What a great afternoon we had during the ALCASA meetings on Sunday 21/5/2017. About 50 people attended the sessions for Arabic story reading, “dabke” workshop and Arabic informal conversation.
We started with the Children’s Group and Arabic story reading. The children listened and enacted a story about a “scary” hedgehog قنفذ who was desperate to make friends with other animals. The story allowed exploring the theme of friendship and helped to learn plural forms for certain Arabic words. The story reading session was complemented by fun craft activities in making hedgehogs قنافذ then by some group games providing opportunities to hear and use again the new words learnt during reading time. There were also hedgehogs قنافذ on the afternoon tea menu! Many thanks to the talented and creative Nadia who organised and led the reading session.
The highlight of the day was, of course, with the ALCASA Dabke Cultural Workshop provided by the local group Zaffit SA. The group dance dabke or dabka is quite popular throughout the Middle East. Usually, it is performed by men and women as a line dance at weddings, parties and community celebrations. Dancers hold hands and move in a rotating circle. It is a proud, energetic and joyful group dance enjoyed by all ages.
During the workshop, four amazing performers from Zaffit SA, helped us, the budding dabke dancers, to learn sophisticated steps and to practice more simple familiar ones. It was lots of fun and we finished the session wanting to learn and practice more.
Watch this amazing video capturing the spirit of the workshop!
As usual, we ended the afternoon by the Arabic conversation time in the ALCASA Language Exchange group. Many thanks to Doris, Hanaa and Leila who helped to support the conversation in Arabic.
We were very “busy beavers” at our sessions on Sunday 19 February 2017.
I arrived for the last 15 minutes of the children’s group and witnessed the relaxed and happy atmosphere, with a dozen or more children of various ages, along with their parents and helpers. Clay creations of fruit in a variety of forms were lined up on the table ready for the next step of firing, and the children were sitting quietly in a group while listening to Zain and Hassan.
As more adults arrived for the next session, we had the opportunity to chat and introduce ourselves to newcomers while enjoying refreshments.
As usual, I indicated that my name is Susan but most people just call me Sue. While Susan is a name in Arabic-speaking countries, I gather it is not generally shortened to Sue. Recently, I found a word in my Arabic dictionary which appeared similar in sound to “Sue” –it gives the sound “soo” but with a “hamza” at the end, giving it a staccato ending. Unfortunately, this word means “evil” so I was a bit worried. Thankfully, I was reassured with a smile by first-time visitors to ALCASA, Roseanne and her husband – Syrians who have spent the last 13 years in Dubai. Evidently, if the “Sue” is said with a smooth ending, it is not a problem. Phew…that’s a relief!
After our chats, we all got down to work in our conversation sessions, splitting into small groups of one or two non-Arabic speakers with one or two native Arabic speakers. We talked about what we do in the holidays.
Hafiz and I learnt a new expression in our conversation session with native Levant speakers Mona and Hanaa. After we said “thank you” to them both for their patience in listening to our stumbling efforts at speaking in Arabic in the role play, Hanaa said:
!لا شكر على واجب
(“la shukr ‘alaa waajib” – for those who can’t read Arabic)
It is like saying “My pleasure” but its literal meaning is more like “No need for thanks as it is my duty to assist.”
Learning new idioms and sayings in Arabic is interesting. In my opening sentence, I used the English term “busy beavers” – I could have said “busy bees” and no doubt there is a different idiom for this in Arabic which I haven’t learnt yet.
Perhaps we could look at comparing some idioms at one of our monthly sessions? We have a multicultural group of people attending, various ages and backgrounds – including an Iraqi who lived in Denmark for many years, married a Dutchman and lived in Holland for some years as well; a young Singaporean who came to Australia nine years ago and is studying to become a high school teacher of maths and science; but he loves languages too. We have a young Italian who works on The Ghan train and I understand he speaks five languages; a Frenchman who has lived in Australia for years now, and I came from the south of England as a teenager – I won’t say when, but it’s been a long time. There are some second and third generation Australians attending as well, but many are migrants in some form.
Of course, being an Arabic language and culture association, we have people from various Arabic backgrounds – Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq, to name a few.
We all lead busy lives beyond ALCASA, some cannot make every session, and some move on to other places, but it continues to grow and develop each year. There will be more cultural workshops throughout the year at some of our monthly sessions, and these will be promoted on the “Arabic in Adelaide” Facebook page as usual. Newcomers are always welcomed.
On Sunday 15 May, the adults group focused on city places and giving directions. We practised a conversation scenario where a lady asks a person on the street for directions to the Nile Hotel. We were able to practise this in both Fusha and Ammiyya. Thank you Sue for creating the original role play text in Ammiyya and Fayrouz for translating them into Fusha so we Arabic language learners have the opportunity to learn and practise both!
We worked in pairs and also practised giving directions to our homes. We drew a map before describing the directions which was a lot of fun! Then we had a short discussion on common words that we could use in both Fusha and Ammiyya when giving directions. Some of these words are “about” حَوَالي and “continue” كَفّي .
We enjoyed the session and look forward to the next one. If you’re interested to learn and practise Arabic, come along to the next session! We are always looking for more people to come along to our sessions. Do send us an email to let us know if you’re coming!
During December, ALCASA is holding two events. The first one is planned for this Sunday 6/12 with the ALCASA Children’s Group holding their end of the year party. Families will bring a plate to share and it is expected to have fun traditional Arabic games. The second event is planned for 13/12, when ALCASA members are holding their Annual General meeting in a convivial style. The AGM is followed by a shared dinner and a free movie night with a special screening of the Arabic movie “Wadjda”. Anyone interested is welcome to join in both events. Just leave a personal message on ALCASA’s Facebook page Arabic In Adelaide to introduce yourself (Inbox) and state why you would like to attend. Also provide your e-mail address to receive venue and time details about your preferred event.
It was great to meet again last Sunday, many thanks to the 15 participants who made it to the conversation session despite the long weekend and the time change due to the implementation of day light saving. We were very pleased to see a new family joining in and we hope to see them again in the future.
Heinz detailed description of his beautiful house gave the Advanced conversation group the opportunity to practice words and expressions related to the home environment. Then we had a brief reflection on life in certain Arabic speaking places. As many members were away, I thought you may be interested to overview some of the vocabulary that was used:
On the first day of September, such a fine and glorious beginning to the Spring, the ALCASA group met again with a fantastic turnout and plenty of new faces. Although our regular Beginners couldn’t make it for this month, it was wonderful to see the Advanced group only continue to grow.
Shane led an enjoyable conversation about his experience wandering through a souq (market) in regional Oman when he was there for a two-month cultural immersion with his Australian university, hosted at Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University in the capital of Muscat. This ended up being a very interactive, hands-on session, with many thanks to Shane and the many purchases he brought to show us all. To the delight of all present, these included a beautiful hand-embroidered kumma and masr (traditional Omani headwear for men), a jar of sweet-smelling frankinscence incense (bakhuur), and a very ornate gold watch presented to him as a gift from Sultan Qaboos University, decorated with a traditional khanjar (dagger).
After a brief but filling afternoon tea, where Richard shared his delicious home-made quince (sfarjal) paste, Fayrouz gathered the group for her cultural presentation. Disappointed by the poor selection of traditional Arabic clothing and costume available in Adelaide, she sought to challenge our views and conceptions of typical Arabic dress by showing us the wide variety and differences in the kinds of clothes people wear not only in different Arabic-speaking countries, but also within close-knit communities within these countries. Fayrouz’s many slides certainly opened our eyes and encouraged us to see beyond the black abaya (cloak) and belly-dancing costumes that are so often presented as the stereotype of Arabic-speaking and Arabic-cultured people everywhere.
A fantastic time was had by all in our September session, and we all greatly anticipate our next meeting in October.