Tag Archives: virtual learning

Learning journey in Introduction to the Arabic Language

My year 11 Business Management students primarily come from farms. The produce from their farms – lamb and beef can be sold for export to the Middle East. When dealing commerically it is essential to understand the culture, so when we were given the opportunity to learn some Arabic language and more about the culture, I thought this was a fantastic opportunity for them.

Year 11 students learnt Arabic, initially with a fluent speaker from the USA, Sophia Aron of Critical Language Service who has devised a series of flipped learning activities where students can learn vocabulary at home using apps at home which provides a fun and engaging way to learn. Then students practise during face to face time with Sophia using videoconferencing tools like skype.

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In our second class with Sophia, she setup a 3 way skype call, where a couple of young American children spoke to us in Arabic and showed us how they would greet each other if they were in Egypt. This was a great demonstration showing my older students what should be done.

Students enjoyed using the apps either individually, in pairs or in small groups. There was mixed reaction as to which they preferred – Quizlet, Memrise. or Flashcards by NKO.

Some of my Business Management class had learnt mandarin Chinese last year and queried why they would want to learn Arabic. However, I reminded them that they lived on farms and some of their beef and lamb would be exported to the Middle East. In fact when I travelled to Qatar many years ago, I saw Midfields vacuum packed lamb in the freezers in a local supermarket. Midfields is our local abattoir.

To supplement the language development, Sophie had added videos into the Memrise app. Students watched some of these to gain a better cultural understanding of the people – another important skill when dealing with global markets.

What a wonderful opportunity my students were given!

Lessons learnt:

  • the importance of hearing accents prior to dealing with them when connecting virtually
  • class room setup. My computer lab is a great setup for normal classes but when connecting online with videoconferencing, it is not ideal. Straight rows in front of the webcamera would ensure better engagement for both sides.
  • how effective videoconferencing can be for learning – and the abolute need for chat, video, audio, screen sharing and recording possibilites etc
  • greater impact of  a charismatic engaging teacher for learning
  • importance of getting to know each other on a simple basis before getting into the nitty gritty of learning.