Mustapha Diktas

Mar7aba
First of all, advice I would love to write an elaborative story about my last summer at Saifi Institute and Beirut. Even from the very beginning: from the selection of scholarship candidates till my last moments at Beirut international airport. I can tell you a fairy tale full of excitement, troche effort, and joy, taste, friendship, magic of Arabic language even romance. Or I can write a travel guide type of passage, like western younger bloggers about what a "crazy city" Beirut is.

Or stereotypically I can doodle something about internationally acclaimed Lebanese civil war, the bullet holes on the walls of the neoclassical buildings of Beirut. Even I can give you dull "information" about the sectarian structure of Lebanese society: how different sectors surprisingly (!) live in harmony and "peacefully".

I can talk about new and unique kind of tourism which started to appear in Lebanon after 2000s which I name it as "sectarian tourism" (Because I met wide variety of Western people who want to make daily excursions or "safaris" to Burj Hammoud to "see" Armenians or to the mountains to "see" the Druze or to Trablous to see the Sunni as if those are exotic fruits or vegetables).

But No!!I won't do what I listed above. My aim here should provide you an educational ethnography about what is really going on in a typical Saifi Lebanese Arabic Class. Yes, Lebanese way of Arabic...According to my personal research: Saifi institute is the only place in the world where they teach a colloquial of a language (linguistic term: variety) officially and seriously. For political reasons varieties of a standard language (no matter how big the speech community is) are not recognized or considered as a "language" even often underestimated in all around the world(Did you ever hear about a course which teaches Creole English or Black Sea Turkish or Kanake German?). Fus7a, modern standard Arabic language is the official language of 22 different Arab countries, though not spoken but literally and historically. But you feel bedazzled when you don't really hear it in the streets. One of the facebook followers of Saifi Institute wrote something like: "Trying to survive with Fus7a in Lebanon is like trying to survive with Shakespearen English in New York". I don't know if the difference can really be exaggerated that much but I am sure is if you really want to communicate with people, Lebanese colloquial is a must. Being aware of this reality a brainy graduate of Arabic Language department Rana Dirani not only opened Saifi Institute but also lit a fire of a linguistic revolution, teaching Lebanese officially with books and classroom materials. It may sound just "hımm interesting!!" whereas it's not that easy to accomplish it. Because daily colloquial and Fus7a are so much embedded with each other and you have to analyze and filter what is colloquial and what is standard and make a successful grammatical and lexical synthesis of 3ammiyeh(colloquial) and Fus7a. It is very obvious that a good in-service training was given to the language instructor because they are really experts in their field. They know well how to dance with Arabic. Let's start with one of these outstanding teachers: Maajid Balkis...
Maajid, an intellectual and a self disciplined guy, was my main course teacher. Five days a week, three hours a day (including the cigarette breaks on the high way viewed balcony) he was with us. We were approximately 10 in the class from different countries (students, anthropologist, translators, psychologist...) Maajid was very well trained teacher and he knew the latest methodologies, approaches, and techniques in language teaching. He was very skillful in warm up sessions to make us wake up in the morning with culture specific- sometimes cold though☺- jokes and facts. He was able to switch from warm up to reading and grammar session artistically. His aim was to spice up deep Arabic grammar with communicative approach. He was frequently using question-answer technique and role play to make us internalize the language. We even played memory games in Arabic me being the winner all the time☺. He was so strict in terms homework that I remember staying up late very often to finish long never ending pages...In the end of the term Saifi gave me 10 hours of additional private Arabic course as a present included in the scholarship. I was lucky enough to have it because it took five days and shockingly I started slowly to express myself in Arabic even in philosophical issues. I was able to talk about politics, society and books mostly in the target language. We even translated the songs of legendary singer Fairuz (Shta2tillak, Bint al Chabiyah etc). To be honest we never got in touch with after I left Lebanon but he will always be the one that I will recommend to a person who wants to learn Lebanese.
Sara Jouni...
3 hours of speaking class, 2 days a week in the afternoon was also included in my scholarship and my tutor there was a very humorous and a lovely woman Sara. Sara was a graduate of Arabic literature and she even has an MA degree. Sessions of Sara was a kind of fresh blood after long hours of language rules in the mornings. She was a kind of a teacher who was keeping her updated all the time with new techniques in speaking. She never ever used a word in English in the class. She constantly pretended to be deaf every time we tried to code switch from Arabic to English. She was very careful with the pronunciation and was giving us instant correction. But for Sara I wouldn't have consolidated the difference among h kh and 7 (I don't have them in my mother tongue). She was using realia in every lesson (real newspapers, magazines, objects etc) and trying to put everything we learnt into practice. We even prepared "Fattoush" (Lebanese salad with fried bread- khbz me2ly) when we covering fruits and vegetables unit. Sara was professional in making jokes and teasing the handicapped sides of Lebanese society and politics. She even made us discuss about social issues like poverty and corruption in Arabic. Sara fancies sports a lot and now she is a mother of a very cute boy..

Mustafa DİKTAŞ (29)
Social Anthropologist/Turkey

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