ALCASA on 19/02/2017

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.

Susan Young


ALCASA 2016 Sahra

The year ALCASA 2016 has ended with an amazing Sahra ( “سalcasas-2016_SAhra_1هرة” an entertaining evening in Arabic). Around 125 people, from Arabic and non-Arabic speaking background, have come to enjoy a true Arabic celebration.

If you know anything about Arabic celebrations, you would know this must include delicious food, music and dance! However, ALCASA is always keen to present the best and more.alcasa-26-of-118

The 2016 Sahra was preceded by a graduation ceremony for ALCASA Children’s group, with acting a story, playing games and handing in their folders of the whole year. The children were delighted and were showing pride of their achievements.

The 2016 Sahra opened with the amazing Zaffit SA, offering a dabke workshop (traditional dance), engaging adults and children to dance hand in alcasa-75-of-118hand. The workshop has attracted the children to go on stage and learn the dabke moves.

The awesome Arabic speaking artists, Rabih Aintarazi, Charlie Yarak, Raja Jamal Eddine, Raniah Daou and Nouha Raslan, have kindly performed well known Arabic songs to share their love to music and to Arabic culture.

Thanks to ALCASA long standing partners the Lebanese Film Festival (LFF Sydney, Australia), ALCASA was very pleased to be able to show two highly recommended and award winning short movies, Congratulations (Cynthia Sawma) and A Time In A Life (George Barbari).  Both movies have been the talk of the night! Bringing great movies to Adelaide in association with LFF Sydney, has been a great success in past ALCASA events, and this time was no difference.

As any Arabic celebration, there have been many shared plates which by itself was a fest! With food comes Arabic coffee, mint tea, sweets and good chats!alcasa-116-of-118

ALCASA had over the years made good relationships with local businesses. The 2016 Sahra received support as vouchers that were offered in a draw as raffle prizes to lucky guests. A huge thank you go to Abdul’s Kitchen, ME&Mr. Jones hair & more, Le Souk, Tea Tree Gully Chicken & Seafood Takeaway, Cafe Buongiorno (Cafe B) Modbury, Houda’s Kitchen, Plaza Pizza Bar, Je T’aime hair and beauty salon and Levant Eatery.

This year, has definitely been a great year for ALCASA, engaging more audience and bringing in more art, food workshops, dance and culture celebrations to the community. Not only the ALCASA 2016 Sahra was a good end-of-the-year event, but also it was a promise for a more entertaining programme in the near future!

We wish you a happy new year and hope to see you again in our upcoming events resuming in February 2017.

Nadia Sbahi

Photos courtesy of ALCASA members and friends including Darren Williams Photography

Posted by Arabic In Adelaide on Saturday, December 3, 2016



June’s Arabic Session and the Arabic Music Workshop

On 19/06, we launched the ALCASA Arabic Cultural Workshops with a special session presented by the talented South Australian musician and teacher Charlie Yarak. About 34 participants attended the music workshop. A number of families came earlier to the Arabic Story Reading time with the ALCASA’s Children’s Group and more than 12 adults stayed after the workshop for the Language Exchange session.

We have received this testimonial that we would love to share with you:

13445374_1327711987257231_3335223393641204035_n“We were delighted to attend the ALCASA Language Exchange on Sunday the 19th of June. The music workshop was a highlight for us, where the talented presenter, showed and explained a range of Arabic instruments and demonstrated how they are used in Arabic music and culture. He completed his presentation with an entertaining performance that left us wanting to hear more. The group were very friendly and as beginner Arabic Language learners we felt very supported in our learning during the Language Exchange session. We worked around activities that were appropriate to our language ability level. The afternoon was enlightening and enjoyable.”

Mary & Andrew McMaster




ALCASA Monthly Session, 17/4/2016

What a great session we had on Sunday 17 April with an eclectic mix ALCASA Children's Group, 17/04/2016of people from Arabic speaking cultures, along with others from various backgrounds and a range of ages. The native Arabic speakers are such a help to those of us learning Arabic.  Thank you so much!

After fun and games with the children, we adults took turns to introduce ourselves in Arabic, and shared about where we live, our work and what we like.  We had a few newcomers, so this was helpful. Then we moved into smaller groups to work through Arabic dialogue – this month it was about going to the movies. It is a relaxed atmosphere where native Arabic speakers get to share their own language and we learners get to practice speaking Arabic. 

This is perhaps the most difficult part of learning a new language – having the confidence to actually speak it, but our Arabic friends are very patient with us.  Don’t be afraid to come along and join these sessions – learning Arabic is not easy but the more you know about it, the more you realise that it is a very rich and beautiful language.  And it is not just about learning Arabic, it is about sharing and celebrating our different cultures.

By Sue Young

ALCASA Children’s Group, February 2016

ALCASA Children's Group, February 2016

ALCASA Children’s Group, February 2016

What an amazing beginning to the new year for the ALCASA Children’s Group! Six families and their 10 children participated in an engaging and challenging play-based Arabic session. As there was some time since they last learnt together, new children were able to introduce themselves and get to know each other over some play dough fun. Children made Arabic letters and different fun objects using the Arabic words to describe them.

The children were then invited to the ALCASA Café where they were ordered and baked their choice of a sweet or savoury pastry. Student had to order their choice in Arabic and reinforced some basic food words and larger numbers associated with money. The children had the following choices to order from the bakery:
Apple         تفاح
Pastry        عجينة
Sugar         سكر
Cinnamon      قرفة
Zaa’tar       زعتر
Cheese        جبنة
The children were able to enjoy their tasty treats while they participated in a story time activity. They followed a story with the title لا يا طارق about a mother and her young son who gets up to some mischief “No, no, no Tariq!” his mother keeps yelling! The students responded to questions and answered appropriately to demonstrate their understanding.
Because of the large number of children in attendance, the group was able to be split into three groups; the very young under-fives played some traditional Arabic games, the older children engaged with learning letters and writing words and the intermediate group participated in a role-playing activity based on the story.
Thank you to all the volunteers and parents for their support and contribution. We look forward to seeing all the families at our aflam film day on Saturday 19th March at the Mercury cinema. Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet  is a family friendly movie and all families are welcome. Tickets at

Hassan Mekawy
ALCASA Secretary

ALCASA Children’s program, 2014 and 2015

ALCASA Children’s program, 2014 and 2015

I have started my journey with the ALCASA children’s group in June 2014 in the city library’s event room. Some children who attended the library sessions did not speak a word of Arabic, others were able to speak and write. Sometimes we had to say one word in 3 dialects (Iraqi, Lebanese/Palestinian, and Yemeni) and then explain it in English. Some kids loved every activity, others had hard time to participate due to being shy or simply had no interest at that particular point of time.

Our program has evolved and we always tried to keep the kids motivated. We played games, read stories, wrote a play and acted it, brought toys to illustrate animals, fruits, etc. Playdough was always on the table ready to be cut into beautiful Arabic words. We were lucky to host a belly dance workshop by Nayima Hassan. We even had a public performance at Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre on 7 December 2014 where we performed a play and put together a dance show led by Nicole, a co-founder of ALCASA.

We have learned a lot, the kids have developed a huge interest, their language has been growing rapidly, their shyness has slowly disappeared and they’ve built beautiful friendships.
As for us (the adults), we have tried to keep being creative and strengthen our program, we managed to make a framework that we could built on by choosing a theme. The elements were easy: choose words around the theme, teach the kids the letters of the words, read a book about it, art, play, and cook.

Finding words was easy indeed, however finding books and having time to cook was a challenge. One theme we had was on a Spider, we used a book written by one of the kids. We sang “Itsy Bitsy spider” in Arabic, we made spiders from cleaning pipes. We cooked “mana’ish za’ter” and we played forming a spider web.

Then it was time to show our skills, we had an amazing time participating in the 2015 Multicultural Festival, and Laziza Festival. We made drums, we had Henna Arts, the kids wrote their names in Arabic without help and wore it as a necklace, we dressed up in traditional clothes, and had fun playing games that no one in the crowd could possibly know, we were proud to show them and get them to play with us. Nayima Hassan was there once again supporting us and charmed everyone having the kids dancing around her.

On 6 December, we had our graduation party for 2015, the kids got each a trophy and an award for their amazing effort in expanding their Arabic. We will meet again in the new year, on a different location and many fresh ideas.

ALCASA Children’s program offers children an amazing opportunity not only to learn Arabic, but to think creatively, enjoy culture and make friendships. Its unique approach “play to learn” has distinguished it clearly, but ALCASA is more than that, our program welcomes children from different nationalities, religions and backgrounds, it is for those who simply like to enjoy Arabic and understand the importance of learning it.

Here are some memories to share with you. Happy holidays everyone and looking forward to see you again in the next year.

Nadia Sbahi