Abu Dhabi The students pore keenly over the Arabic script in their books and greet each other with cheery ‘marhabaas’. All from different backgrounds and walks of life, they are united in their desire to learn Arabic.
“I work with a family as a nanny, and I didn’t like being at a loss when the children asked me questions about their Arabic lessons. That was the main reason I first signed up for the Arabic course at the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD),” Nona Fareena, 42, a nanny from Sri Lanka, told Gulf News.
Fareena is one of nearly 100 adult students taking the Beginning Arabic courses at the university this semester. Offered to all members of the community, the classes see faculty members, administrative staff and domestic workers in attendance, with many having attended in previous semesters as well.
“The courses are offered by the NYUAD’s Office of Social Responsibility, and first began in 2012. We also offer other courses like Professional English and Financial Literacy, but Arabic remains one of our most popular courses,” said Liria Gjidija, associate director of the university’s Office of Social Responsibility.
Each course lasts 10 weeks, with classes held in the evenings or on weekdays.
Students can progress from course to course as they work to hone their language skills.
Brad Bauer, 56, associate librarian for archives and special collections at the NYUAD, is attending his third semester of Arabic classes.
“Living in an Arabic-speaking country and region, I want to learn as much as I can, even if most of our daily life happens in English; it just seems like the right thing to do. And in my work with rare books and archival materials, I figure that even if I can attain a basic level of proficiency in Arabic, [it would help],” Bauer said.
The librarian has now mastered the Arabic alphabet, even without its diacritics, and constantly practises his reading and speech.
“I don’t know whether at this stage in life, realistically, I can hope for full proficiency. Even if I don’t though, this basic level has helped me appreciate and understand a bit more about the culture, both locally and across the Arab World,” Bauer said.
The courses are conducted in collaboration with language course provider Eton Institute.
“I love the Arabic language, and want to learn it so I can communicate better with the people around me,” said Gul Nawaz, 31, a security control professional from Pakistan. He is enrolled in his third semester of Arabic.
“So I attend the classes twice a week, and when I pay attention, I understand quite a bit of spoken Arabic,” he said.