How one educator is inspiring a love of Arabic as UN marks 11th World Arabic Language Day

Special How one educator is inspiring a love of Arabic as UN marks 11th World Arabic Language Day
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Syrian educational consultant and children’s book author Nahla Al-Malki. (Supplied)
Special How one educator is inspiring a love of Arabic as UN marks 11th World Arabic Language Day
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In some of her videos, Al-Malki discusses the misconceptions of teaching Arabic, accessing high-quality Arabic children’s books, and the joy of reading. (Supplied)
Special How one educator is inspiring a love of Arabic as UN marks 11th World Arabic Language Day
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Updated 18 December 2023
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How one educator is inspiring a love of Arabic as UN marks 11th World Arabic Language Day

How one educator is inspiring a love of Arabic as UN marks 11th World Arabic Language Day
  • Children’s book author Nahla Al-Malki fears use of mother tongue is on the wane among young Arabs in Gulf countries
  • She discusses misconceptions of teaching Arabic, accessing high-quality Arabic children’s books, and the joy of reading

DUBAI: Exactly 50 years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared that it would adopt Arabic as its sixth official language. Thirty nine years later, in 2012, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization established established World Arabic Language Day on the anniversary of the world body’s adoption of Arabic.

“It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, used daily by more than 400 million people,” UNESCO’s website states. And yet, Arabic — a millennia-old language with a wealth of written works encompassing poetry, literature, law, science and philosophy — is sadly on the decline as a written and oral language, according to some experts.

Among those who hold that belief is Syrian educational consultant and children’s book author Nahla Al-Malki. Through her self-titled Instagram page, Al-Malki aspires to motivate the younger generation of Arab children to read and speak in their mother tongue.




In some of her videos, Al-Malki discusses the misconceptions of teaching Arabic, accessing high-quality Arabic children’s books, and the joy of reading. (Supplied)

“Arabic is beautiful and eloquent. Arabic is identity and heritage. I think it’s a very important part of my identity, and more than anything, I want to make sure that my children and other children in the world feel like they are connected to that identity,” she told Arab News from Dubai, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Al-Malki was born and raised in Jeddah, where she was able to stay in touch with her mother tongue by communicating in Arabic all through the 1990s.

“Saudi Arabia is different from other places,” she said. “It still maintains that homely, cosy environment among families and community social life.

“Actually, if we’re going to link it back to language, I think that really helped me flourish. I went to Arabic schools, so the people around me were all speaking Arabic. Of course, my family at home spoke Arabic all the time. With my friends and social circle, everything was in Arabic.”

Al-Malki said she comes from a family that appreciates languages, noting that her brothers speak three languages: Italian, German and French.




Syrian educational consultant and children’s book author Nahla Al-Malki. (Supplied)

After living in Saudi Arabia, Al-Malki pursued her higher studies in Beirut, going on to obtain her English language teaching master’s degree from the University of Manchester and the University of Cambridge.

Her role as an educational consultant includes training teachers, carrying out inspections and audits at universities, and writing course books.

About seven years after she settled down in Dubai, a cosmopolitan melting pot of languages and cultures, she started noticing that her own four-year-old was moving away from speaking Arabic.

FASTFACTS

400m+ Arabic speakers worldwide.

5th Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world.

0.6% Share of all online content is in Arabic.

“We did end up putting my son in a British curriculum school. Suddenly, there was a huge shift. It was easier and more comfortable for him speaking English. You fall in that trap as a parent and think, ‘I’m going to speak to them in English.’ But, it didn’t feel right,” Al-Malki said.

“I enjoyed so much reading books with my children. We used to get stuck on certain characters and lines and keep repeating them throughout the day. And sadly, it was all in English.”

This eye-opening personal experience of hers was a key motivation for Al-Malki to help fellow struggling parents through social media. “I wanted to spread hope,” she said.

Since September 2023, Al-Malki has been uploading brief yet structured and useful videos guiding parents, as well as Arab-language enthusiasts, to instill a love of reading and speaking in Arabic.




Book author and educator Nahla Al-Malki says the way Arabic is being taught in the classroom requires a facelift, introducing innovation, fun, creativity — in other words, a modern mindset. (Shutterstock)

“I did not want to give them practical tips, but practical philosophies, in a non-preachy and non-guilt-inducing way, that they can follow as a lifestyle,” she said.

In some of her videos, she discusses the misconceptions of teaching Arabic, accessing high-quality Arabic children’s books, and the joy of reading.

There are several reasons why Al-Malki believes that Arabic is being spoken less on a social level, especially in major Gulf cities that tend to be more expat-heavy than the Levant region.

The real change, she says, should start with places where children spend most of their time: at home and school. The way Arabic is being taught in the classroom requires a facelift, introducing innovation, fun, creativity — in other words, a modern mindset.




Parents have to make it a priority to focus on teaching their children Arabic, says educator Nahla Al-Malki. (Shutterstock)

“I don’t want to put the blame on teachers, because they are very keen and putting (in) so much effort. But there are some basic tools that they still don’t know about,” said Al-Malki.

“They’ve been teaching the Arabic language the same way for over 60-70 years. It’s not wrong for us to question and reflect, because this generation is not the same as the one before, and things are always changing.”

Al-Malki recommends implementing “contextualized learning,” meaning, “bringing the students’ lives into the classroom and thinking about what their interests are. It’s important to read stories in the classroom that are appealing to the students.”

“In an English lesson, they’d be talking about where they traveled last summer or their favorite footballer. But in Arabic, it’s very abstract and dry.” This line of thinking can also be applied, in Al-Malki’s opinion, to children’s story books written in Arabic.




Syrian educational consultant and children’s book author Nahla Al-Malki. (Supplied)

“The main element about children’s books in English is that when you pick them up, you’re enjoying the words, the rhyming, the imagery, the laughter,” she said. “While in Arabic, most of our books are about the moral of the story.

“There are some good books, but the majority still underestimate a child’s ability to imagine and create their own stories and analyze. It’s just not as enjoyable, and I wanted to be part of that change.”

To address this insidious problem, Al-Malki plans to release her first children’s book in 2024, focusing on a central character who goes through different events.


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Al-Malki says that, at home, it is crucial for children to converse in Arabic, listen to Arabic music, and watch Arabic cartoons to make sure that Arabic is truly their mother tongue.

“It really starts at home. If I were to summarize everything, it’s all about the parents making it a priority to focus on Arabic,” she said.

“There also needs to be a shift in the mindset of thinking, ‘it’s impossible to speak Arabic.’ Every little bit counts, even if you start reading with them five minutes per day and then increase it as you go; I think it’s very important.”




At home, it is crucial for children to converse in Arabic, listen to Arabic music, and watch Arabic cartoons to make sure that Arabic is truly their mother tongue, says educator Nahla Al-Malki. (Shutterstock) 

She added: “Just because the majority of movies and books around us are in English, it doesn’t mean that we can’t speak Arabic. If you look at all the other expat communities, like the French, Chinese or German, they are still speaking their language. Why are we the only ones that aren’t?”

There are also some geopolitical factors to consider in this linguistic problem. Because of instability in many countries of the Middle East, large numbers of Arabic-speaking people are migrating, especially to Europe and North America, which can impact how often they get to use their mother tongue and are in tune with their customs.

Al-Malki also points to the class dynamics of maintaining one’s mother tongue. “When you’re speaking English or French with your children, it gives you a level of prestige,” she said.

“You are educated and better than some. It gives the implication that maybe you carry a different passport or nationality. It’s the idea of status and that English or a second language will open up all these horizons for you.”




Whether at home or in school, Arabic should be taught with innovation, fun, and creativity, says educator Nahla Al-Malki. (Shutterstock)

Despite the hurdles, there is hope. Al-Malki says that her videos are well-received by followers, some of whom are not even from the Arab world. She hopes to one day establish a larger platform that gives the community more tangible tools on how to support their children.

She also feels that some changes are starting to happen, thanks to initiatives launched in the Arab world’s publishing and design fields that seek to preserve the beauty of the Arabic language.

“When you speak Arabic, you adopt a different body language. You speak differently, stand up differently. You use different expressions. So, when we’re losing that, we’re losing the culture, the jokes, the music, the traditions,” said Al-Malki.

“There is a generation of people, parents, educators right now that are waking up to this issue and realizing that language is such an important part of identity.”

 


Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
Updated 8 sec ago
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Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
  • Hamas eader Izzat Al-Rishq jas accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression"

Hamas eader Izzat Al-Rishq jas accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression"

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he “strongly opposes” ending the war in Gaza, ahead of his war cabinet convening amid intense diplomacy to forge a truce and hostage release deal.
Meanwhile deadly fighting rocked the Gaza Strip and Hamas militants fired a salvo of rockets at Israel’s commercial hub Tel Aviv for the first time in months, sending people scrambling for shelter.
Netanyahu has long rejected Hamas’s demand in negotiations for a permanent end to the fighting, which was triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack and has left vast areas of besieged Gaza in ruins.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had earlier told AFP that “the war cabinet is expected to meet... tonight at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) to discuss a hostage release deal.”
A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office before the meeting said Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya “Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able to carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again,” referring to the attack that triggered the war.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this,” the statement said.
A member of Hamas’s political leadership, Izzat Al-Rishq, accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression.”
In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told journalists before meeting Palestinian premier Mohammed Mustafa that a strong Palestinian Authority (PA) was in Israel’s interest.
EU members Ireland and Spain, and also Norway, have said they will recognize the State of Palestine from Tuesday, drawing furious Israeli condemnation.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
Mustafa, whose government is based in the occupied West Bank, said the “first priority” was to support people in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” there after Hamas seized it from the PA in 2007.
US President Joe Biden has pushed for renewed international efforts to halt the war, now in its eighth month.
The Israeli official had said Saturday that “there is an intention to renew these talks this week” after negotiations involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators stalled in early May.
However, Rishq said Sunday that so far, “we have not received anything from the mediators.”
He insisted on Hamas’s long-standing demand for a permanent cessation of hostilities as “the foundation and the starting point for anything.”


Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas following the October 7 attack, but has also faced growing domestic and international criticism.
The attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The military on Sunday announced the death of a soldier in north Gaza, taking to 289 the number of troops killed since Israel began its ground offensive in late October.
As the war ground on, the families of hostages still held by Palestinians militants have piled pressure on Netanyahu to secure a deal to free them.
Washington has also taken a tougher line with its close ally as outrage over the war and US support for Israel has become a major issue for Biden, seeking re-election in a battle against Donald Trump.
With more strikes reported Sunday across Gaza, Israel’s military said that over the past 24 hours it had destroyed “over 50 terror targets.”
Fighting has centered on the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel launched a ground operation in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.
Rafah resident Moaz Abu Taha, 29, told AFP of “constant bombardment from land and air, which has destroyed many houses.”
Gaza’s civil defense agency said it had retrieved six bodies after a house was targeted in eastern Rafah.

Hamas’s armed wing said it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist (Israeli) massacres against civilians.”
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised briefing that “Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at central Israel from Rafah.”
“Hamas launched these rockets from near two mosques in Rafah,” Hagari said. “Hamas is holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why we have been conducting a precise operation” there.
Analyst Neomi Neumann said the militants were not trying to “cause damage to Israel, but to maintain continuity of fire.”
They “shoot relatively few rockets per barrage from their diminishing arsenal, and choose when to concentrate their efforts,” said Neumann, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
The UN has warned of looming famine in the besieged territory, where most hospitals are no longer functioning.
Amid the bloodiest ever Gaza war, Israel has faced growing global outcry over the surging civilian death toll, and landmark moves last week at two international courts.
Last Monday, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister as well as for three top Hamas figures.
And on Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive or any other operation there that could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians.
 


Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah

Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah
Updated 11 min 56 sec ago
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Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah

Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah
  • Israeli strikes had also killed and wounded at least 50 people in the area, says Hamas
  • Israel said its air force carried out strikes on Rafah in response to a Hamas rocket barrage

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: The Hamas-run government media office in Gaza said late Sunday that at least 30 people were killed and dozens wounded in Israeli strikes on a center for displaced people near the Palestinian territory’s far-southern city of Rafah.

“The Israeli occupation committed a horrific massacre by bombarding intensively and intentionally the UNRWA’s Barkasat displacement center northwest of Rafah Governorate,” the office said in a statement, referring to the UN Palestinian refugee agency.
The strikes had “led to the death of 30 martyrs and dozens of injured,” it said.
Gaza’s civil defense agency said Israeli strikes had killed and wounded at least 50 people in the area, where it said 100,000 displaced people live.
The Israeli army said it would respond “as soon as possible” when asked for comment about the incident.
The ICRC said one of its field hospitals was receiving an “influx of casualties seeking care for injuries and burns” and reported that other hospitals were also receiving a large number of patients.
“Our teams are doing their best to save lives,” the ICRC said in a statement.
Strikes in other areas of Rafah were also reported late Sunday, with the Kuwait Specialized Hospital saying it had received the bodies of three people, including a pregnant woman.
Israel launched a ground operation on Rafah in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.
Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s army said at least eight rockets were fired toward central areas of the country from Rafah.
Hamas’s armed wing said in a post on Telegram it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”
Later Sunday, the Israeli military said in a statement its air force had carried out strikes on Rafah in response.
“The rocket launcher, which was situated near two mosques in the area of Rafah, was struck by the (Israeli Air Force) shortly after,” it said.
 


Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’

Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’
Updated 26 May 2024
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Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’

Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’

CAIRO: More than two weeks of fighting between Sudan’s military and a notorious paramilitary group over a major city in the western Darfur region killed at least 123 people, an international aid group said on Sunday.

The fighting in El-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur province, also wounded more than 930 people in the same period, Doctors without Borders said.

“This is a sign of the violent intensity of the fighting,” the group said. 

“We urge the warring parties to do more to protect civilians.”

Clashes between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces escalated earlier this month in the city, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes, according to the UN.

El-Fasher has become the center of the conflict between the military and the RSF, aided by militias commonly known as Janjaweed. 

The city is the last stronghold held by the military in the sprawling Darfur region.

Sudan’s conflict began in April last year when soaring tensions between the leaders of the military and the RSF exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country.

The conflict killed more than 14,000 people and wounded thousands more amid reports of widespread sexual violence and other atrocities that rights groups say amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It also pushed the country’s population to the brink of famine. 

The UN food agency warned the warring parties earlier this month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation and death in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they don’t allow humanitarian aid into the vast western region.

In recent months, the RSF has built up forces seeking to wrest control of El-Fasher. 

Along with its militia allies, the RSF besieged the city and launched a major attack on its southern and eastern parts earlier this month.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration reported that clashes renewed on Thursday in the Abu Shouk camp for displaced people in the Salam neighborhood in the city’s northern and southern western parts.

On Saturday, a shell hit the house of a Doctors Without Borders aid worker close to the city’s main market, killing the worker, the charity said.


‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
Updated 26 May 2024
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‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
  • The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border

BEIRUT: Residents of southern Lebanon’s border area took shelter late on Sunday as Hezbollah launched more than 150 missiles at targets inside Israel in one of the largest attacks since the conflict began.

“The ground trembles beneath us and the sky is covered by missiles,” one resident told Arab News.

Hezbollah’s barrage followed a series of Israeli drone strikes earlier in the day that killed at least eight of the group’s members and civilians.

Hezbollah responded by launching missiles toward Kiryat Shmona, the Golan, and military sites in the Al-Manara and Misgav Am areas. 

The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border.

“These are unprecedented barrages of missiles,”  the resident said.

“The area is shaking from the sounds of missiles above our heads heading toward the other side of the border. We see Iron Dome explosions above the towns all the way to the Nabatiyeh area.”

After the two deadly attacks on Naqoura and Aita Al-Shaab earlier on Sunday, the Israeli army struck a motorcycle in the town of Hula with a missile from a military drone, killing three Hezbollah members, Tariq Awad, Hussein Salman Mustafa, and Wissam Ali Hamid, whose brother was killed in an Israeli attack on the city of Bint Jbeil a few weeks ago.  

The Israeli army attacked the town of Yaron in the Bint Jbeil district with two air-to-surface missiles, killing two Hezbollah members. 

The towns of Aitaroun and Al-Adisa were hit by dozens of phosphorus shells, causing’ fires in several neighborhoods.


Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
Updated 35 min 12 sec ago
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Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.