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Arabic Textbook Project

Ahlan ya gamaa`! (Hello gang!)
We are making progress on our Arabic textbook series.
We have completed and tested 4 chapters of volume one, and are working and testing the next 4 chapters this semester. It has been bumpy at times, but we are confident that in the end the project will be a significant advancement in Arabic language pedagogy.

In addition to the textbook for Modern Standard Arabic, we will be editing and testing the Moroccan textbook this summer in Meknes. This is a significant step, because it represents a serious attempt to deal with the issue of variation in Arabic language studies which until now has not been dealt with in a comprehensive fashion.

There are other projects underway at the present time that are trying to deal with this issue, but we feel that ours deals comprehensively with the three main issues that underlie the challenges that face learners and teachers of Arabic, namely: linguistic reality, linguistic dissonance, and linguistic choice.

1. Linguistic reality in Arabic must recognize the issue of variation–both the difference between the written and spoken varieties, as well as the geographic variation between the spoken dialects. We handle this by providing information on dialect variation in the Modern Standard Arabic textbook as part of the “linguistic culture” section of the text, as well as by providing related but freestanding textbooks on four of the main Arabic dialects: Moroccan, Iraqi, Egyptian, and Syrian.

2.Linguistic dissonance must be taken into account in designing materials which try to handle this reality: introducing too much variation at certain times and in certain contexts may be detrimental to the acquisition of any one of the varieties, and care must be taken in designing materials to take this into account.This is one reason why independent but related textbooks are provided for the four main dialects–separating the “codes” will allow attention to be paid to “accuracy” in each of them, which will facilitate the later development of native-like strategies for integrating the various codes.

3. Linguistic choice has to do with which varieties are chosen to be taught. Rather than replacing one linguistic ideology with another (Egyptian Arabic as the spoken “koine” instead of Modern Standard or another dialect), we believe that this choice should be left to the particular circumstances of each program and context of learning. For example, learning in country should demand that the local dialect be taught alongside the Modern Standard form. Outside of in country learning (i.e. outside of the Arab world), we should encourage introduction of dialectal varieties into the curriculum by providing good textbooks which will allow programs to offer dialect classes depending on the native dialects of their instructors.

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