam (meaning ‘Adam’s home’), a publishing house for educational resources offering young minds a fresh take on the basics of the Arabic language and numerical system, as well as promoting Arabic culture — including the region’s architectural heritage — through visually engaging products. 

Lenda began crafting board and card games that are simple, educational and enjoyable. (Supplied)

Lenda interviewed a number of Arabic teachers, whose feedback was helpful to her design process. According to Lenda, they all expressed a concern that teachers of other languages had more resources, and that the limited options available to Arabic teachers were “not that fun.”

So Lenda began crafting board and card games that are simple, educational and enjoyable. “My desire was to create a product that, when the child sees it, he has the desire to touch and play with it,” she said. In her view, it was crucial that the games have simple rules, otherwise families and teachers would likely refrain from using them. 

One of her major criticisms of existing Arabic games is their “irrelevance.” Many were likely translated from English to Arabic decades ago. “Art is so beautiful in the Arab world,” said Lenda, who has visited Lebanon, Tunisia, and the UAE in recent years. “You can get inspiration from all the art there and create something that reflects the Arab world’s heritage. You don’t need to use a design coming from the other side of the world and translate it to Arabic.”  

Daradam (meaning ‘Adam’s home’) is a publishing house for educational resources. (Supplied)

For Daradam’s memory game “Arabicity,” for instance, Lenda invited the Tunisian artist Noha Habaieb to illustrate 12 iconic architectural settings from the Arab world, which are presented on a set of 24 wooden cards. Through Habaieb’s colorful and charming illustrations, the user is transported to the ruins of Petra in Jordan, the blue-washed roads of Morocco’s Chefchaouen and Beirut’s grand Sursock Museum, opened in 1961.

One of Daradam’s bestsellers is “Arabicubes,” in which each wooden block shows letters from the Arabic alphabet. Each side of a block presents all written forms of a specific letter, creating simple words and phrases when joined. 

“Vokalimat” is a board game designed to enrich children’s Arabic vocabulary, including feminine and masculine adjectives, while “Chkobba” — an upgraded attempt to teach children how to count — is inspired by a traditional Tunisian card game; each card is decorated with a mosaic and its parts are colored in according to the number on the card. 

For Lenda, Daradam is much more than an entrepreneurial venture. (Supplied)

“Arabicouples” came about through Lenda’s conversations with Arabic teachers who expressed a desire for resources that featured all 22 countries of the Arab league. Players must match pairs of cards containing illustrations of men and women wearing the traditional clothes of each country. Lenda’s research included scouring museum photographs for costume ideas.

Daradam’s products are now distributed in stores across the Middle East and Europe — engaging children from a refugee camp in Greece to areas of the Egyptian countryside. And they have turned out to be useful to curious adults and some non-Arabic speakers as well. 

Daradam’s products are now distributed in stores across the Middle East and Europe. (Supplied)

“In Lebanon, the family of an old lady who lost her capacity to talk bought her the ‘Arabicubes’ blocks. So, she communicates with them through the blocks,” Lenda said, adding that a French saleswoman once told her that a client bought the same product just because of its “beautiful design.”

It is clear that, for Lenda, Daradam is much more than an entrepreneurial venture. 

“We live in Europe, and before the coronavirus the media was speaking about terrorism, and my kids only heard negative stuff about (the Arab) world. It’s so bad,” she said. “We need to show this beautiful heritage to the kids. I want to show them the beauty and positive things of the region.” 

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

Updated 07 July 2020

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

  • The high-profile case has laid bare Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017
  • The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film ‘The Rum Diary’ and married in 2015

LONDON: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.
Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and facemask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.
The high-profile case has laid bare the couple’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.
But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life.”
He said it was a “strong and central part” of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.
“I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen,” he added.
“She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest,” he went on.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.
The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.
It argues Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive toward Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” — and has evidence to prove it.
But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their “unhappy” time together.
In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.
Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations “sick... and completely untrue.”
He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an “obsessive need” to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.
Depp’s lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple’s relationship was at times “physical,” it was at Heard’s instigation.
Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard’s violence, calling her allegations “complete lies.”
“He is not a wife-beater and never has been,” he said.
Heard was a “complex individual,” whose behavior was “extremely unpredictable,” with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.
She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a “wide range” of prescribed medication and other drugs.
Depp loved her but found her behavior “often bewildering” and “very difficult” to understand or deal with, he added.
Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to “numb the pain” of a difficult childhood.
But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a “nasty side,” that saw him turn into a “monster” who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.
“It wasn’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde,” he insisted.
The Sun story — “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?” — came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.
Depp said he had suffered “significant reputational damage” as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.
The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.