The We Can Learn Arabic site can be used in different ways, depending on your context and goals. For example, it could be used instead of a textbook, or to supplement a textbook. This page answers various questions about the pedagogical approaches and logistics of this site.
How is the site organized?
The top level is by theme. When you click on a particular theme, you will be taken to a list of language functions related to that theme. A language function is something you “do” with language, so these are realized as “Can-Do Statements”. When you click on a Can-Do Statement, you will be taken to a page that provides example texts (video or written) of Arabic speakers “doing” that Can-Do Statement. Accompanying each text is a list of vocabulary and grammar relevant to the text with in-context examples and three activities to work with the text: Understanding, Anayzing, and Applying.
What is the pedagogical approach?
The use of example texts and the related activities is a pedagogical approach inspired by genre-based approaches to language teaching. Genre-based approaches are rooted in functional theories of language, which emphasize the social contexts of language use. A “text” is an example of someone doing something with language. A “genre” is a collection of texts that are achieving the same social purpose, such as recounting an event, presenting information, or giving instructions. Each genre has culturally-specific ways of unfolding (stages) and particularly linguistic elements (vocabulary, grammar) that help it achieve its goal within a particular social context. The We Can Learn Arabic site realizes these genres as Can-Do Statements, inspired by the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements.
How do I use the activities?
The first activity, understanding, focuses on helping students understand what is happening in the text. Particularly for more complex texts, the goal is not to understand everything, but to get the general idea of how this text is an example of the Can-Do statement.
The second activity, analyzing, focuses on helping students understand what they can repurpose from the text to do the Can-Do Statement themselves. Inspired by genre-based approaches, this focuses on recognizing the stages and phrases that help the text “do” the Can-Do Statement. Stages are the way the text unfolds, such as moving from an introduction, to a main idea, to supporting details, to a conclusion when presenting information. Phrases are specific parts of the text students can repurpose by taking out the information specific to the text and adding in the information relevant to themselves. For example, if the text contains the phrase “Hi, I’m Emma, I’m from Maryland” students might repurpose the phrase “Hi, I’m ______, I’m from ________ and fill in their own information. They could also substitute their own greeting for “Hi”, but use the rest of the phrase. This emphasizes the connection between smaller linguistic elements such as vocabulary and grammar and the larger social activity students are doing with language.
The third activity, applying, is students’ first attempt to “do” the Can-Do Statement themselves. In this activity, they recreate the text themselves, relying on their work in previous activities, but also making it relevant to their own lives.
What about Arabic dialects?
The We Can Learn Arabic site is inspired by multidialectal approaches to Arabic language teaching, which focus on developing students’ awareness of sociolinguistic variation in Arabic such that they can make their own choices of what varieties to used, based on both what is contextually expected as well as their own desires. This entails providing receptive exposure to a wide variety of dialects in addition to Modern Standard Arabic, and developing students’ metalinguistic awareness so they are aware of similarities and differences between Arabic varieties, as well as the social meanings indexed by particular variants. For this reason, the example texts include numerous Arabic varieties, including mixing between a dialect and MSA or multiple dialects. The activities related to each text often draw attention to these sociolinguistic elements to help learners develop their metalinguistic awareness. Developing metalinguistic awareness, like learning any other aspect of language, is a gradual process. For this reason, We Can Learn Arabic introduces this from Novice levels, but without the expectation of mastery.