Arabic 2.0: Toronto app aims to modernize how an ancient language is taught

Arabic is one of the oldest languages in the world, dating back to at least the 6th century. But that doesn't mean it has to be taught the old-fashion way.

Arabic traditionally taught through religion

A Toronto digital company is aiming to modernize the way Arabic is taught. (LoveArabic.ca)

With the recent influx of refugees from the Middle East, there's a renewed interest in Arabic language and culture.

Arabic is one of the oldest languages in the world, dating back to at least the 6th century. But that doesn't mean it has to be taught the old-fashioned way. 

Indeed, Torontonian Waleed Nassar wants to change how Arabic is taught. He is the co-founder of LoveArabic, a newly- launched portal for learning the language.

"I saw how the Syrian refugees were welcomed, and that was inspirational and contagious," Nassar said. "I want to help bring people together and allow for people to learn more about the language and culture."

The language is typically taught through religion — it is known as the holy language because the Koran is written in Arabic. But Nassar wanted to make it more accessible to more people.

His site will include weekly video lessons, a mobile app and language classes and workshops. It aims to be interactive: Need help with pronunciation? Submit the word or phrase to LoveArabic and it will teach it.

The company will also have a digital Arabic market that will sell educational and cultural items.

Teaching more than just language

Nassar has lived in Toronto with his wife for almost four years, but also wanted to maintain his Arabic and aspects of his life in Egypt.

"We felt the need to maintain our language and culture, and thought others would too," he said.

But he told Metro Morning he wanted to create more than a language centre.

"I think there is this anxiety towards people with our background," he said. "This comes from watching the news, some of the media coverage from south of the border has made the situation worse."

He told a story about his daughter reading a book from school with a character from the Middle East. The story was steeped in violence and oppression. "It was like 18th century Middle East," he said. "There are few modern representations of Arabs."

LoveArabic.ca launches in association with the Centre For Social Innovation on March 3.

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