UvA Talen teacher writes Arabic teaching method

Leston Buell, a teacher of Arabic at UvA Talen, has developed a new method for teaching this language. Bite-Size Arabic gives students a practical introduction to the Arabic language by gradually introducing new letters, vocabulary and grammar. We asked Leston what makes this teaching method so special and how our students can benefit from it.

Was there a need for a new Arabic textbook?
In the past we used a book at UvA Talen that is widely used in American universities to teach the Arabic writing system but it has two frustrating drawbacks. The first is that it doesn’t teach you any structure; every lesson in the book has a long list of words to memorise, but it doesn’t show you how to make sentences with them. The second is that it saves some of the most frequently used letters until the end of the book, letters you need to write even the simplest of sentences. I needed a book that would have students reading and writing complete sentences right off the bat.

On your blog you write that sometimes students become overwhelmed by too much vocabulary and grammar while they are still struggling with the alphabet. Is this something you encounter often in your classes?
Learning a new writing system can be difficult and it always takes time, so it should be taught in such a way that you’re not simultaneously struggling with too much grammar and vocabulary. But at the same time it should also be taught in such a way that you develop other useful communication skills in the process. That is what Bite-Size Arabic sets out to accomplish.

Bite-Size Arabic introduces just a few new letters per lesson, along with just enough vocabulary and grammar to put them into practice, and there are lots of easy exercises with answer keys and a website where you can listen to the pronunciation.

How do you think this new textbook will help students of Arabic?
For my own Arabic beginners courses at UvA Talen, the book will allow me to introduce practical writing skills early on for the first time. Because students will learn to read and write essential words right from the beginning, by the end of the course they will be able to write complete sentences.

For independent learners, Bite-Size Arabic will serve as an accessible introduction to both the writing system and some basic Arabic grammatical concepts, enabling them to go on and tackle a more traditional beginning textbook with a much greater chance of success.

More information?
You can read all about Bite-Size Arabic on bitesizearabic.com. On his blog drbulbul.com, Leston Buell (or Dr. Bulbul) collects useful tips, instruction videos, songs and articles for learners of Arabic.

UvA Talen offers Arabic groupcourses at five different levels all year round, both as evening courses and intensive summer courses. UvA Talen also offers general and specialised Arabic courses tailored to the needs of individuals or in-company groups.