Sarah Fatihi has returned to our school after her fascinating Arabic Workshop in November 2023. She met with Enas Al Aawaj and Saaed Al Ahmad at our school to discuss some of the benefits of being able to communicate effectively in Arabic-speaking regions. Read the transcript of the conversation. below:

Sara Fatihi, Enas Al Aawaj and Saaed Al Ahmad discussing the notion of Arabic language learning

Saaed Al Ahmad: How does learning Arabic in school provide a deeper understanding of Middle Eastern and North African cultures and societies?

Sara Fatihi: Learning Arabic grants access to a broader repertoire of media and primary sources that provide insight into Middle Eastern and North African society and culture from a different perspective and contribute to the formation of critical thinking. Moreover, learning Arabic at school can be helpful for students who want to pursue an international career.

Enas Al Aawaj: In which ways can proficiency in Arabic enhance opportunities for international business and diplomacy?

Sara Fatihi: Being fluent in Arabic can lead to successful careers in translation and interpreting, especially in a city like Vienna, which is strategically located in Europe. There is always a need to translate documents, contracts, literary texts and furthermore from Arabic into other languages and vice versa. Interpreting, especially in the field of diplomacy or social work, is in high demand. In journalism, Arabic is a key language for covering events and issues in the Middle East and North Africa. In academia, in areas such as Arabic language acquisition, there is still much work to be done.

Saaed Al Ahmad: Which role does Arabic play in global communication, given its status as one of the most widely spoken languages in the world?

Sara Fatihi: It is the mother tongue of millions of people throughout the Middle East and North Africa, regions of considerable economic, political and cultural importance. In addition, Arabic is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, making it crucial to international diplomacy and relations between countries. Through trade, tourism, and the dissemination of Arabic culture through music, film, and literature, knowledge of Arabic can facilitate cross-cultural relations and create job opportunities in a wide range of sectors globally.

Enas Al Aawaj: How does studying Arabic contribute to fostering cross-cultural understanding and promoting global peace and cooperation?

Sara Fatihi: Learning Arabic language gives individuals direct access to the culture, history and perspective of Arabic-speaking countries, facilitating empathy and mutual understanding. This can help against stereotypes and prejudices, promoting more open and respectful dialogue between different communities. In addition, knowledge of Arabic can facilitate communication and collaboration between individuals and institutions from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This is particularly important in areas such as diplomacy, international trade, education, and humanitarian assistance, where the ability to communicate effectively can foster peaceful conflict resolution and the promotion of global cooperation and development.

Saaed Al Ahmad: Which cultural and historical treasures can be accessed through the study of Arabic literature, poetry, and philosophy?

Sara Fatihi: Arabic literature includes a diverse spectrum of works, covering both contemporary and historical epic. Epic stories like the Arabian Nights and poetry classics like Al-Mutanabbi can be studied. Along with providing an intriguing look into Arab life and culture, these texts frequently touch on universal subjects like human nature, love, war, and the pursuit of purpose in life. In Arab culture, poetry has a long and rich history that dates back thousands of years. It is possible to study the rich poetic and metrical traditions that have inspired poets all across the world as well as the creative expression of beauty, passion, and human emotions via the works of the great Arab poets. Arab philosophy has a long and varied history that spans the pre-Islamic, medieval, and modern periods. Philosophers like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) have examined a wide range of philosophical topics, including politics, religion, ethics, and metaphysics. Throughout the centuries, these intellectuals have had a significant impact on Western philosophy through translations and cross-cultural exchanges.

Enas Al Aawaj: How does learning Arabic empower individuals to engage with diverse communities, both locally and globally?

Sara Fatihi: Knowing Arabic enables direct communication with people who speak Arabic as their native language, opening doors to mutual understanding, cooperation and friendship. At the local level, knowledge of Arabic can facilitate interaction with Arab communities found in many cities around the world, enabling individuals to actively participate in the social, economic and cultural life of these communities. This fosters greater social inclusion and integration, while promoting diversity and intercultural respect. Globally, proficiency in Arabic can be a valuable tool to enter into a wide range of fields, including international business, diplomacy, journalism, humanitarian aid, and tourism. The ability to communicate in Arabic enables individuals to establish contacts and relationships with people from Arabic-speaking countries around the world, facilitating international cooperation and mutual understanding.

Saaed Al Ahmad: In which ways does proficiency in Arabic provide insight into the rich tapestry of Islamic art, architecture, and civilization?

Sara Fatihi: Understanding Arabic enables one to investigate these primary materials in person and get a deeper comprehension of the religious texts and ideas that have shaped Islamic art, architecture, and society. Arabic inscriptions accompanying many of the great works of Islamic architecture and art provide details on the works’ cultural background, significance, and history. Proficiency in Arabic allows us to completely comprehend these inscriptions and appreciate the subtle subtleties of meaning that can enhance our comprehension of artworks and structures. Finally, learning Arabic can help one better understand the rich cultural and historical traditions of Arabic-speaking nations, which are home to many of the most significant architectural and artistic creations in Islam.

Enas Al Aawaj: What are the practical benefits of being able to communicate effectively in Arabic-speaking regions for travellers and expats?

Sara Fatihi: For both tourists and expatriates, knowing how to interact effectively in Arabic-speaking regions has numerous useful advantages. Knowing Arabic facilitates daily navigation, making it easier to go shopping, take public transportation, and find accommodation. Direct contact with local culture, more genuine discussion, and a deeper comprehension of customs are other benefits. Proficiency in the local language facilitates more meaningful interpersonal connections with locals, which enhances integration and a feeling of inclusion.

Sara Fatihi, born in Trento, Italy to Amazigh-Moroccan parents. After graduating from high school, she moved to Innsbruck in 2015 where she studied linguistics and graduated in 2019 with a Thesis titled “Semitic and Romance influences in the Maltese language”. She is now finishing her Master’s degree in Cognitive Linguistics with a thesis in Arabic language Acquisition in a university context at the University of Vienna and is studying a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies. She currently works as a Research Assistant on the Bedouin dialects of the Chouia and Zaer Regions (Morocco) and as a librarian in the university library of the Faculty of Middle Eastern Studies.

Two reflection questions for all students, teachers, graduates and friends of our school:

  1. How can the knowledge and understanding gained from learning Arabic in school contribute to fostering empathy and mutual understanding between different cultures?
  2. Considering the rich cultural and historical treasures accessible through the study of Arabic literature, poetry, and philosophy, how can these insights contribute to a deeper appreciation of global cultural diversity and shared human experiences?

For information on the voluntary and free Arabic lessons every Wednesday evening with Dr. Sulaiman Al Aawaj click here.

Image credit: Adobe Stock

 ✑ Beitrag von …
  • Daniel Green

    Unterrichtet Englisch, Geschichte und Sozialkunde / Politische Bildung; Männer- und Queer-Beauftragter. Angewandter Rechtslinguist.