The Arabic for Non-Native Speakers Center is a specialized language center at Qatar University (QU) which offers six language levels from Beginners I up to Advanced II and by the end of the course certificates of completion are given to students who comply with academic requirements and successful pass final exams.
Dr Abdullah Abdul Rahman Ahmed, Director of the Arabic for Non-Native Speakers Center said during the interview, “Due to COVID-19 we did not see any decrease in the number of our students instead we admitted more students than we did last year. This year about 140 students were enrolled whereas last year we just enrolled 89 students. Due to COVID-19 we offer only online classes and all students are studying from their home countries. Which are in five different continents, this made us adopt our online classes according to their time zones, we start 8am in the morning and we continue the classes till 6pm in evening. All the students from South East Asia up till North America can attend their classes according to their time zones.”
This year the center admitted 146 students which includes, paying fees students and scholarship students. Even during the pandemic the Center has admitted students from around 35 different countries which includes Asia, Africa, South America, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and several African and European countries.
“Our online educational process is mainly organized through “Blackboard” platform which allows us to offer online classes, easily communicate with students, add assignments, provide feedbacks and grade students’ progress,” Dr. Adullah added.
The center offers about 17 courses each semester, which cover six levels of language proficiency. Language classes level start from beginners, intermediate and advanced level classes. A placement test is taken to determine the level of proficiency at the beginning of each academic year which focuses on four major skills listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Talking about the graduation he said: “Last year the graduation was cancelled due to pandemic. We sent the certificates to all the students by post. This year we will be hosting an online graduation ceremony for all of our students and then the students will receive their certificates through post. Last year we graduated 85 students and this year we look forward to graduate almost 130 students.”
The center is considered one of the tools the state uses to achieve the political approach commonly known as ‘soft power’ through its active role in supporting the relationship between the State of Qatar and the countries of the world. The center offers scholarship opportunities to nationals of other countries and through the past 10 years has accepted students from 50 different nationalities and graduated over 500 students, who can now be considered ambassadors to the university and the state. Many of them are now engaged in leadership roles in diplomatic, academic and media positions, and will hold with them forever the experience of studying in Qatar University and living in the hospitable Qatar.
Discussing about the challenges faced by the center due to pandemic, Dr. Abdullah said: “The main challenge that we face during COVID-19 pandemic is that we cannot offer face-to-face classes, the classes which are most effective in language learning. It is well known that teacher’s gestures during a class play a great role in a language learning process, and these things may become unavailable due to technical issues or poor internet coverage in students’ countries. But we are doing our best to face all the challenges and provide the best level of language teaching”.
Since its inception, the center has been a key platform for achieving the goals of Qatar University in disseminating the Arabic language, bridging scientific and cultural communication among academic institutions and opening up prospects of cooperation with regional and international universities. The center has succeeded in achieving over 30 agreements with a number of prestigious universities, which offer the chance for student exchange, made possible by the center’s scholarship offerings. According to Times Higher Education standards, efforts such as these have played a major role in Qatar University topping world rankings.