English monolinguists, sit up and hear:
“When Arab students do not learn proper Arabic grammar, their English will suffer because they lack a strong linguistic foundation in their mother tongue. By improving their Arabic skills, students will be able to improve their English as well”, says a language expert.
As parents in the Arab world seek bilingual education for their children, they are increasingly opting for schools that educate them in languages such as English or French.
This has resulted in an increase in the number of Arab students fluent in the regional dialect. Such students are becoming less proficient in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), the accepted form of Arabic used in writing and formal speech. Abbas Al Tonsi, an Arabic professor and expert at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar), is building an innovative solution to this incongruity.
Al Tonsi and his team were recently awarded a grant by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) to study Arabic language instruction in Qatari schools, and to help identify some of the current shortcomings. The team has proposed a study to explore ways in which the demand for English education is affecting the Arabic language skills of Qatar’s youth, and address the challenge of maintaining strong linguistic skills of native Arabic speakers who spend many of their formative school years in English language schools. Their research will focus on addressing the needs of heritage learners, native Arab students raised in Arab countries who lack formal instruction of MSA.
The first six months of the project will be dedicated to conducting a large field study of the different Arabic language curricula used within Qatar’s school system.
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