Mobile Entertainment Show at Al Ain Book Festival 2022.
Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), the Al Ain Book Festival 2022 (Nov. 14 – 20) had welcomed over 74,000 visitors for hundreds of performances, seminars and workshops across five cultural locations in the emirate. The ALC, part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), conceived the new vision for the event, which was formerly known as Al Ain Book Fair. ALC Chairman, Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, gives an inside view of its DNA to Gulf Today
Can you briefly sum up the contribution of Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre in the promotion of Arabic language?
The Centre has developed strategic collaborations with diverse local, regional and international partners, including organising influential academic, publishing and digital initiatives, such as co-publishing the influential open access journal Al-Markaz in collaboration with Brill Publishers (The Netherlands) (https://brill.com/view/journals/mrkz/mrkz-overview.xml); the annual Sheikh Zayed Book Award celebrating Arabic literature and culture around the world (https://www.zayedaward.ae/en/default.aspx); the Arabic book translation and publishing initiative Kalima; the Arabic Digital Lexicon; and establishing various year-round research, publishing and translation grants. The Centre also organises high-profile industry, academic, and public events such as Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries, the Arabic Language Summit (https://www.mcy.gov.ae/als/), and Al Ain Book Festival (https://adbookfair.com/aabf).
Do you teach conversational Arabic or scriptural Arabic? Do they overlap?
Dr Ali Bin Tamim, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.
We believe that both forms of the language complement each other, as they are not opposing each other. For example, as much as we publish, promote and celebrate written works in modern Standard Arabic, we cannot deny the treasures of the Nabati Poetry, which is written in the UAE local dialect. It forms a cherished constituent of our culture. Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre is not specialised in providing formal education of Arabic language; our work is more foundational in terms of establishing the passion for Arabic language and encouraging learning it and using it, among native and non-native speakers of Arabic. This is achieved via a number of strategic programmes managed by the Centre, most significantly being the provision and promotion of the “Arabic Language Proficiency Exam”, the CIMA certificate, in partnership with the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), which is the first recognised certification to assess proficiency in modern standard Arabic.
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We also have a dedicated programme focusing on non-Arabic speakers, namely, the “We Speak Arabic” programme, which was launched with the aim of promoting easy-to-learn, basic Arabic vocabulary to non-Arabic speakers of all ages through entertaining and engaging digital video content.
One way to promote Arabic is to make a basic knowledge of the language compulsory for employment. Do you think so?
No matter what country you are living or working in around the world, having basic knowledge of the local language is a prerequisite for having a better understanding and appreciation of local customs, and ways of working. I do think that having basic knowledge of Arabic is important for work if we want to support people’s integration into society.
Why did you specialise in Arabic?
Children’s Programme during Al Ain Book Festival 2022.
I have always been an avid reader of myriad works in Arabic, which shaped a profound appreciation of the language and its significance. With that, my educational speciality has evolved from a firm belief in the importance of Arabic language in the development of the arts, sciences, philosophy, and religion. It is one of the most influential languages in the known history of humanity, and it has become a mission for me, to present its beauty, creativity, and scholarship past and present.
How is Arabic a bridge builder between cultures in the UAE?
We are blessed to live in the UAE which is home to more than 200 nationalities, creating a unique heterogeneous mix of cultures, which live in peace and harmony, coupled with our values of tolerance, openness and peaceful coexistence. And this is where the Arabic language becomes the force that holds this cohesive standard of living, as it is not only a way to communicate, but holds a whole culture within, the history of Arabia, our values, history and heritage. It is how we present ourselves to the world that we welcome in the UAE.
What are the two best compliments the Centre has received from those who benefited from its services?
There is a plethora of compliments and recognition that the Centre has received from entities and individuals, both formally and casually. For example, our Translation Project, Kalima, has won numerous awards and prizes, as a publisher and for distinguished individual works in translation at a local, regional and international levels. Our very own Sheikh Zayed Book Award has been recognised as well as an international prize, celebrated by many scholars, academics and experts in the diverse fields of the award categories, which is evident in the increasing number of annual submissions reaching more than 3000 per cycle, underlining its popularity and recognition. But I have to say that the greatest satisfaction for us is when we receive personal notes from our partners stating that their achievements would not have been possible without the Centre’s support, and when we see members of our community delighted at our public events, enjoying their time, learning. That is a constant reminder that what we do is meaningful for our culture and society, and is a key driver for us to seek new heights.
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