News News: Arabic Studies Spring 2019

Arabic Links: A New Textbook for Arabic

Arab pic1Prof. John Eisele and Prof. Driss Cherkaoui are putting the finishing touches on the first volume of a textbook series for the Arabic language which will be published by the American University in Cairo Press, entitled “Arabic Links” (in Arabic: كتاب التواصل). The series attempts to handle the issue of Arabic language variation (often termed “diglossia”) in a manner significantly different from the current textbook widely used in the field. Rather than teaching 2 or more varieties simultaneously, this series attempts to introduce the variation more gradually, starting with a focus on the common literary language, FusHa, and introducing other variant forms of the language at first as “linguistic culture”, and then with a stand-alone textbook for 4 of the main varieties: Moroccan, Egyptian, Levantine, and Iraqi. Another aspect of “linguistic culture” will be the treatment of the case system of the literary language, which is linguistically redundant and not essential for communication, but which is seen as a vital part of the Arabic literary and religious tradition, and for some cannot be overlooked. Another aspect of Arabic L2 pedagogy which is addressed by this series is a return to a communicative approach which emphasizes the active acquisition of vocabulary tied to clearly defined topics and contexts of use. The first two volumes of the series cover basic grammar, vocabulary, and general contexts, and each of the units is tied to a cultural context of an Arab country. These “cultural” activities and texts provide information about the history, society, and some cultural practices specific to that country, as well as information about the “linguistic culture” of the region, i.e., the main dialect of the country. The unit is structured around a progressing through the four skills for each topic, starting with a Arab pic2conversational introduction to the basic vocabulary of a context or activity, and culminating in a writing exercise which summarizes the main points of the unit. The third volume of the series concentrates on providing a context for developing skills in discussing, reading, and writing about more specific fields, of an academic nature. The vocabulary is a general review of the words and phrases necessary to deal with topics related to that field, with texts (reading and listening) provided as exemplary texts, but instructors are encouraged to provide their own texts, glosses, questions, and suggestions for tasks and activities as they desire. Regarding the supplemental textbooks dealing with specific dialects, Prof. Cherkaoui has completed a manuscript for teaching Moroccan dialect, or “al-Daarija”, and he hopes to publish that within the coming year. Other dialect textbooks will follow. This project was funded initially by a grant from the Department of Education, and included contributions from other faculty at William and Mary and the Arab-American Language Institute in Morocco (AALIM).