Just over a year ago, six young women traveled to DC from Palestine to participate in Legacy International’s Skills for Success: Professional Development Immersion Program. Over the course of two weeks, these young women engaged in a variety of workshops, job shadowing and site visits. One of these inspiring young women, Alaa, departed DC with plans to pursue her Masters abroad in Germany. However, with a global pandemic on the horizon, Alaa’s plans were derailed and she returned home to Palestine. In response to these unexpected changes, Alaa decided to teach Arabic and English online. Alaa works with students from Saudi Arabia, Canada and the United States. In honor of World Arabic Language Day, we decided to sit down with Alaa and learn more about her experience teaching the Arabic language. 

Arabic is often considered a challenging language to learn. Some struggle to accurately pronounce the unique sounds, others are intimidated by the Arabic alphabet. According to Alaa, the difficult grammar structures prove to be a point of contention for many students. Alaa’s students from the US and Canada typically try to find parallel grammatical structures to that of the English language; however, these parallels are few and far between. Further, Alaa notes depending on which Arabic dialect or accent one is learning you may need to learn new rules or structures. 

    As the English language monopolizes the international community, Alaa emphasizes the importance of preserving the Arabic language. Arabic plays a key role both in the history of civilization as well as the cultures and identities of the people of the Arab world. Many historic artifacts and documents are written in the Arabic language. As an experienced translator, Alaa notes that though translations can capture the general meaning of these documents many important messages can be easily lost in translation. Further, languages serves as an important aspect of an individual’s identity. As communities and nations throughout the Middle East face devastating conflicts, large numbers of individuals are displaced often to entirely new regions speaking entirely different languages. As immigrants learn new languages and assimilate into new cultures, these changes can result in their own identities being lost in translation. 

While  individuals around the US consistently experience this pressure to assimilate and thus shed important aspects of their own identities, we at Legacy International, would like to celebrate the beauty of the Arabic language and those who speak it! On this World Arabic Language Day, come learn a few Palestinian Arabic phrases with us. Maybe you’ll hear these phrases the next time you’re riding the metro, walking through your neighborhood or visiting a new place!