Last month, we gave you our top picks for starting that Arabic To-Read list, but we realize that’s not enough. It’s important to have a healthy relationship with our mother tongue to be able to read, write and comfortably express ourselves with. So how can you work on that? We have the perfect teacher!
Hossam Mostafa, founder of EktebSa7, is an Arabic Language graduate and a published author of novels, short story collections and satire. He has worked as an editor at several Arabic journalistic publications, and is also currently a trainer at ONA Academy for Professional Media Training.
EktebSa7 is his new website whose self-avowed mission is to help revive the Arabic language and present it to the public in a more modern and engaging way. It includes relevant video tutorials and different interactions to explain basic rules of Arabic and correct common errors, articles about Arabic and in Arabic to enrich Arabic content, as well as a newly launched automatic corrector of common mistakes in spelling and punctuation. It is just what we need at a time when our language is becoming increasingly disenfranchised and our relationship with it rapidly deteriorating. EktebSa7 also holds workshops for further development of Arabic language skills. These workshops are announced beforehand, with one coming soon on common spelling, grammar and structural mistakes, so stay tuned!
We sat down with Hossam for more on EktebSa7, his inspirations and his thoughts on how to reconnect with our mother tongue.
What inspired you to start EktebSa7?
Through my work in my journalism, I came to know the mistakes people commonly make, even those who are writers by profession, like journalists. I thought it would be useful to address those mistakes at a wider level than just among a few journalists, so I launched a Facebook page. It was so popular that it encouraged me to take it even a step further. I launched the website, then the automatic corrector and there are other things yet to come.
Why do you think our relationship with Arabic is deteriorating (if you think it is)?
When you don’t exercise, your muscles become weaker. This is the case with anything that isn’t put to use often enough and this is sadly the case for Arabic. It isn’t used in our daily lives anymore and no programs speak it; we depend on the colloquial. Even journalism and written work aren’t strong enough and are in a state of constant deterioration. Also, our educational curricula are outdated and we are becoming more and more biased towards the English language, whether by making it a prerequisite for job opportunities or an indicator of social prestige. With all this happening, it is only natural that Arabic takes a backseat!
How can we build a stronger bond with our language?
We have to start by realizing how important it is for our appreciation and enjoyment of our heritage and the creation of a unique culture that can protect us from falling prey to outside influence or destructive and/or radical thought. Then, we need to exert some effort to perfect it, without waiting for others to push us to do that. Arabic is really fun and easy; it just needs to be taught creatively and interactively. This is what we’re trying to offer through EktebSa7.
Do you think that the automatic corrector could turn out to be counterproductive or make people lazier about learning Arabic?
No, because it has its limitations and would still need human interference. For example, it doesn’t correct grammar yet, and it doesn’t cover all spelling errors. Yes, we’re working on expanding its vocabulary as much as we can, but at the end of the day, you will still need to double check after using it. Also, the corrector is just one aspect of what we do, there to complement the rest. We offer theoretical understanding in addition to its practical assistance.
What do you think sets apart Arabic from other languages?
Arabic is very rich. It has so much vocabulary, and phrases, that allow you to accurately express anything. It’s also very fun. I keep saying that, because its aesthetics are countless and there’s so much you can do with it. It is also the language of a vast legacy of knowledge and information.
What’s your favorite Arabic word or expression?
لا يغلبن جهل الناس بك علمَك بنفسك
This roughly means that you should not allow the fact that people know very little about you and your abilities overshadow what you already know about yourself. Be confident.
What do you like to read (in Arabic)?
I like to read a lot of things. This includes literature, psychology, linguistics and philosophy.
How would you advise someone who wants to improve their Arabic, especially if it’s very weak or they think it’s hopeless?
They should check out EktebSa7; we offer a lot of things that cater to both beginners and professionals. I would also recommend that they read a lot. Reading helps your mind remember the language in its correct form. They should start writing in Arabic as well, even if they don’t think their writing is good enough, and ask someone who’s proficient to edit it for them. With time, they will start to understand their weak points and work on them. Lastly, they have to study and understand grammar in the simplest way possible. We have the resources to help with this on EktebSa7, complete with steps, a timeframe and a downloadable book; all available here.