News News: Arabic Studies

Ed Dept. Grant Awarded

John Eisele and Driss Cherkaoui have been awarded an International Reseach and Studies (IRS) instructional materials grant from the Dept. of Education. The grant, totaling $728,000 over three years, will be used to develop a textbook series for Arabic language, both the literary language as well as four main dialects of Arabic. The project, entitled “Teaching Arabic Variation: Developing language resources for integrating Modern Standard Arabic and Arabic dialects,”  addresses the need for greater numbers of individuals who are knowledgeable about and fluent in the Arabic language. Since an important aspect of proficiency in Arabic is the attainment of productive fluency (in speaking) in at least one of its dialects, and some passive fluency in one or more other dialects (in listening), the curriculum and language learning resources to be developed under this grant will include workbooks on four main Arabic dialects (Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi) in addition to a series of three textbooks which focus on Modern Standard Arabic.

In the first volume of the latter series, each unit has as its cultural focus a different urban cultural center in the Arab world, and as part of that feature distinctive phrases in the local dialect are provided to give students their first taste of Arabic linguistic reality in all its variety. In the dialect modules information is likewise provided on important local dialects within the national spheres treated: for example, the Egyptian Arabic module would include information on distinctive features of Sa`iidi, Alexandrian, and Bedouin dialects, among others, which are an important part of the linguistic competence of native speakers of this dialect. The currect grant will support the development, testing, revision, and production of a little more than half of the project: two levels of MSA, and two modules of the dialects (Moroccan and Iraqi). The project in its entirety will eventually provide materials for at least three to five years of study of Modern Standard Arabic and at least one of the Arabic dialects covered by the materials, depending on the number of class hours per week and the amount of time devoted to the study of a dialect. They will be learner centered, technology-rich, and tasked based, with each unit developing the four skills in a coordinated and focused manner. The materials will be pilot-tested at The College of William and Mary as well as at several institutions in the United States and abroad, and will be published in both printed form as well as in an online format.

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