The Complexities of Learning Arabic in the 21st Century

by Genevieve A. Schmitt (Author)
©2018 Textbook XVI, 216 Pages


The Complexities of Learning Arabic in the 21st Century examines how of the four levels of difficulty and hundreds of languages spoken worldwide, Arabic is considered a category 4, which means it is among the most difficult languages to learn. While Modern Standard Arabic (Fusha) is most frequently taught, it is the native language of no country or people; however, the many regional dialects (Amiyya), often dismissed by educators, make up the living language of Arabic. Due to its linguistic complexities, educators are divided on how to teach Arabic in domestic language programs in the United States and in study abroad programs in the Arab world. An investigation into programs catering to Americans learning Arabic as a foreign language revealed a heavy emphasis on reading and writing in MSA, but scant attention given to speaking and listening in the real language of the people—dialects. In Complexities of Learning Arabic in the 21st Century, recommendations are made for improving pedagogy and materials so that students can gain genuine communicative competence in Arabic, which means not only understanding MSA, but also speaking and listening in at least one dialect, the language of the people.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for The Complexities of Learning Arabic in the 21st Century
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1. What Is Arabic?
  • Introduction
  • Arabic Data
  • A Personal Interest in Arabic
  • Classical Arabic
  • Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)
  • MSA Stress
  • Arabic Dialects
  • Major Dialects in the Arab World
  • Egypt
  • The Levant
  • The Maghreb
  • The Arabian Peninsula (The Khaleej)
  • Iraq (Mesopotamia)
  • Diglossia, Polyglossia, Multiglossia?
  • Language Regard
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Arabic Today
  • Arabic in Urban Areas
  • Language, Gender, and Power
  • Language Dominance
  • Religious Identity
  • Arabic and Social Media
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 3. A Spectrum of Approaches to Teaching Arabic
  • Grammar-Translation
  • Cognitive Theory
  • Direct Method (Natural Method)
  • Audio-Lingual Method
  • Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
  • Total Physical Response (TPR)
  • The Proficiency Movement
  • Integrated Approach
  • Modern Trends in Arabic Dialectology
  • Materials
  • The “Orange Books”
  • Al-Kitaab Series
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 4. Arabic in Institutions of Higher Education
  • Programs in the United States
  • University of Chicago
  • Middlebury Language Schools
  • The Flagship Initiative
  • Programs in the Arab World
  • CET Academic Programs
  • Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) – Morocco
  • Al-Mashriq Center for Arabic Instruction
  • Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA)
  • Qasid Arabic Institute
  • AMIDEAST Education Abroad Programs
  • K-12 Movement
  • Benefits of Study Abroad Programs
  • Global Knowledge
  • Oral Fluency
  • Student Perceptions
  • At Home (Intensive) Programs
  • Language Development
  • Tension
  • Willingness to Communicate
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 5. Future Directions for Arabic in the United States
  • Communication as a Viable Goal
  • Why Don’t More Programs Incorporate Amiyya?
  • Arabic as It Is Spoken
  • Listen to Student Needs
  • Educate Students on the Region
  • Improve the Materials Available (Proficiency Based)
  • Embrace the Evolution of Language as a Strength
  • Notes
  • References
  • Appendix A. Program Summaries
  • Appendix B. University of Chicago Sample Course Materials
  • Arabic 101 (First Year)
  • Arabic 201 (Second Year)
  • Arabic 303 (Third Year)
  • Arabic 302 Content Course (Third Year)
  • Appendix C. CIEE Sample Course Materials
  • Summer Beginning Arabic Syllabus and Weekly Schedule
  • Sample Moroccan Darija Course Materials
  • Appendix D. Al-Mashriq Center Sample Course Materials
  • Course Descriptions at All Levels
  • Beginning Arabic Lesson Plan
  • Appendix E. Qasid Sample Course Materials
  • Summer Beginning MSA Course Syllabus and Weekly Schedule
  • Advanced Cinema Content Course Syllabus and Weekly Schedule
  • Appendix F. AMIDEAST Sample Course Materials
  • AMIDEAST Education Abroad Programs Arab 138: Jordanian Colloquial Arabic ID

| ix →


Figure 1.1. Traditional classification of the origins of Arabic. Source: Author, adapted from Versteegh (2014)

Figure 1.2. Arabic dialects color-coded by region. Source: Wikipedia Arabic Dialects

Figure 1.3. Major dialect regions of Arabic. Source: Author

Figure 1.4. Transliterations of common Arabic words in different dialects. Source: Author

Figure 1.5. Map of Egypt. Source: Author

Figure 1.6. Map of Levantine Arabic. Source: Author

Figure 1.7. Map of Arabic dialects by region. Source: Author

Figure 1.8. Map of Maghrebi Arabic dialects. Source: Author

Figure 1.9. Screenshot from Bed, Bath & Beyond website taken November 22, 2016. Source: Author

Figure 1.10. Map of Arabian Peninsula. Source: Author

Figure 1.11. Map of Iraqi Arabic. Source: Author

Figure 1.12. Arabic language use and the language skills. Source: Author, adapted from Wahba (2006, p. 143)

Figure 1.13. Communicative tasks and their language variety. Source: Author, adapted from Wahba (2006, p. 149) ← ix | x →

Figure 2.1. Communication with older person in Levantine dialect with Arabic script. Source: Author

Figure 2.2. Common communication in Egyptian dialect in Arabizi. Source: Author

Figure 3.1. ACTFL proficiency-based level illustration. Source: ACTFL, 2012

Figure 4.1. Summary of domestic programs discussed. Source: Author

Figure 4.2. University of Chicago course offering chart as of Fall 2016. Source: Author 79–80

Figure 4.3. Middlebury Language School Arabic courses level 1–2.5. Source: Author, modified from website 84–85

Figure 4.4. Middlebury Language School Arabic courses level 3–4.5. Source: Author, modified from website 86–87

Figure 4.5. Example of Arabic courses within an Arabic Flagship Program at the University of Oklahoma. Source: Author, adapted from screenshot taken December 3, 2016

Figure 4.6. The author completing an internship at the Alexandria Center of Arts in Alexandria, Egypt, 2013.Source: Author, photographer: Lameese Ahmad

Figure 4.7. The author on one of the program’s travel excursions to Luxor, Egypt, in 2013. Source: Author, photographer: Lameese Ahmad

Figure 4.8. Abroad program summary discussed. Source: Author 95–96

Figure 4.9. CET Proficiency Chart pre- and post-program of students to date. Source: Author, adapted from CET,personal communication, September 20, 2016

Figure 4.10. CIEE—Rabat course offerings taught in Arabic. Source: Author, modified from website

Figure 4.11. CIEE—Rabat course offerings taught in French. Source: Author, modified from website

Figure 4.12. CIEE—Rabat course offerings taught in English. Source: Author, modified from website 102–3

Figure 4.13. Al-Mashriq language course offerings. Source: Author, modified from website

Figure 4.14. Al-Mashriq Advanced Course offerings taught in Arabic. Source: Author, modified from website ← x | xi →

Figure 4.15. Changes MSA and dialect wording. Source: Younes, personal communication, September 1, 2016

Figure Appendix A.1. Arabic Program Summaries from Interviews. Source: Author

Figure Appendix C.1. CIEE Course Grading System. Source: CIEE-Rabat (El Bour and Lachiri)

Figure Appendix D.1. Sessions for 2014–2015. Source: Al-Mashriq Center (Younes)

Figure Appendix D.2. Summary of Courses. Source: Al-Mashriq Center (Younes)

Figure Appendix D.3. Testing and Grading. Source: Al-Mashriq Center (Younes)

Figure Appendix E.1. Week One Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix E.2. Week Two Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix E.3. Week Four Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix E.4. Week Five Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix E.5. Week Six Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix E.6. Week Seven Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix E.7. Weekly Schedule. Source: Qasid (Matadar)

Figure Appendix F.1. Evaluation and Assessment. Source: AMIDEAST (Lane-Toomey)

Figure Appendix F.2. Grading Scale. Source: AMIDEAST (Lane-Toomey)

Figure Appendix F.3. Course Schedule. Source: AMIDEAST (Lane-Toomey)

| xiii →


I am humbled to take the opportunity to acknowledge the superb work of Dr. Lawrence Baines, who not only helped me complete this project but gave me the encouragement and support to pursue dreams I believed were far above my capacity. I would also like to thank Dr. Mohammad Al-Masri, a dear friend and colleague, who inspired the vision behind this project and always provided a counter argument to mine in the name of academic excellence.

Finally, I would not have completed this project without the support of my loved ones. I want to especially express my gratitude to my loving parents, Doug and Deborah, and to the love of my life, Abu Talal. Thank you all for creating an environment for me to succeed, push myself past what I believed were my furthest limits, fall even more deeply in love with Arabic, and also for instilling within me an everlasting desire to know more.

| xv →


XVI, 216
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 216 pp. 44 b/w ills., 2 color ills.

Biographical notes

Genevieve A. Schmitt (Author)

Genevieve A. Schmitt earned her Master of Education in instructional leadership and academic curriculum with an emphasis in world languages from the University of Oklahoma. Currently, she is researching social perceptions of Jordanian Arabic dialects after receiving a Fulbright research award.


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