David Nancekivell

Faculty Lecturer - Arabic Language

I have been teaching Arabic since 1998 in Lebanon, the U.S. and Canada. I joined the faculty of the Institute of Islamic Studies in August, 2007. Before teaching Arabic I also taught English, French, Chinese and Spanish as second languages. I have extensive experience in both teaching and learning languages and a keen interest in motivating students to learn Arabic.

I teach modern Arabic at all four levels of our programme as well as classical Arabic.

Teaching Philosophy

I believe that all the different methods of language teaching developed have something to contribute to the lessons I teach; therefore I would best describe my teaching method as eclectic. It is important to me for students to learn the grammar of Arabic so that it can, as Rivarol said, “lift the difficulties out of a language”. For that to happen, the grammar taught must be practical and must enable the students to say the kinds of things they themselves want to say.  For it to be practical, it needs to be taught in a clear, rich context with plenty of examples so it can be seen how the grammar is applied.

I believe it is important for students to use the target language as much as possible right from the beginning of their lessons, so I make it a point to teach them strategies to help them keep soldiering on in Arabic by means of sentences such as “How do you say X in Arabic?” or “What does Y mean?”  I also encourage students as early as possible to make use of a unilingual dictionary in Arabic so that their thinking in the language is reinforced continually.  I believe a judicious use of humour in the language goes a long way towards making the pills of the more difficult aspects of the language easier to swallow, and I also like to introduce music into the class, as through it much can be learned by osmosis, and good examples of the grammar can be found that can be referred back to later.

One of the chief challenges posed by a language like Arabic is the quantity of vocabulary which is almost completely unrelated to the vocabulary of languages like English or French.  I make a point of signaling any cognates (in many cases not immediately apparent to the students’ eye)and thus enriching students’ knowledge both of Arabic vocabulary and of the history of their mother tongue.  The fact that I am conversant with a wide variety of languages enables me to do this. In addition, I have devoted much time to making up mnemonics to accompany the vocabulary lists of each lesson. Anything that can help the student recall the meaning of a word until the word settles into his long-term memory is valuable.

I believe that any and every reason for learning Arabic is justified, regardless of a student’s motivation, whether religious, political, social or other.  I try hard to treat students with equal respect and show myself willing to spend the time necessary to help them reach their goal of speaking Arabic comfortably. I am also aware that one way of learning something may well not work for everybody, so  I try to use a variety of strategies to put a point across.