The Peninsula: Keeping Up The Linguistic Heritage of Qatar

The World Organization For Renaissance of Arabic Language hosted a Renaissance of Arabic Language Forum focused on the “Linguistic Upbringing of The Arab Child – The Reality and Prospects for the Future.”

The event brought together more than 300 prominent figures from the education field to speak about the progression of the Arabic language and the role academia plays in stimulating linguistic development in Qatar.

Contemporary influences distort classical Arabic, and are compounded by globalization, linguistic evolution, outdated teaching methods and regional infusion.

Under the patronage of H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF), QF is committed to developing and preserving the Arabic language.

At the end of the two-day forum, participants presented a series of  recommendations to address some of the challenges facing the Arabic language.

Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), one of the three national research institutes at Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a QF member, is dedicated to providing technological support to address challenges facing the Arabic language.

Dr. Kareem Darwish, Senior Scientist, QCRI, said, “The preservation of a language requires that the language itself develops as the world around it evolves. QCRI has been working since its inception, through the Arabic Language Technologies team, on advancing the Natural Language Processing, which is the stepping stone for the computing and digesting of any language.”

Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director, QCRI, said, “The long-term plan for QCRI, with regards to the preservation of the Arabic language, is to make more information accessible through language technologies, such as the processing of Arabic documents, automatic translation between languages, information extraction, and question answering, among others. We believe this will strengthen the standing of the Arabic language and serve Arabic speakers by providing a wider and richer pool of content.”

As part of this endeavor, a key output of QCRI includes Jalees, an Arabic eBook Reader which  adopted by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education as the default reader in its eLearning program. Since its launch, more than 20,000 schoolchildren in Qatar have used it.

Other QCRI developments include state-of-the-art speech recognition, transcription and translation systems. The institute is pioneering technology to make the Arabic language accessible to everyone. This includes a one-handed Arabic Braille keyboard for the visually impaired, and audio or video programs for the hearing impaired.

Carnegie Mellon University Qatar (CMU-Q) has also joined Qatar Foundation’s efforts to elevate the status of the Arabic language. In 2015, CMU-Q hosted an “Enhancing Teaching Arabic in Qatar” workshop to update national teaching methods, as well as linguistic theories.

Qatar Foundation International (QFI), a member of Qatar Foundation based in the United States, launched the Arabic Language and Culture Program in 2009 to promote international Arabic language opportunitie

Extending its aspiration to unlock human potential in the Arab world, QFI has expanded its outreach with partnerships across the Americas in both Brazil and Canada. Furthermore, QFI has partnered with the British Council to support Arabic language instruction in the UK, publishing an Arab culture curriculum that is now available for British classrooms through online software and print media.

In addition to in-school programmes, QFI provides professional development and certification support to Arabic teachers, increasing the supply and proficiency of qualified teachers across the US, reaching over 850 Arabic teachers annually. An additional 52 teachers are currently in the process of becoming qualified to teach Arabic in public schools in the United States through QFI’s Teacher Fellowship programme. The initiative works by enhancing the linguistic levels of American Arabic teachers through various workshops, seminars, and conferences, so far benefitting more than 2,200 secondary students of Arabic origin.

As 2016 continues to hold immense potential for both Qatar and Qatar Foundation, a strengthening commitment to improving the standing of the Arabic language is well underway.

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