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Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals

Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals

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Artículo de la Doctora Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo, de la Universidad de Almería sobre su método de enseñanza de Árabe Marroquí para españoles
Artículo de la Doctora Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo, de la Universidad de Almería sobre su método de enseñanza de Árabe Marroquí para españoles

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Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals
Linguistic Competence is a complex concept that embodies not only knowledge of grammar but also of the sociolinguistic and pragmatic rules which define the use of language in its social context. In addition, as many authors have pointed out, when we are dealing with two different cultures and not just with two different languages, as in this case, we need to provide the learner with a range of information about the attitudes, beliefs and ethno-linguistic conceptions of the new culture. In order to transmit this socio-cultural-pragmatic competence, the teacher should develop a wide range of strategies in the linguistic, sociolinguistic and extralinguistic field on the one hand, and cognitive and psycholinguistic skills on the other. That is to say, we have to teach both content and know-how, we have to teach both "things" and “to do things".

Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain)

2010 Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo
Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals
En Angarmegia: Ciencia, Cultura y Educación. Portal de Investigación y docencia bherrero@ual.es

Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es


1.1. Teaching things: 1.1.1. Teaching the difference between the standard and the local varieties of Arabic when teaching conversation When learning conversation, the Arabic student should know the grammar and its uses and should recognize the sociolinguistic variables, the dialects and the sociolects. For example, the learner should know that "ana la atakallam bi–(a)l-`arabiyya” is the written equivalent of the Moroccan "ana ma ka ne-hder ši b-el-`arabiyya", and also that the aspectual "ka" of northern Morocco corresponds to "ta" in other areas of the country. According to Fergusson, "The teacher and the student alike must face the fact that there is more to be learned than one language", "They must be prepared to learn double sets of forms and vocabulary items ...as well as a whole set of skills involved in selection of the appropriate variety for a given context". Munther says that "The Arabic program would start with a spoken Arabic dialect." Menahem Mansoor gives full information about the state of the art and the different opinions of specialists on this matter in his paper "Arabic: What and When to teach". 1.1.2. Showing the transition between the oral and the written language For those students that already know Classical Arabic it is always interesting to see the contrast with a specific Arabic vernacular. This transformation takes place at the phonological level, as in the assimilation of the “weak consonants” (qaf, `ayn and the emphatics). Even if a word is taken directly from Classical Arabic the student should know how to adapt it to the morphological and syntactical rules of spoken language. 1.1.3. Showing the relationship between language and society and culture When stressing the importance of the link between language and culture it is important to reject an ethnocentric point of view. Yasir, S (1991: 87) regards ethnocentrism as an impediment to language


Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

learning, and in direct reference to Arabic, he states that a critical spirit and the ability to accept its ambiguity and complexity are fundamental skills for learning this language. To show the link between language and culture teachers should make use of audiovisual teaching aids, such as recordings for the pronunciation and intonation, and pictures or photographs to show graphically the extra-linguistic features or the culturally related contents. For example, it is important to bear in mind that there are some culturally related objects like a teapot, or gestures to express basic concepts or greetings which are best illustrated by these means. 1.2. Teaching to do things 1.2.1. To promote deductive skills To promote students’ deductive skills it is very useful to present several examples from which they must deduce the general rule. Exercises in which students must complete semantic fields are also of great worth. It is also very important to promote their ability to adapt to unexpected communicative situations and to develop their capacity for improvisation. 1.2.2. To improve memory techniques To improve students’ techniques of remembering it is important to provide them with wordretrieval strategies. Mnemonic techniques associating two unconnected words are extremely useful strategies to help students recall new terms. They bring an element of fun to the class and promote the students’ creativity. On the other hand, word association is also very positive because it allows student-teacher feedback since the most active part is that of the student.1 A further technique to improve students’ memory is to prepare high-density texts to learn by heart. 1.2.3. To give the rules for "creating" vocabulary Students should grasp the main rules of the creation of neologisms and be provided with examples to explain intrinsic linguistic tendencies such as linguistic economy. 1.2.4. To present the student with spontaneous speech To promote the students’ self confidence in their knowledge of the new language, one very positive strategy is to invite a native speaker to talk on a subject chosen by the students. The aim is to show them that what they learn is not so far away from the real spontaneous flow of speech. 2. HOW TO TEACH: The teacher has to develop the following cognitive and socio-pedagogical strategies:

Zar Bar-Lev presents some glyphs as a way for memorizing vocabulary.


Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

2.1. Cognitive strategies: The foreign language teacher should 2.1.1. Take previous knowledge as the main reference To adapt to the students' learning process, the teacher will stress the differences between the students’ language and culture and the target language and culture. The teacher of Arabic to Spanish speakers should know the pupils’ weak points and emphasize the discrepancies that exist between their mother tongue and the new language (Spanish and Arabic) to avoid undesired interferences that often occur between them. At first, the most common problems are those derived from teaching languages with different grammars, graphics and phonemics. Rammuny (1976) points out that the main mistakes made by students of Arabic are: tendency to hypercorrection, hypergeneralization, restricted vocabulary, problems of agreement and interferences between the mother tongue and the dialects. However, once students have achieved a sound grammatical grounding other, more deeprooted problems frequently appear. These problems are derived from the distance between Arabic and Spanish as regards: semantic rules, stylistic values, cultural parameters, different extra-linguistic devices (proxemics, kinesics). In this paper I will focus on the semantic, stylistic and cultural problems that arise once the grammar is “known”, since the grammatical problems have been the main concern of researchers and have been studied in great depth.
Semantic difficulties

The semantic asymmetries between Spanish and Arabic such as polysemy (a word with many meanings), semantic ambiguity and the different conceptions of redundancy in Arabic constitute an additional difficulty for Spanish students. Regarding semantic asymmetries, the different degree of density of meanings and the ambiguity of the Arabic lexicon is the biggest problem we face. An Arabic lexical item can even mean a given concept or its opposite. This phenomenon implies ambiguity, because Spanish students do not know which of the possible meanings the speaker/writer is referring to and they always need the context to decode the meaning. Due to Arabic's intrinsic "poly-guity", a mixture of polysemya and ambiguity, many connotations are usually lost when translating from Arabic into Spanish. The solution is to translate these terms by addition or subtraction, that is to say, adding footnotes explaining the lost connotations or suppressing the antonym. Another question is the metaphorical substrate which usually differs from one language to the other. As Ridwan Said has shown in his graphic representation of the semantic field of some selected vocabulary, the speakers of Arabic and Spanish often associate a given word with meanings that vary substantially. As a result, students tend to make erroneous semantic transpositions from their mother tongue. That is why it is so important that students are well aware of the non-universal nature of metaphorical substrate. For example, the word “dog” has very different connotations in Arabic and

Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

Spanish, in Moroccan Arabic a “dog” has the connotation of dirtiness and in Spanish it is associated with loyalty.
Main stylistic differences

Teaching stylistic devices is not, as is commonly perceived, a useless task, but sometimes if the speakers is unaware of the main stylistic devices of the target language, the new language becomes an obstacle more than a vehicle for communication. One of the most important stylistic differences between Arabic and Spanish lies in the perception of repetition at the phonological, grammatical and semantic levels. In written Arabic, repetition of sounds, syllables, words, syntactical structures or even synonyms are aesthetic devices for rhetorical embellishment. Language repetition and functional redundancy are interpreted as stylistic ways of creating cohesion, harmony and euphony. In Spanish, the stylistic tendency is to minimise effort and to avoid repetition wherever possible. Repetition is perceived as a defect that should be avoided. For example, if we consult Spanish Grammar for High School Students in Spain we can find a paragraph about "how to write properly" and more specifically about the repetition of sounds. The author states: "We will try to avoid the repetition of a phoneme or group of phonemes within a sentence and even in the surrounding sentences." In another epigraph he adds: "We have to avoid excessive musicality", and that: the good harmony of the prose is threatened by external sonorities”. Another aspect which is desired when speaking Arabic is rhyme and the alliteration of syllables, not only in poetry but also in prose. In the above mentioned Spanish grammar such resources are considered favourable effects in verse that should be carefully avoided in prose". Barbara Johnstone considers that "most of the considerable repetitiveness of Modern Standard Arabic discourse can be related to the need for emergent formulaicity and emergent formulaicity is responsible for cohesion in modern standard Arabic..." In Spanish Grammar for Spanish Speakers, the author recommends avoiding repetition, even of two or more words from the same root (p 108). On many occasions Arabic redundancy is a mechanism to give textual cohesion and the repetition of structures, nexuses and logical connectors is commonplace. However, this is a very strange stylistic conception for Spanish students because in their mother tongue the tendency is quite the contrary. In Spanish if we hear two or more synonyms, the sentence is overloaded, but in Arabic this is a strategy to embellish discourse, to make it euphonic. Another stylistic difference between Arabic and Spanish is the length of the sentence. The Arabic tendency to use long sentences is contrary to the Spanish one. What in Arabic is considered an aesthetic effect, is perceived as a defect to be avoided in Spanish. In Lázaro Carreter’s Spanish Language Course (p 68 in the epigraph on the length of the sentence) it states: “In our century, it is preferred to fraction the flow of speech into briefer sentences." The other stylistic difference between both languages is the relevant amount of God naming sentences in Arabic. We have to teach the functions of these sentences and the context in which they are used. This fact has been already noted by authors like Ahmed Fakhri (1984) when analyzing communicative strategies in Moroccan Arabic.


Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

2.1.2. Show the link between theory and practice The second language teacher has to transmit theoretical contents by means of practical exercises and to promote simultaneously writing, speaking, understanding and translating skills. 2.1.3. Transmit the progressive complexity of contents
To teach broader meanings

The fact that from the first lessons the student can communicate, albeit in a very rudimentary way, is a great motivator. That is why it is useful to give priority to broader concepts. For example, it is more urgent to teach them the word “food” before the word “coconut”. 2.1.4. Adapt to reality. The selected oral or written texts will be based on everyday, specific speech acts of the Arabic culture like bargaining, visiting, greeting, social rituals, etc. 2.2. Socio-pedagogical strategies:
Teachers should also

2.2.1. Be prepared to use diverse methodologies The teacher should have recourse to whatever methodology (structuralism, pragmatics, etc) providing it is suitable for achieving the desired goals. 2.2.2. Be adaptable The teacher should adapt to the circumstances of time and students’ attention span and give individualized attention to students’ skills and targets. The teacher should also show a positive attitude towards the pupils’ proposals even if the schedule is changed. 2.2.3. Have a positive attitude toward mistakes The teacher should show the elasticity of the linguistic system trying to give options, proposing various possible accurate ways of saying the same thing. 2.2.4. Create a relaxed atmosphere and promote creativity When students’ attention wanes nothing is better than “role-playing" to recover their attention. In such activities an imaginary situation in which each student adopts a role leads to the simulation of dialogues and conversations. As Yasir Suleiman points out: "Learners who are self-critical and who

Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

display a sense of humor and perspective of healthy detachment towards the frustrating aspects of the language learning process are said to be better able to cope with the difficulties...", "in addition to tolerance of ambiguity in a sense of acceptance of situations that are characterized by novelty, complexity and insolubility” is a desirable capability for second language learners. 2.2.5. Promote feed-back. The student will have the sensation of being useful to the teacher who promotes feed-back and to others when he makes his own contributions. Brainstorming, for example, is very effective for this purpose. When explaining the cultural contents it would be convenient to begin by asking, "What do you know about Arab baths or about Islamic weddings?", for instance.
1.1.1. Teaching the differences between the standard and the vernaculars 1.1.2. Showing the transition between the written and the oral register. 1.1.3. Showing the connections between language, society and culture. 1.2.1. To promote deductive skills 1.2.2. To improve memory techniques 1.2.3. To give the rules for "creating" vocabulary. 1.2.4. To present the student with spontaneous speech. 2.1.1. Take previous knowledge as the main reference 2.1.2. Show the link between theory and practice 2.1.3. Transmit the progressive complexity of contents 2.1.4. Adapt to reality. 2.2.1. Be prepared to use diverse methodologies 2.2.2. Be adaptable 2.2.3. Have a positive attitude toward mistakes 2.2.4. Create a relaxed atmosphere 2.2.5. Promote feed-back.

1.1. Teaching "things" (sociolinguistics) 1. WHAT TO TEACH 1.2. Teaching to "do things" (psycholinguistics)

2.1 Cognitive strategies 2. HOW TO TEACH

2.2. Socio-pedagogical strategies

"Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals"


Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

FAKHRI AHMED. "The use of communicative strategies in narrative discourse: a case study of a learner of Moroccan Arabic as a second language." Language learning 34.3. 1984 FERGUSSON, CHARLES. "Problems of Teaching Languages with Diglossia". Center for Applied Linguistics. Monographic Series on Languages and Linguistics 1963 15. HERRERO MUÑOZ-COBO, B. "La enseñanza del árabe marroquí. Hacia una competencia lingüística integrada". Algarabía nº 2. (1994), 31-32. -----. "Variables relevantes en glosodidáctica. El caso del árabe marroquí." Algarabía nº 3 (1994), 1820. -----."Asimetrías interculturales en los hábitos comunicativos". El Magreb. El Magreb coordenadas socioculturales. Ed Caridad Ruiz de Almodóvar y Carmelo Pérez Beltrán. Universidad de Granada. (1995), 97-110. -----. "Cursos de lengua y cultura árabes a inmigrantes. El caso de Almería". Verde Islam nº 4. (1996) 33-38 y rectificación nº 6 (1997), 2 y 9. -----. "La presencia de Dios en el discurso árabe". Actes del Según Congréss Internacional sobre Traducció. Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Bella Terra, (1998), 279-286. HUSEIN ANWAR. “The Sociolinguistic Patterns of Native Speakers: Implications for Teaching Arabic as a foreing language”. Applied language learning v 6 n 1-2 1995 JOHNSTONE, BARBARA . "'Orality' and Discourse Structure in Modern Standard Arabic". Eid, Mushira (ed.) Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics, I: Papers from the First Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins; 1990 KASSEM M. WAHBA. ZEINAB A. LIZ. Handbook for Arabic Language Teaching Professionals in the 21st Century. Routledge. England 2006. LÁZARO CARRETER, F. Curso de Lengua Española. Anaya Manuales de orientación universitaria. 1986. LÓPEZ, G; YERVES, E Y GÓMEZ, JM. "Marcadores del discurso" En Enseñanza de las lenguas extranjeras. Editado por: Martínez González, A; Baños García, P; de Molina Redondo, JA; Becerra Hiraldo, JM. Granada 1997. LLOBERA MIQUEL. Competencia comunicativa: Documentos básicos en la enseñanza de lenguas Edelsa 1995 MUNTER, A YOUNES. An Integrated Approach to Teaching Arabic as a Foreing Language". Al arabiyya 1990. 23. MENAHEM, MANSOOR "Arabic: What and When to Teach" Report on The tenth Annual Round Table Meeting on Language and linguistics. Ed Richard Harrell. Georgetown University Press RAJA, NASR. Colloquial Arabic: An Oral Approach. Librairie du Liban 1966 RAMMUNY; RAJI. "Statistical Study of Errors of American Students in Written Arabic.". Al-`arabiya 1976 9.

Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Some Pedagogical Proposals - Bárbara Herrero Muñoz-Cobo Universidad de Almería (Spain) - bherrero@ual.es

SAIDI, RIDWAN. “Cultural distance and communication among the spanish and moroccans. Implications for the teaching of Culture in Spanish foreign Language classrooms in Morocco." Sidi Mohammad ben 'abdallah. Fes. Morocco. 1989. TIPTON, FRANK. "Arabic in America" The Arab Studies Journal 1.1. 1993 VEZ JEREMÍAS, Jose Manuel Ariel 2000. Fundamentos lingüísticos en la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras. YASIR, SULEIMAN. "Affective and Personality Factors in Learning Arabic as a Foreign Language: A Case Study." Al-`Arabiyya 1991 24. ZAR BAR-LEV "Two Innovations for teaching Arabic" Al `arabiyya 1991


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