UAE school offers free Arabic lessons for expat parents

The GEMS American Academy, Abu Dhabi has been offering a 90-minute Arabic class every week


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 20 Jul 2023, 1:55 PM

Last updated: Sun 23 Jul 2023, 3:11 PM

A group of parents from a school in the UAE are receiving free Arabic lessons, which have improved their everyday communication. Several of them have shown significant progress in their learning, and are now confidently able to order food at restaurants, read signboards and introduce themselves in Arabic.

The GEMS American Academy – Abu Dhabi (GAA) has been offering a 90-minute Arabic class every week for 30 parents who signed up for the course.

One of the parents, Sara Olson, said: “I have learned a lot since we started at the end of October. Now, I can order food at restaurants and introduce myself in Arabic. I like listening to Arabic speakers to gauge if I can understand some words. I also like to read some simple outdoor signs."

The classes have also enabled parents to learn alongside their children. Olson said, “My children and I usually practice together when we start learning the Arabic alphabet. I want to continue with the Arabic course to learn more.”

Another parent, Elif, said, “I have been living in Abu Dhabi for the last 10 years, and I’ve been working with local people for six years. Yet, this was the first time that I’ve started speaking a little Arabic, thanks to this course. The course structure is based more on day-to-day basic conversation, and we practice every time after each unit."

Supportive teacher

“Ms Wafaa Deknach, our teacher, is very supportive and makes engaging lessons to help us understand. Now at work, I can say many sentences in Arabic, and it might not be enough to speak fluently in Arabic, but it is enough to bring a smile to people’s faces, as they can see that I’m making an effort to learn their language. I can talk about myself, and my daily routine. I can order food at restaurants and talk about food in general. We’ve also started to learn the alphabet,” Elif added.

Fellow GAA parent, Marie Hullegard appreciated the instructor’s approach of initially focusing on common phrases to enhance communication in Arabic. She said, “The Arabic course is going very well. I liked the fact that we first learned to communicate in Arabic using everyday phrases. This has developed my vocabulary and allowed me to understand the grammar. Since we started learning phrases, learning the letters has been easier because I can recognise words and sounds that I already know. By learning the letters of the alphabet, I am now beginning to understand the different phonemes, which will help me significantly in reading."

Wafaa Deknach, the Arabic teacher at the school, enjoyed the lessons just as much. “It’s been an honour for me to organise this workshop to teach Arabic to parents as part of our GAA goal to promote tolerance, diversity, and learning from different cultures and languages. We have learned in a great atmosphere of pleasure, respect, and benefit. It has also helped parents to support their kids in learning Arabic,” she said.

Desire to learn Arabic

As per the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), 64 per cent of non-Arabic speakers residing in the capital expressed a desire to learn Arabic.

These were the findings of the research conducted over the course of the year from mid-2021 to the end of June 2022, with 6,087 participants from Abu Dhabi’s general population aged 18 years old and above.


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