King Salman academy launches Saudi Voices Blog to document national dialects

Special King Salman academy launches Saudi Voices Blog to document national dialects
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The King Salman International Academy for the Arabic Language (KSGAAL) has launched the Saudi Voices Blog project, and it plans to complete the Blog’s first phase by the end of 2024. (Supplied)
Special King Salman academy launches Saudi Voices Blog to document national dialects
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Dr. Abdullah AlFifi, Head of the Linguistic Computing Department at the King Salman International Academy for the Arabic Language. (Supplied)
Special King Salman academy launches Saudi Voices Blog to document national dialects
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Dr. Ibrahim Abanmi, Deputy Secretary-General of the King Salman International Academy for the Arabic Language. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 June 2024
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King Salman academy launches Saudi Voices Blog to document national dialects

King Salman academy launches Saudi Voices Blog to document national dialects
  • Project features spoken and transcribed Arabic, including both eloquent and slang (local dialects)
  • Blog draws from various Arabic sources within Saudi Arabia, adhering to the latest scientific standards

RIYADH: The King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has launched the Saudi Voices Blog project, aiming to complete its first phase by the end of 2024.

The project features spoken and transcribed Arabic, including both eloquent and slang (local dialects). According to the academy, the blog draws from various Arabic sources within Saudi Arabia, adhering to the latest scientific standards.

It aims to promote research in Arabic audio blogging, gather audio data on Saudi dialects, and build an audio blog using modern methodologies.

The Saudi Voices Blog represents different societal classes, documents their dialects phonetically, and uses modern technologies to provide phonetic data for the scientific community.

It also offers machine-readable audio material with morphological, syntactic, lexical and semantic analysis for AI models.

Saudi Voices Blog aims to engage lexicon authors, AI researchers and those studying comparative linguistic phenomena, age-related linguistic differences and Arabic language policy.

It uses the latest international standards such as CODA and TEI for structuring and managing audio language data. The blog encourages participation across age groups to accurately represent Saudi dialects and their diversity.

The blog targets Saudi dialects from more than 40 locations within the Kingdom. A designated recorder at each location will capture voices from various participant categories, including children, young adults and the elderly, both men and women. The recordings will be uploaded to the Falak platform, which covers topics such as storytelling, places, foods, customs, traditions, holidays, daily situations, and quotes.

Once completed, the Saudi Voices Blog will be available to researchers and stakeholders for studies, application development, and adding new geographical points.

It will also help AI developers to overcome the lack of data needed to study Arabic dialects, societal linguistic differences, and automatic voice identification or transcription.

The project aims to strengthen the global standing of Arabic, raise awareness and facilitate its teaching and learning inside and outside Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Ibrahim Abanmi, deputy secretary-general of the academy, emphasized the importance of Arab audio blogs in enhancing the academy’s role as a reference for developing such blogs.

Abanmi highlighted the impact of Arabic audio blogs in supporting scientific research and preserving the heritage of Saudi dialects across different social classes.

Abanmi said that the blog was an unprecedented addition to phonetics and language research by providing audio material representing various Saudi dialects.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Fifi, head of the linguistic computing department at the academy, said that the first phase began with 50 individuals collecting data on 50 Saudi dialects.

He said that about 250 people, representing various age groups and both genders in Saudi Arabia, were participating in recording 2,500 audio hours for the blog.

After completing the high-quality recording and transcribing, the academy will implement a three-stage plan. The first stage involves labeling the audio data to enhance the podcast’s richness and usefulness.

The second phase will add new Saudi dialects not covered in the first phase, followed by expanding the blog’s geographical scope to include other countries.

Hajar Al-Shammari, a linguistic researcher in Saudi history, said that the Saudi Voices Blog was of international standing and offered many correlative products that stimulated research and studies, enriching the linguistic sector and its dialects.

The blog reflected the intellectual and cognitive richness of a region with diverse, intersecting dialects rooted in Arabic, a historical focal point connecting ancient civilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe, she added.

The blog allows linguistic and historical researchers to conduct specialized and interactive studies, contributing to significant outputs not only in the region but globally, given the Arabian Peninsula’s geopolitical and historical importance, Al-Shammari said.


Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss relations 

Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss relations 
Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss relations 

Saudi crown prince, Iraqi PM discuss relations 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a call on Wednesday to Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani, the Saudi Press Agency said.

The pair discussed ways of enhancing bilateral relations in all fields.

The call also reviewed issues of mutual interest.


Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli strikes on UN school in Gaza

Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli strikes on UN school in Gaza
Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli strikes on UN school in Gaza

Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli strikes on UN school in Gaza

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has condemned Israel’s targeting the UNRWA-run Al-Razi School in Nuseirat camp in Gaza, and Al-Attar area in Khan Yunis, killing dozens and injuring hundreds, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.

The statement described the attacks as “a series of repeated violations by the Israeli war machine against defenseless civilians.”

Israeli airstrikes killed more than 60 Palestinians in southern and central Gaza overnight and into Tuesday, including one that struck an Israeli-declared “safe zone” crowded with thousands of displaced people.

Tuesday’s deadliest strike hit a main street lined with market stalls outside the southern city of Khan Younis in Muwasi, at the heart of the zone that is packed with tent camps. Officials at Khan Younis’ Nasser Hospital said 17 people were killed.

Saudi Arabia renewed its categorical rejection of the continuation of Israeli genocidal crimes, and demanded an immediate ceasefire and ensuring the protection of civilians, relief facilities and their workers.

“The Kingdom holds the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for their continued violation of all international and humanitarian norms and laws,” the statement read.

Saudi Arabia also reiterated the legal, humanitarian and moral responsibility placed on the international community to put an end to these ongoing violations of international law and international legitimacy resolutions by the Israeli forces.

The Kingdom said the failure to do so “not only reflects the inability and weakness of the international community institutions, but also portends consequences that go beyond this crisis and affect the foundations of international legitimacy and credibility, and the extent of our ability to maintain regional and international security and stability in the future.”

-With AP


Saudi crown prince, Macron discuss Gaza, Russia-Ukraine crisis 

Saudi crown prince, Macron discuss Gaza, Russia-Ukraine crisis 
Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi crown prince, Macron discuss Gaza, Russia-Ukraine crisis 

Saudi crown prince, Macron discuss Gaza, Russia-Ukraine crisis 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a call on Wednesday from French President Emmanuel Macron, the Saudi Press Agency said.

The call discussed the situation in Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, in addition to efforts aimed at achieving security and stability.

The pair also reviewed bilateral relations and cooperation, as well as the latest regional and international developments.


Rock inscriptions in Saudi Arabia’s Baha bookmark a historic era

Rock inscriptions in Saudi Arabia’s Baha bookmark a historic era
Updated 17 July 2024
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Rock inscriptions in Saudi Arabia’s Baha bookmark a historic era

Rock inscriptions in Saudi Arabia’s Baha bookmark a historic era
  • Site epitomizes rich cultural tapestry

RIYADH: The “Book Plateau,” in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Baha region, is drawing visitors from far and wide. Nestled in Baljurashi, the inscribed rock epitomizes the rich cultural tapestry of the area.

Located at the confluence of two streams at the foot of Wadi Khara, this archaeological wonder has been likened to the pages of an open book and earned its name from the old inscriptions adorning its surface, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The carvings are believed to date back some 1,400 years. The site boasts early Islamic inscriptions without diacritical marks, some of which bear the names of the Prophet’s companions and their followers.

There is another rock formation nearby which resembles a palm, bearing different inscriptions. Five graves can be found at the top of Mihras Mountain, two of which are noticeably elevated. While their exact history and occupants remain unknown, it is believed they belong to people who once inhabited the area.

Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi, director general of the Heritage Authority in Baha, told the SPA that the authority had included the site in the National Antiquities Register following a survey in 2005. The inscriptions, which are etched onto granite rock faces, stand as silent witnesses to the area’s historic importance.

Baha’s summer season is attracting local and international visitors to its heritage villages and historic and archaeological sites.

These attractions have become crucial economic drivers, shaping the national tourism vision in line with the Kingdom’s ambitious goals.

They also showcase the region’s historic legacy for present and future generations.


Saudi publishing house creates heritage-led children’s works

Saudi publishing house creates heritage-led children’s works
Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi publishing house creates heritage-led children’s works

Saudi publishing house creates heritage-led children’s works
  • Arab children deserve innovative storytelling where they see themselves as heroes, says Dar Waraqa cofounder

JEDDAH: A Saudi Arabia publishing house focused on works for children is utilizing passion and innovation to turn the page toward a “golden age of creativity” in the Kingdom.

Dar Waraqa is an award-winning company that creates aesthetically-pleasing books and products that reflect Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and heritage.

Layal Idriss, cofounder and creative director of Dar Waraqa, told Arab News during a recent interview: “Our vision revolves around continuing with the passion for creating innovative projects that will create the golden age of creativity locally and represent Saudi Arabia on the global creative publication scene.”

Idriss is a visual storyteller, entrepreneur and educator who has produced over 100 books and products over the past two decades. “I am proud to bring change and innovation to children's publishing in the MENA region by cofounding Dar Waraqa,” she said.

Idriss studied media arts and animation as an undergraduate and earned a master’s degree in fine arts from California State University, specializing in illustration.

After graduating, she taught at her alma mater from 2014 to 2021. Last year she was selected for a Women in Innovation Fellowship at Georgetown University.

Idriss is challenging the status quo of creative entrepreneurship by focusing on the importance of culturally rich products and books tailor-made for children.

“I am constantly working on evolving my storytelling skills by participating in residencies and exhibits that promote experimental and innovative storytelling methods,” she said.

Driven by her own childhood love for reading, she aims to create a library that will inspire future generations and believes that Arab children deserve high-quality art and innovative storytelling where they see themselves as heroes.

Dar Waraqa, or “House of Paper,” is based in Jeddah and offers publishing and distribution services to clients worldwide. It was founded in 2019 by Idriss and her husband Mohammed Hasanain when she had noticed that clients at her creative agency, Radish House, struggled to transform digital creations into tangible products.

Recognizing this, she created Dar Waraqa as a one-stop shop, guiding clients from the idea stage to the final product.

“The company also expanded its services to include post-production, distribution, and marketing, ensuring that books and products reach their intended audience,” she explained. “Collaborating closely with Radish House, we select artists to create magical stories.”

Dar Waraqa also provides extensive guidance and training to artists and designers, focusing on young talent from Saudi Arabia and globally, Idriss added. “We aim to lead the golden age of Saudi children’s books through a collective creative process that leverages the latest technology.”

At the company, the storytelling process begins with in-house ideation, emphasizing innovation and creativity before involving any authors. Once a solid project structure is in place, they seek the best authors, primarily working with Saudi Arabia talent but also international writers when needed.

The publishing house is not working under any government entity currently, Idriss said. “We are fortunate as Saudis that there are many initiatives and support programs available, and we try to apply to most of them. We are an independent small business working on projects with local entities to serve their needs.”

For example, “Aklana” is a collaboration between the Saudi Culinary Commission to create a series of children’s books highlighting recipes and stories from the Kingdom’s 13 provinces.

The title translates to “Our Saudi Food” and the work presents authentic recipes through characters that are meant to be filled with joy and endearing to young readers.

“It is an excellent way to … work with the commission closely on preserving recipes in a fun and innovative way,” Idriss said.

She added that the series is “a great way to innovate and build a community of creatives who collaborate and build visual narratives of our food, culture, and daily life.”

Each book in the “Aklana” series includes a short summary of the region and its natural resources.

Idriss added that the commission put in “tremendous effort” to provide their team with resources and recipes “as they spent the last few years working diligently on traveling around Saudi Arabia researching recipes and documenting them as well as talking to experts.”

The series is designed to be a part of any home or school library for Saudi Arabia children.

“In some comics and stories, we tackle traditions like dishes prepared days before a specific holiday or a wedding feast or the rituals and traditions in local households when a baby is born. With that, we successfully achieved a series that informs and entertains people from all ages and walks of life,” Idriss explained.

The six published “Aklana” books have recently been translated into Mandarin Chinese and Korean, debuting at the 2024 Beijing and Seoul international book fairs, respectively. Currently, only the Madinah edition has been translated into English.

“Once the series is complete, we plan to apply to the Tarjem initiative to have the books translated into various languages,” Idriss said. This would help entertain and inform people worldwide about the diversity of Saudi Arabia’s culture and life, she added.

In 2023, Dar Waraqa collaborated with Ithra at the Eastern Region Book Fair to create an interactive storytelling experience for children and families, which attracted over 10,000 guests.

During Ramadan 2024, Dar Waraqa worked with Hayy Explorers at Hayy Jameel in Jeddah and participated in a panel discussion at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, to present the publisher’s perspective on the creative process.