Today I was looking at a picture of all the Taalhuis teachers and an Italian saying came to my mind “una razza, una faccia”, which means that even though we all come from different countries we all share the same ancient roots, and somehow those roots show on our faces, giving us features that make us all look like brothers and sisters, or at least like distant cousins. This goes for people from all the Mediterranean countries, from Spain to Turkey, from France and Italy to Syria, from Greece to Egypt or Morocco. However, I have to admit that there are a lot of countries that I don’t know much about, whose cultures I have never explored. This is why I have decided that this summer I will try to discover more about some of these cultures, read about them, maybe watch a documentary or two. If you want to join me in this new adventure you can start here and read this interview with Heba, one of our Arabic teachers, and discover what kind of special course she will be giving this summer!
Q: Who are you?
A: I’m Heba Dakkak (22 years old). I was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. Just like many other Syrians I left my country and came to the Netherlands. I have lived in Zwolle and now Amsterdam for five years. I study Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Amsterdam.
Q: Why do you do this job?
A: I always wanted to share my language with others. Language is the key to not only the culture of a country, but also the hearts and minds of the people. When I saw that Taalhuis needed someone to teach Levantine, I thought this would be a wonderful experience, because it will give me the chance to do what I always wanted. I do not only teach the students the language; we also discuss the current situation in the Arab world, the experiences I had when I lived there, the food, songs, movies and a lot more. This is why I do this job.
Q: A secret about you?
A: Well, I love the darkness very much. I’m a night person. Basically, I get my energy at night and I function better then, than in the morning and afternoon.
Q: This summer you will give lessons in Arabic courses, what is a typical lesson like?
A: This summer I will be teaching the Arabic songs-course. A typical lesson would be like: we listen to a song, for example in the Levantine dialect. We discuss it and try to figure out what the singer wants to say. We will try to link it to the culture and discuss general things that are relevant to this song. After this, we will listen to a song in MSA (Modern Standard Arabic). We will try to mark the differences between these two language variations. This way you learn more vocabulary, get to know the language better and hopefully learn to sing the songs!
Q: Which part of the lessons do you like best?
A: The best part is when I let the students write a dialogue about a subject, for example giving directions or buying something at the supermarket. They start discussing vocabulary, verbs and grammar and make their own sentences and conversation. Then, they come up with a very interesting dialogue you actually didn’t expect to be so good! They always surprise me!
Q: Why is it a good idea to take an Arabic course this summer?
A: It is a good idea because in the summer you will be free from a lot of responsibilities you had during the year. You have more time to study and to concentrate on one thing without being distracted by your work or study. When I was learning Dutch, I wanted to reach level B2 quickly. I took the whole summer of 2016 to learn B2 and I did it because I had a plenty of time. I would highly recommend learning a language during the summer.
Q: Send a message to your students:
A: YOU ARE THE BEST! I’m very proud to be teaching you. Keep up the spirit to learn Arabic and I hope to see you in the summer or fall courses! Have a nice summer!