Collaboration produced experts in Arabic

Though exotic to Finns, Arabic is spoken by some 300 million people from Iraq to Morocco. At the University of Helsinki, the Language Centre provides instruction in elementary Arabic, while the Department of World Cultures at the Faculty of Arts offers major and minor subject studies in Arabic and Islamic studies. Studies in Arabic may be useful for careers in pharmacy, theology, social sciences and law, and proficiency in Arabic helps job seekers stand out from the crowd. Some students also wish to expand their knowledge and study the language to gain insight into the Arab world and culture. Courses in Arabic have proved popular even though the language is challenging. Students must first learn the sounds characteristic of Arabic speech and the writing system, based primarily on consonants, as well as the vowel and other small diacritical marks so as to develop a solid foundation for the study of Arabic. Due to the structure of the language, the studies also focus on grammar. One of the goals of the elementary course in Arabic is to enable students to use an Arabic dictionary.

In the 2014–2015 academic year, the Language Centre and the Department of World Cultures collaborated for the first time in Arabic teaching by offering an elementary Arabic course at the Language Centre and other studies at the Department of World Cultures. Previously, both units offered an elementary course. The idea to join forces came from the Arabic teachers of the Language Centre and the Department of World Cultures, who know each other well and had for several years designed elementary courses with similar content so as to ensure that all University students could continue their studies in Arabic on the same basis.

The benefits of the collaboration were obvious after just one academic year: “The joint course is great. The atmosphere is active and enthusiastic, and major and minor subject students of Arabic and Islamic studies “spur” the other students on in learning the difficult language. Teaching a group like this is also rewarding for the teacher,” notes Heli Keinonen, who teaches Arabic at the Language Centre. At the Department of World Cultures, the transfer of the elementary course to the Language Centre freed resources for other teaching in Arabic, which means that the Department can now provide a growing array of courses to students. “The collaboration has been excellent and should definitely continue,” says Sylvia Akar, university lecturer in Arabic and Islamic studies.

 

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