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Learn Arabic with Facebook: A conversation with the ICLS Teacher

Learn Arabic with Slima

Dr. Slima Shahati started teaching MSA and Libyan Arabic for ICLS in 2020. She has a PhD from the University of Hull (UK).

The Libyan dialect is a variety of Arabic spoken in Libya and some of its neighboring countries. It is quite different from other Arabic dialects such as the Tunisian or Egyptian dialects. There are no textbooks and very few teaching materials available. Therefore, Slima turned to social media content to teach her student her native language. She routinely used blogs written in Libyan as well as content that she extracted from various Facebook pages. Using content from social media allowed her to curate recent and authentic materials to discuss in class and expose her student to the many conversations taking place in the comment section of the posts she chose.

For each class, Slima selected a new topic and then searched Facebook pages and blogs for relevant content to learn Arabic. She then copied the Facebook posts and comments into a Word document to use in class with her student. She particularly favored the content from an advice column type of Facebook page where people write about personal and job-related issues, family conflicts, and other social matters and receive advice from their peers. The Facebook comments allowed her to expose her student to both sides of various political and social issues.

When working with authentic reading materials, Slima selected short texts and used a top-down approach. She first let her student read the excerpt out loud, and they then worked together on pronunciation. Next, the student explained the gist of the passage he read. Finally, they discussed the content of the text in greater detail. Over time, Slima and her students started noticing patterns across the Libyan and the Egyptian and Tunisian dialects, which are also spoken in Libya.

Her student greatly appreciated this opportunity not just to learn Arabic, but to develop his Libyan proficiency through recent and authentic materials. In addition to Facebook posts and blogs written in the target language, Slima also relied on radio broadcasts to help her student hone his listening skills.

Teaching languages with social media resources can be a gratifying experience. For some less commonly taught languages, it is the only source of teaching materials available. If you are interested in learning more about using social media in the language classroom, here are some further readings:

Excited to continue learning Arabic with Slima? Learn more about our online Arabic classes.

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