Last week, we discussed that the GCC has a problem: most of its foreign language schools that teach a Arabic as a secondary language have failed to engage students in learning it. For many millennials, and now Gen-Zers and Gen Alphas, Arabic was a language taught using outdated curriculums, unexciting material, and old-fashioned teachers that wouldn’t waver in their approach to teaching the language.
Now, however, we could be seeing the start of some change, or at least the first steps towards it.
Earlier this month, a new family of apps under the brand arabee launched in the UAE and globally, available on Android and iOS. arabee is originally an award-winning language education program that was and continues to be incorporated into school curriculums, innovating and changing the way Arabic is being taught in schools and at home, built from the ground up by teachers, parents and professionals who wanted to make learning Arabic fun and engaging for children.
Lenka Basweidan, Founder of arabee said: “We identified that many children were struggling to learn the Arabic Language which was very concerning for us as parents. There seemed to be a disconnect between the time spent studying Arabic and the amount of language acquired. From research, we quickly learned the following facts:
- Majority of children were not enjoying Arabic lessons;
- Unlike other modern foreign languages, after years studying Arabic many children could not communicate in Arabic;
- Teachers were spending valuable time planning and creating resources and had less time for teaching;
- Many parents were unable to help their children because they could not understand Arabic themselves;
- Parents consistently ranked Arabic as an area of frustration in their children’s education and that the materials being used in the classroom were not exciting enough to keep young minds engaged and interested.
This helped us understand that there was a gap in the Arabic language learning sector, leading us to create the arabee brand with a team of professional educators and backed by reputable investors.”
Essentially, arabee is an interactive, hybrid and digital platform aligned with the international language standards (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and UAE’s Ministry of Education expectations, that enables “progressive, comprehensive learning with maximum retention.” Now, it is available in app form, with 4 different learning levels aimed at children, in hopes of making Arabic fun for them.
According to arabee, many schools around the UAE are already using their program, with teachers and students seeing a positive change after implementing it. The company also says that student attention spans have increased dramatically compared to traditional learning methods used in the past, given that the program uses multiple learning methods to keep young minds engaged and inspired through various activities.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has also made arabee an ideal solution for teachers and parents worried about children’s learning of the language. Given the younger generation’s digital nativity, the family of apps provides them with a fun but educational platform to allow them to learn and play without adult supervision. The app offers a variety of activities including fun videos, sing along songs, interactive games and digital reading books.
arabee says it is actively seeking and engaging investors for their future expansion plans and building partnerships with companies and like-minded individuals. Last year, they won grant awards from The Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Sheraa and StartAD (NYUAD).
The main app has a free demo, making it easy to explore the platform before committing to a purchase. arabee has competitively priced their main app to make it affordable for families to educate their children with ease. A yearly subscription costs AED 499/$136 per year for up to 3 children (monthly payment terms are also available at AED 49.99/$13 per month).
Addressing the greater Arabic problem
While arabee is the latest to offer a digital and interactive way to learn Arabic, the company is not the first to do so.
Last year, online language-learning portal Duolingo introduced Arabic to its offerings, as reported by Arab News.
Still, the language remains a challenge for many. The Extraordinary International Arabic Language Conference in Sharjah, held remotely late last month under the slogan “With Arabic we innovate,” addressed just this.
According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), participants involved with the activities of the Conference reviewed 34 research papers and studies, all of which dealt with three main topics:
- Contributing to the development and teaching of the Arabic language;
- The empowerment of Arabic language teachers in general education stages from the skills of the twenty-first century;
- The concept of the Arabic language in the light of the hypothetical Arabic language teacher.
The conference discussed the issue of learning the Arabic language remotely and how to take advantage of modern technologies and for purposes such as distance learning. The suitability of these technologies for the characteristics of Arabic language activities and its various skills were also discussed, highlighting the most important modern education strategies that can be employed while teaching the Arabic language remotely.
Increasingly, technology seems to hold the key to the future of Arabic learning in the region.