From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic

From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic

Editors note: This is a guest blog post by Lina Gomaa, Arabic Instructor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University, about the Creative Commons-licensed textbook she wrote, From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic. 

At Portland State University (PSU), the Arabic program is designed to teach Modern Standard Arabic ( MSA) for at least one year, after which the students can learn Colloquial Arabic (CA). Because of how the Arabic program at PSU is designed (similar to many programs in the USA), the importance of this book arises. This transition can be challenging for some students. The book targets students in NM (Novice Mid) who have studied Arabic for a year or more and aims to help them advance to IL (Intermediate Low) according to the Oral Proficiency Interview standards by ACTFL, the American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This book documents answers to questions from students in CA classes. Its goal is to transition students smoothly from MSA to CA, giving them confidence to explore both varieties while reaching the NH (Novice High) or IL level, navigate predictable social situations in CA, and utilize their previous knowledge in MSA to learn CA. The content and structure are based on my teaching experience and as an ACTFL OPI interviewer to assist students in their quest to speak CA with native speakers with relative ease.

The material, organization, topics and translations are based on comments, suggestions and ideas which students shared with me during teaching colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. While creating the book, I wanted it to be a reference for students to “get a feel” for MSA and CA similarities and differences. This book introduces the Cairene Egyptian dialect; however, it also explains commonly used expressions in the Levant (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel). The goal is to introduce students to more varieties, allowing them to choose which dialect to specialize in and still be able to communicate with Arabic speakers. Although this book does not introduce Gulf dialects, many of the expressions and terms are frequently used in most of the Arab world, and many are derived from MSA I aim that this book will benefit students of Arabic at PSU and elsewhere, reduce their textbook expenses, and help them improve their CA speaking.

I also hope that the dialogues (recorded by PSU students of Arabic) will be enjoyable for learners and provide successful examples for others to follow.

The book is published on the PSU library page and the website of the Center for Open Education at the University of Minnesota. It has been downloaded over 1,000 times and counting all over the world by different universities, institutions, business and governmental bodies.

Professor Lina Gomaa is an Arabic instructor at Portland State University.

Working with Students to Create a Textbook

Working with Students to Create a Textbook

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Julie Ward edited an anthology of Hispanic literature with her students, elevating the role that the students played in the class, and proving that the pedagogical affordances of openness are just as important as the low costs most often associated with openness.

I initially had the idea to work on OER because of the wonderful OER librarians at my campus. Their initiative to promote the adoption and creation of OER on campus inspired me to propose a project for my Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course, a third-year Spanish course required for Spanish majors.

The course generally relies on fairly expensive and large anthologies. I thought that if I assigned texts that were in the public domain, and asked students to choose one particular text to study and prepare for inclusion in an online, open-access anthology, the Antología abierta de literatura hispana, they would have a richer research experience and really get to understand what literary studies are about.

This project would also give them the chance to practice their writing in Spanish, and to write for a much larger audience than a traditional classroom paper provides. Students knew that they had the option of submitting their work for inclusion in an open-access anthology, and that anyone with internet access around the world could potentially read their work. This fact motivated them to do their best and to consider their audience.

Finally, I was happy that students had the chance to create something that could help other students. Their results of their hard work over the course of the semester are visible and useful. The learning experience doesn´t stop at the end of the semester, but is shared with others. It is also a lasting example of their skills that they could highlight in the future.

My goal in leading students to create their own textbook was to help them learn the tools of literary research and give them an audience beyond the classroom or the campus. In small groups, students chose one of the texts studied in our Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course and created a critical edition, complete with introductory information about the author, time period, and literary context; footnotes annotating various aspects of the text itself; and a bibliography for further study.

With the help of two undergraduate research assistants, I uploaded the results into Pressbooks, where it is downloadable and accessible in many formats. Now the first edition of the anthology is available for students of Hispanic literature, and I am working on a second edition, with the help of the Rebus Community, that incorporates critical editions made by students at other institutions.

My goal is for the AALH to continue expanding and become a go-to, open-access resource for anyone who wants to know more about Hispanic literature and culture.

For more information:

Julie Ward joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma in 2014 as Assistant Professor of 20th- and 21st-Century Latin American Literature. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley (2013). Her current research focuses on the representation of the real in contemporary Latin America.

Sharing responsibly with your colleagues

Sharing responsibly with your colleagues

Photo credit: flickr user Hoffnungsschimmer Creative Commons License

You can help other teachers by sharing your creations, whether you give your materials away or sell them.

However you share, we suggest you do it with a Creative Commons (CC) license. This allows users of your work to make changes to fit their students and their teaching context, and to use the materials in their classroom. And you still get credit! Copyright, which is the default license on any unmarked online content, doesn’t allow these rights.

Here’s how to add a CC license:

1. Click here to download the CC BY license image to your computer.

2. Add the license image to your resource (in the footer, at the end of content, or anywhere else you prefer).

3. Copy and paste the following text underneath your license image:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

There are other licenses which give more or fewer rights to the users of your materials. You can learn about them on the Creative Commons website.

Creating videos For Use in the Classroom

Creating videos For Use in the Classroom

Photo credit: flickr user chelsea(: Creative Commons License

Editor’s Note: Josie Jesser created videos of elementary school students speaking Spanish as part of our COERLL Collaborators program. Here, she explains her process.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth even more. Even just two minutes of “screen time” can engage or re-engage students by pulling them into a world outside their classroom. As soon as the faces appear on the screen, the students’ curiosity is switched on. Who are these people? Where are they? What are they saying? I’ve found the engagement multiplies when the images are of students the same age as mine. With this classroom experience in mind, I set out to create a few more options for my students in the Spanish classroom. I wanted to film kids the same age as my students, speaking Spanish naturally but answering simple questions so the students could understand.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Our best resources are in our own backyard – see if your school district has any Dual Language Schools and reach out to the administration to set up visits to these schools.
  2. Be clear about the purpose of the videos (that they will be Open Educational Resources) and ask for names of specific teachers that would be willing to work with you and suggest students that would be comfortable in front of the camera.
  3. When making appointments to film, request a quiet location in the school, such as an empty classroom or corner of the library at a time it’s not being used.
  4. Explain to these teachers that you’ll need parents to sign permission slips (Media Release Forms), which you can collect on the day you show up.
  5. Use a tripod. Whether an iPhone, iPad, or digital camera is used to film, a tripod ensures consistency and steadiness for the viewer.
  6. Keep the camera at the students’ eye level.
  7. Have the students look over the questions before you start filming, so they can think about answers.
  8. Film 2 students at a time, so 1 student can ask questions and the other can answer.
  9. Good questions are never yes or no questions, but the type that encourage students to talk for a little while. For older kids, asking their opinions, their feelings, and what-if scenarios are always great. For younger kids, asking them to describe their daily world works well.
  10. Remember to keep it light and fun!

Good luck!

For more information:

Josie Jesser joined the Girls’ School of Austin faculty in 2013. Ms. Jesser completed her Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies from Dickinson College and her Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Jesser has worked as an interpreter and translator (Spanish, Portuguese) and she has lived in Argentina and Brazil. She has also worked in the technology sector, providing client support for Latin American clients. She loves teaching and working with students!

A network to showcase OER for language learning

A network to showcase OER for language learning

Editors note: This post was originally published on the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources blog

The Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) just launched the Language OER Network (LOERN), a page on our website to list language educators who are creating, using, or promoting open educational resources (OER). Every person featured on the page receives an open digital badge from COERLL. In this effort to acknowledge, validate, inspire, and connect open practitioners, we have already distributed badges to 41 teachers, librarians, and administrators.

We built the Language OER Network because we realized that more people than ever have started to understand what we do and are interested in getting involved in their own open projects. We are always thankful to hear from K-12 teachers and community college and university faculty who spend the extra time and energy to find the right open materials to support their students’ language proficiency. The Language OER Network exists to acknowledge this work.

Even though the open movement is gaining momentum, a large number of teachers and administrators either don’t know or misunderstand what OER is. Teachers who do advocate for openness often report that they are doing it alone. Badges provide teachers with proof of their accomplishments, to validate to their colleagues and employers that using and making OER is scholarly, creative work.

Language teachers (plus other staff, administrators, or students involved in OER for languages) can earn as many as six badges on the Language OER Network, for being either an OER Teacher, OER Master Teacher, OER Creator, OER Master Creator, OER Reviewer, or OER Ambassador. From what we’ve seen, this follows the natural progression that many people take, from the basic use of supplementary OER, to the full involvement of sharing the benefits of OER with others. We hope that this set of badges will inspire people to keep opening up, eventually earning all six badges.

We would also love if people embarking on new open projects could look at this page and find others who have similar ideas, to connect with them and potentially collaborate. With the number of people pursuing OER right now, it’s likely that many of them are doing similar projects and could benefit from sharing ideas and resources.

Even though we are publishing the Language OER Network to benefit teachers, it benefits COERLL as well. LOERN will be a tapestry of open language education that will help us demonstrate what this multifaceted movement is all about. Since launching the page in the past month, we are excited to have already learned about new people and projects from across the country. We look forward to hearing from more open educators, and also hope that in the future we can find a way to acknowledge more types of open educational practices, which are just as important as open resources, but harder to quantify.

Read about your colleagues and their open projects, and join the community! https://community.coerll.utexas.edu/

OER for a Common Goal – Meeting the Needs of Spanish Heritage Learners

OER for a Common Goal – Meeting the Needs of Spanish Heritage Learners

Editors note: This post was written by COERLL partner Jocelly Meiners, and originally published in Tex Libris, the blog from the libraries at the University of Texas at Austin, for a special Open Education Week series.

In recent years, the development of Spanish language courses designed specifically for heritage language learners has gained much attention throughout K-12 and post-secondary education in the US. Heritage language learners are students who were exposed to Spanish at home while growing up. These students usually have a broad knowledge about their cultural heritage, and varying degrees of language dominance. Over the years, it has been found that these learners have different pedagogical needs than second language learners, and that they benefit greatly from language instruction that is catered to their specific needs. Throughout the country, as more institutions realize these needs, Spanish instructors at all levels are forming programs and creating materials to serve this student population. It seems that we all have some common goals: to help heritage Spanish speakers develop their bilingual skills, to empower them to apply those skills in academic and professional settings, and to feel proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage. So if we all have similar goals in mind and are all working on creating programs and materials to serve these students, why not share all the work we are doing?

I have been teaching courses for heritage Spanish learners here at UT for over 4 years, and about a year and a half ago I started working as the community moderator for the Heritage Spanish Community. This web-based community, which is hosted by COERLL (The Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning), serves as a space for Spanish instructors to collaborate, share and communicate with others about the teaching and learning of Spanish as a heritage language. We encourage instructors at all levels to ask questions on our online forum, to help other instructors, and to share the materials they are working on. Open Educational Resources are an excellent way to share these types of materials, since they can easily be adapted to the specific needs of each instructor’s particular student population.

As community moderator, I add useful content to our website, create interesting questions for discussion, and encourage others to explore our website and share their work. I have also been able to share my own materials as OER, and it has been very rewarding to hear from people in other parts of the country who have found my resources useful and are adapting them for their own heritage Spanish programs. I believe that if we all collaborate and share our resources openly, we will be much more successful in attaining both our personal and common goals.

Jocelly Meiners was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica and moved to Austin, TX to attend UT, where she obtained her undergraduate education, as well as an MA in French linguistics and a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics. She is currently a Lecturer in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at UT, where she teaches courses for Spanish heritage learners.

Happy Open Education Week 2018!

Happy Open Education Week 2018!

Open Education Week is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its goal is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Join us March 5-9, 2018!

Language OER Network Launch

Here at COERLL, we’re excited to launch a new network for promoting open projects in language education. The goal of the Language OER Network (LOERN) is to showcase the work of open educators in the field of language learning and teaching. If you are a language educator or student who uses, creates, or promotes open educational resources (OER), COERLL would like to recognize your innovations by listing your name on the LOERN page and by sending you a COERLL badge.

Teachers and students are featured as an OER Teacher, OER Master Teacher, OER Creator, OER Master Creator, OER Ambassador, OER Reviewer, or some combination of those roles.

Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear from OER Master Creators and Master Teachers about how they have integrated openness into their curricula.

Stories From Open Educators

We’ll also be publishing blog posts here on this blog from language faculty at the University of Texas who have created open educational resources.

OER for a Common Goal – Meeting the Needs of Spanish Heritage Learners by Jocelly Meiners
Creating an OER for Turkish-language learning has made sharing my ideas possible! by Jeannette Okur
Open Access at the Core of Materials Development for LCTLs by Orlando Kelm

Open Education Worldwide

Other organizations around the world are celebrating Open Ed Week too. Learn more about the movement and the events and materials available at openeducationweek.org/.

Celebrating Multilingualism

Celebrating Multilingualism

Photo credit: Naomi Barbour

Note from the editor: Naomi Barbour writes a guest blog post in honor of International Mother Language Day

“That doesn’t help me,” Yousef observed, having looked up a new term from his Biology class in the dictionary to check the meaning in his first language, Arabic. “I don’t know that word.”

“I wouldn’t be able to do this in Chinese anymore”, Kevin told me, with a slight note of anxiety in his voice.

“It’s easier for me to write my outline in Japanese. Is that ok?” asked Riko, hopefully.

Comments such as these from students are typical in my job as an English teacher at an international school. They speak to the tensions that students feel when learning in a language that is not their mother tongue. These tensions make up part of their identity and it is important for students to have the time and space to reflect on what it means to be multilingual. By discovering the benefits and challenges of multilingualism, they can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world they inhabit. For these reasons, I decided to dedicate some class time to exploring with my students what it means to be a multilingual learner. As always, I tried to include activities in all four language domains: speaking, listening, reading and writing.

First, I got them to focus on their first language with a simple activity called But, Because, So. I gave them a sentence stem, “My first language is important…” Students had to complete the sentence in three different ways, using but, because and so.

Next, we worked on a definition for multilingual. We did this as a Think, Pair, Share activity, maximising oral interaction in the classroom. Only after creating our own definition for multilingual did we consult the Cambridge Dictionary of English, where we found that a multilingual person is someone “able to use more than two languages for communication”. Important: nowhere in the definition does it say that you need to be fluent in those languages.

In later classes, we explored the benefits of multilingualism through a Market Stall activity. On individual numbered strips of card, I printed fifteen benefits of multilingualism, including developing improved critical thinking abilities and problem-solving skills, as well as being more efficient communicators in your first language. These were divided out randomly among the students, who also had a graphic organiser on which to note down all the benefits. First, they read their own benefit carefully to make sure they understood it, checking for any difficult vocabulary. Then they mingled round the room, “selling” their benefit to their classmates. They were not allowed to show their card; they had to communicate and explain it orally.

Students went on to do a reading comprehension looking at additive and subtractive bilingualism. They discovered that at the same time as learning a new language, they have to maintain and develop their first language. Otherwise, they are at risk of subtractive bilingualism, in which further languages are added at the expense of the first language and culture. Among others, James Cummins at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto has published widely on this and related topics. Students then used that material for a group activity in which they had to pretend they were the school leadership team and come up with ways in which to support and celebrate multilingual students at our school. They had some excellent ideas, such as providing first language support classes after school.

Finally, students wrote an essay on the prompt: What benefits can multilingual students experience and what are some ways to support these students at our school? They had to incorporate language from our unit language objectives and were assessed on the WIDA writing rubric.

What better way then to celebrate International Mother Language Day on February 21st by exploring with students the ways in which multilingualism not only benefits them personally, but also helps make the world a better place for us all? The United Nations cites multilingual education as a way to help achieve their Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and the theme for this year’s celebration is Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development.

Take some time to celebrate mother languages with your students and colleagues. How about a challenge on February 21st to teach someone your favourite expression in your mother language? For those who share the same mother language, there may well be local expressions that you could teach. If your students and colleagues like using social media, new expressions could be tweeted out using #motherlanguageday. Happy International Mother Language Day!

Naomi Barbour is a High School English teacher of multilingual learners at Asociación Escuelas Lincoln, an international school in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has always loved learning languages and was delighted to add River Plate Spanish to the list when she moved to Argentina from her native UK.

Writing Resources That Give Students the Freedom to Explore

Writing Resources That Give Students the Freedom to Explore

“El aquelarre” by Francisco de Goya is in the Public Domain

When he began compiling his textbook anthology Leyendas y arquetipos del Romanticismo español, Robert Sanders knew that his students weren’t taking upper-level Spanish to become professors of Spanish literature. They were mostly minoring in Spanish with other career goals in mind. This sort of insight into students’ needs is what makes open resources authored by language instructors so valuable for modern education.

Leyendas y arquetipos is an openly-licensed introduction to nineteenth-century Spanish literature for intermediate university students of Spanish. Dr. Sanders chose the works of poetry, drama in verse, and short stories for their literary interest and the social importance of their themes. After piloting the book with students, he compiled vocabulary, historical, and cultural annotations to facilitate comprehension.

Dr. Sanders made many choices in compiling and writing the anthology to allow students the flexibility to pursue their own interests. He did not prioritize any one interpretation of the texts in the anthology. The discussion questions mention scholarly works as a jumping off point for analysis rather than a definitive interpretation. The author biographies in the anthology are short in order to encourage further investigation and richer discussion by students, and the book lists sources for further research, such as Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, the Centro Virtual Cervantes of the Cervantes Institute, or the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Spanish National Library. In his course, students have  even created their own multimedia take on a chosen work by creating fan fiction, graphic novels, film storyboards, and musical compositions.

The multimedia potential of the book is also reflected in the paintings, photographs from films, and other art that are as valuable as the texts in their potential to teach about literary and social movements of the time. The art provides a whole other avenue of exploration and analysis to students.

Dr. Sanders compiled the book himself with support from the Portland State University Library, which has supported the prolific creation of open textbooks (several of them for languages) in order to save students money and provide a customized learning experience. The book has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which means that anyone can copy it, share it, and make modifications, as long as they give attribution to the author, maintain the same license, and do not make a profit off of it. With this in mind, what could you do with this book? Has it given you ideas about reading with your students? Tell us in the comments.

Learn more:

A Treasure Trove of Videos for Language Teaching

A Treasure Trove of Videos for Language Teaching

Photo credit: YouTube user Pefu & Lukyson Creative Commons License

From the editor: The following is a portion of a transcript from an interview with Dr. Christian Hilchey, which was originally published in COERLL’s newsletter. Dr. Hilchey explains how to search for and get inspired by openly licensed authentic videos.

We use films. We use songs. But oftentimes, we can’t share those because they are copyrighted. I started finding these excellent videos by conducting searches for open content on YouTube. I would go to YouTube and search for content under an open Creative Commons license. Unfortunately, some key words weren’t working for me at all.

Finally, the best key word that I stumbled upon was “vlogs” (video blogs). And then I combined the key word “vlog” with another word like “Christmas.” So, “vlog Christmas” or “vlog zoo” or “vlog vacation.” And I found that there were a lot of people posting vlogs and that they weren’t a one-off kind of thing. Typically, the kind of person who was posting a vlog was… writing several dozen about their personal experiences. So, what I found helpful was to go to specific users themselves to find the richest content. Once I found a good vlog series, I would search through it like an archive. It really was as simple as that. But the key was to find the right vlog. At that point, it was looking for patterns in the archive. What kinds of videos were they posting? How did they title their videos? So it was really about finding that rabbit hole that previously was unknown to me. But once I found it, I was amazed by all the good content and was able to mine it quite easily. It changed things for me overnight. I went from having no open video content to having a surplus of really excellent materials to choose from.

A lot of times, as educators, we are looking for really specific content. I think to find the “good stuff,” educators need to be more flexible. Instead of looking for something specific, it is better to find high quality content and then think about how to incorporate it into your lesson or materials. Actually, I think that my experience looking for open content reflects my experiences fifteen years ago that led me to learn Czech so successfully. These language-learning experiences with native speakers weren’t necessarily planned. They were experiences talking about things that I didn’t expect them to say or talk about. So what I have found is that being more open to what could be useful to the learner, what could be said, has allowed me as an educator to think outside the box and to say, “OK, I wasn’t planning on talking about this content in this particular way, but there is a lot here that I can use for the classroom.”

Take an early chapter in a first year program. You are probably teaching [students] to name items. So, the focus is on nouns. If you start to look around, you will notice that people are naming things in real life. So, for example, I found a lot of videos where people give tours of their homes. And during the tour, they name items: “This is my television. And this is a chair I bought at the flea market.” Utterly mundane but really useful for language learning. Another example of a really great video I stumbled upon was a trip to the zoo. A Czech family visits the zoo and they point out and name all the different animals. The content was interesting and fun and it was perfect for learning animal names. Again, this was not something I was planning. But when I found it, I knew that it could be the basis of a lesson. I hadn’t thought about taking my students on a trip to the zoo, but why not? There are some very large zoos in the Czech Republic! It is not normative or typical to discuss Czech zoos. But they certainly exist.

You do have to watch and to listen to these videos. Sometimes, I will immediately dismiss a clip because the audio is bad or the video is sub par. Although… the fact that someone isn’t looking perfectly into the camera and isn’t wearing a mike often makes the video more real. I am trying to balance the issues that come with lower production values with the advantages of extemporaneous content. I remember the textbooks I used when learning Czech and we would mock the videos: “Don’t these actors sound silly!” Whereas, in these videos, the people don’t sound silly, they just sound real.

To learn more about vlogs:

Christian Hilchey is a lecturer in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of “Reality Czech”, a full curriculum of open language materials for introductory Czech.