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Bulletin: Celebrations of World Arabic Language Day; a Conference on Arabic Manuscripts

Our Language is Our Strength

In our new bulletin, Al-Fanar Media brings you the most prominent stories and news about higher education in our Arab world.

Today, we dedicate our bulletin to celebrating the language of Ḍād, a letter peculiar to Arabic.

On December 18, the world annually celebrates the Arabic language. This year marks fifty years since the United Nations adopted Arabic as one of its official languages.

Of the 6,500 languages spoken on Earth, Arabic is one of the most powerful and influential. More than 400 million people speak Arabic as a first language, and millions more speak it as a second language. It expresses an ancient civilisation with its various human contributions to literature, poetry, science, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, and history.

Interest in the Arabic language increases with major crises, but it always remains strong, even when its geographical scope shrinks. It represents a soft power the Arab world can draw on to make its achievements and contributions to the progress of humanity known to the world.

Mohammad El-Hawary
Al-Fanar Media editor-in-chief

From the Region

Conference on Cultural Heritage of Arabic Manuscripts

The first International Conference on the Cultural Heritage of Arabic Manuscripts opened in Cairo on Wednesday under the theme “The Author’s Copy: Challenges and Issues”. The two-day event was organised by the Institute of Arabic Manuscripts in Cairo, an arm of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (ALECSO).

According to the Qatar News Agency, Murad Al-Rifi, director of the Institute of Arabic Manuscripts, said in his opening speech that the conference would address issues related to cataloging and investigating manuscripts, to shed light on an integrated system of Arab-Islamic history through scientific research. Al-Rifi pointed out that the conference’s title simplifies a group of problems for researchers, as the “author’s copy” may consist of multiple copies.

Abu Dhabi Concludes Inaugural ‘Arabian Days Festival’

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi concluded its first “Arabian Days Festival” this week, coinciding with the U.N. celebration of World Arabic Language Day.

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), the festival ran four days, December 15 to 18, and attracted many Arabic experts, celebrities, and professionals, besides a number of most prominent Arab authors, poets and researchers, within a diverse program of panel discussions, theatrical and musical performances, and poetry.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Moscow and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Arabian Days Festival will become an important annual event in the cultural calendar of the Emirate, the news agency said.

Saudi Institutes Mark World Arabic Language Day

The Arabic Language Institute for Speakers of Other Languages at King Abdulaziz University (KAU), in cooperation with the King Salman Global Academy for the Arabic Language, concluded on Wednesday a program of activities that celebrated World Arabic Language Day 2023.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the three-day program included a lecture on the United Nations’ theme for this year’s observance, “Arabic: the Language of Poetry and Arts”. Other events included an art exhibition of Arab poetry luminaries, an “Arabic Poetry Recitation” competition, and a video presentation about the World Arabic Language Day. The dean of the institute, Badr Alotaibi, said that celebrating World Arabic Language Day heightens awareness of the value of the language, its heritage and culture, and enhances efforts to teach the language internationally.

Bahrain Celebrates World Arabic Language Day in Calligraphy, Music, Verse

The Unesco-affiliated Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, based in Bahrain, organised an event within the Muharraq Nights Festival in celebration of World Arabic Language Day.

According to the Bahrain News Agency, the event included activities that reflected the richness and beauty of the Arabic language through calligraphy, music, and poetry. The artist Aziz Al Ibrahim presented a workshop on Arabic calligraphy and writing poetic verses. Arabic music played on the qanun accompanied the live recitation of poetic verses during the workshop, adding an additional atmosphere of authenticity and creativity.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina Symposium Explores ‘Language of the Arab Child’ 

In celebration of World Arabic Language Day, Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in cooperation with the Faculty of Education at Alexandria University, organised a symposium on “The Language of the Arab Child between Acquisition and Creativity”.

In a statement, the Bibliotheca said writers, poets and researchers at the symposium discussed topics like how children acquire language, and the effect of language on the development of their thinking. The symposium also shed light on teaching the Arabic language to children and the language in children’s stories in the past and present.

Bulletin: Celebrations of World Arabic Language Day; a Conference on Arabic Manuscripts
Ahmed Zayed, director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, speaks at the symposium on “The Language of the Arab Child
between Acquisition and Creativity”. (Photo via Facebook)

From Al-Fanar Media

Hanada Taha Thomure on Teaching Arabic that Youth Need Today

Hanada Taha Thomure, an internationally known expert on Arabic teaching and learning, recently spoke to Al-Fanar Media about ways to strengthen curricula for teaching Arabic today. Arabic should not be taught as a historical, grammar-based language, but a living one, says Taha Thomure, who is an endowed professor of Arabic at Zayed University and director of its Zai Centre for Arabic language teaching. There is nothing wrong with teaching ancient literature and poetry, she says, “but teachers must be able to deal with today’s students, know their fears and concerns, and what controls their thinking.” Read more in this article.

Celebrating the Arabic Language, as Artificial Intelligence Helps It Expand

In a famous 1903 poem titled “The Arabic Language Laments Its Fate with Its People,” Hafez Ibrahim (1872–1932), the “Nile Poet”, personified Classical Arabic and imagined how it felt about contemporary efforts to replace it with colloquial forms. In the poem, Arabic speaks: “The Book of God is expansive in word and purpose, and is not narrow in its verses and sermons. How can I narrow down today to describe a machine, and format names for inventions?”

Today, it is machines and inventions that are describing Arabic, as advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies help computers master the language and expand its presence online and in the world. Among the Arab researchers leading such efforts is Ahmed Ali, principal engineer in the Arabic Language Technologies Group at Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI). He recently spoke to Al-Fanar Media about his group’s work. Read more in this interview

Egyptian Professor Wael Farouq Uses Music and Poetry to Teach Arabic in Italy

Wael Farouq, an Egyptian professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in Milan, has developed a method to help non-native speakers learn Arabic which includes using music. He spoke to Al-Fanar Media last year about the new curriculum, which uses principles of prosody (the patterns of rhythm and sound in poetry) “to facilitate reading for students and to raise their sensitivity to the music and rhythm of the language.” Read more in this article

Mapping ‘Language Landscapes’ in Qatar; Enhancing Native Arabic Speakers’ Skills

Yehia Abdel-Mobdy Mohamed, an associate professor of Arabic at Georgetown University in Qatar, has launched a project titled “Narratives of Language Landscapes in Qatar”. Based in the university’s Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), the project seeks to map “language landscapes” in Qatar and explore how language use intersects with aspects of culture and identity in the multiethnic country. Mohamed spoke to Al-Fanar Media about the project’s goals earlier this year. Read more in this article.

Mohamed is also the author of a new textbook titled “Reading the Arab World” that is aimed at native Arabic speakers who are not fluent in written Arabic. Published by Routledge last year, the book contains dozens of authentic texts from audio, visual and written sources. Mohamed said the idea was “to provide students with content that helps them understand the most important issues in the Arab world,” while also enhancing their language skills. Read more in this article

Arabic Calligraphy’s Heritage Status Lifts Hopes for Keeping It Alive

After Unesco inscribed Arabic calligraphy on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2021, Arab calligraphers expressed hope the decision would encourage more support for teaching the art at schools and universities. Read more in this article

Universities Seek to Improve Teaching of Arabic to Non-Native Speakers

In recognition of the Arabic language’s importance to humanity, many universities in the Arab region offer classes teaching Arabic to non-native speakers. Al-Fanar Media spoke to professors and students at universities in several Arab countries about the challenges of studying Arabic and how new teaching methods are trying to overcome them. Read more in this article

Al-Fanar Media Activities: 

AFM Media Literacy Course for University Students to Start in Egypt

Al-Fanar Media (AFM) invites Egyptian university students to apply for a training course titled “Media Literacy for University Students,” which will be held at Misr International University from January 21 to 24, 2024. The workshop is being held within the framework of a project sponsored by the Ford Foundation and implemented by Al-Fanar Media experts. The project aims to eradicate “media illiteracy” among university students in the Arab world. Read more in this article

Scholarships:

Al-Fanar Media maintains a database of quality scholarships available to Arab students, which we continuously update. To stay up to date on the latest scholarships available in international universities, check the Scholarships section here, and watch for updated feedback on free learning opportunities in our News and Reports section, here.

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