Teaching Arabic to Our Homeschooling Community

Dolphin Cruise

Following our camping trip in Dubai, we spent two more days in Abu Dhabi with dear and beloved friends. Coincidentally and serendipitously, I wasn’t the only visitor passing through that weekend. Another dear and beloved friend, who I consider to be more of a mentor than a fellow student, was passing through. Before babies and the Arab Spring, we were students together in Hadhramaut, Yemen. She was the very first person I extended my hand to greet on my very first night in the city. Like the first greeting until our most recent, her humility and sincerity has always moved me to reflect on my own spiritual state.

Al Riyam Park

Unlike some of the other students, this special sister was efficient and focused. She was tenacious in her studies and intentional in her socializing. It was a tremendous blessing to see her and her reflection in her children. We chatted and reminisced but mostly reconnected. Meanwhile, the teacher who hosted our modest welcome gathering in the park spoke to me warmly and liberally in Arabic. She later invited all of the attendees to an evening event and called upon both my reunited friend and myself to speak to the entire audience in Arabic. The entire encounter was surprising, and we quietly chuckled about how we were similarly put on the spot to speak back in Yemen many years ago.

Nakhal Fort

Standing in front of those blessed Yemeni and Emirati faces, I shared a bit about my life and how I came to embrace Islam. But more potent than what I shared was what I received. As much as I doubt myself about this fact, it is true—I can speak Arabic. Perfect? No. Native-like? Never. With mistakes?  Yup. But, all of my years of study produced something. I’m not only understood but I understand and with my former colleagues and teachers gazing at me with their good opinion and lofty expectations, I realize that I have more to give to our little community in Muscat than I thought.

Nakhal Fort

Upon my return, I quit skirting around the issue and stepped up to make myself available. Though I would welcome more capable candidates for the task, until they arrive, I believe it’s my purpose to teach Beginner’s Arabic and Qur’an recitation to the children and mothers in our little homeschooling community. So, by the grace of God, that’s what I’m doing and the more I embrace my role, the more I find great resources and support at my disposal.

Farm in Barka

For the younger students, ages 4-7, we’ve started with basic vocabulary groups like colors, shapes, foods, animals, the weather, etc. At some point we introduced songs like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and The Days of the Week in Arabic. I even translated “This is the Way We…” to fit into a lovely set of graded story books that can be downloaded on Scribd. I recently discovered Arabic Seeds and that’s a great resource too!

For the older students, ages 8-13, we’re using the tried and true Madinah Islamic University Curriculum with as many extension activities I can come up with like Pictionary, scavenger hunts, charades, drawing maps, writing stories, etc. The pdf version works well for the mothers that I teach, but the Goodword edition is much more appealing.

For those of you interested in starting an Arabic playgroup or class in your homeschooling community, my best advice is to start where you are and with what you have, learn as you go, and have fun! I’m certainly not the fountain of Arabic language I’d like to be, but I do need to honor what my teachers have poured into me by pouring that knowledge into others.

International Book Festival

Loving Arabic, Loving Oman, Loving Arabic in Oman

if we were written in the stars

the script was Arabic

bound by a revelation

heaven-sent

a truth-bearing tongue

evident

its place in our hearts

eminent

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The study of Arabic has been a common theme in our lives.  From the fated conversation more than ten years ago when I casually asked Urbndervish about where I could learn Arabic, to our eventual move abroad to study the language, and now, our current residence in Oman, the home of a new Arabic language school that gives us yet another reason to love this place.  The Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-Native Speakers is a mouthful to say but a sight to drool over.  Their beautiful, new buildings erected in the quaint town of Manah, only 15 minutes from the nearest town of Nizwa, are inviting.  Each classroom is equipped with shiny desks and tables, SmartBoards, and colorfully, laminated images on the walls.

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Nestled in the center of the U-shaped hall of classrooms is a cafeteria with a ping-pong table for recreation.  The open courtyard provides benches for gazing at the mountains around you, with tables and chairs for the more studious.  A modest library with shelves yet to be filled is situated amongst the classrooms and the larger building in the forefront is for administrative staff.

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While some students would appreciate more dynamic teaching instruction, none seem to be complaining about the facilities and accommodations offered.  In a large mansion fit for the prominent, furnished rooms are provided, both single and double occupancy.  Three hot meals are served daily and students are shuttled to and from their hostel to the school.  Weekly afternoon lectures immerse students in the culture of Oman, tackling topics like economy, geology, and women’s status in society.  Peer tutoring is provided in the evenings and the weekends are filled with excursions to sights showcasing natural heritage and cultural enjoyment.

For those of us who sought to study Arabic years ago, the affordable options were not nearly as plush as what the Sultan Qaboos College offers.  It seems like not too long ago, we were researching Arabic programs throughout the Arab world and had to weigh quality and reputation of instruction against cost, political turmoil, environmental health, and race relations.  Fast forward to the post-Arab Spring state of affairs and your options for study begin to narrow.  The safety and stability of Oman are a welcomed oasis and a prime location for the study of Arabic.

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One of the most appetizing features of the Sultan Qaboos College is the affordability.  This program has been subsidized by the Omani government, appropriately so considering the school was established as per royal decree.  Eight-week courses consisting of 160 instruction hours only cost 200 OMR, about $520 USD.  Four-week courses are offered at half the cost.  Room and board are a mere 34 OMR per month for single-occupancy and 17 OMR for double.  In the future, home stay accommodations will further immerse students in practical language application and the inner dimension of Omani life.  Really and truly, the program is a steal but they’re not out to get your money.  There is a sincere interest in sharing the Arabic language and Omani culture to all who are willing to partake without jaded resistance or misguided prejudices.  Even practically speaking, classical Arabic is well-used here in Oman but dialect courses are offered if you want to chat it up over coffee with the locals.

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Until the school’s website is up and running, you can find more detailed information at their partner university’s (Deakin University) site here.  Take note of the upcoming course dates for 2013:

8 Week Course:  February 2 – March 27

4 Week Course:  April 6 – May 1

4 Week Course:  May 4 – May 29

4 Week Course:  June 1 – June 26

4 Week Course:  June 29 – July 24

For more info contact:  s.q.college@gmail.com

Update:  The site is up!  Visit here.