Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle

Arabic program students attend Abu Dhabi Book Fair

Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle On Saturday, April 27, students from NYUAD’s Arabic Language Program attended the annual Abu Dhabi International Book Fair ...

Apr 27, 2013

Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle
On Saturday, April 27, students from NYUAD’s Arabic Language Program attended the annual Abu Dhabi International Book Fair as part of the department’s Experiential Learning program. Students were able to learn about the world of Arab literature, merging language with text as they wandered between shelves of Qurans and colourful stacks of Arabic children’s stories. Many of the stalls at the fair belonged to publishers from around the region, with companies hailing from countries like Lebanon, Kuwait and the UAE.
As part of their assignment, students were asked to brave at least one Arabic conversation with a stall employee.
“Despite being shy, I actually talked to one bookseller,” said freshman Yuliya Lukashenko. “Even though it was half-English, half-Arabic — I'm only [an] Elementary 1 student — it was a lot of fun.”
After an hour of browsing through novels, magazines and textbooks, Arabic students gathered together at the fair’s discussion area, enigmatically-titled, “The Tent,” to host a panel about the joys and challenges of Arabic as a second language.
During the panel, four students displayed their language skills by reciting different texts, including a song, poems and an excerpt from the Arabic translation of “Harry Potter.” Afterwards, the students fielded questions from Director of Arabic Studies Dr. Muhamed Osman Al Khalil about their experiences learning the language at NYUAD.
Panelist sophomore Hidaya Ibrahim said that much preparation went into crafting the discussion.
“Together, all of us came up with questions that we felt [were relevant] for all the Arabic students, the challenges that they might face and the interests they might have,” Ibrahim said.
During the panel, students touched upon their preferred and least favorite aspects of learning Arabic, as well as how they plan to continue their studies post-graduation. Much of the conversation revolved around the difficulties of learning Fusha, the formal dialect of Arabic. One audience member raised the issue of Arab youths today, who favor English over Arabic and, consequently, lose much of the culture that is so intertwined with their mother tongue.
“I was always wondering what the students’ opinion was about learning [the different] types of Arabic,” said Khulood Kittaneh, an instructor of Arabic Language at NYUAD. “I find it very interesting that even though it takes a lot of time to learn Fusha, they appreciate learning it even though it’s not used in day-to-day life.”
“Students who were talking in Arabic and presenting today [started] from scratch two years ago,” added Kittaneh. “So it’s amazing to see how they get to that level.”
The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has been taking place annually since 2007, boasting more than 500,000 book titles. These books, and the companies that represent them, come from the Middle East and North Africa region and beyond, ranging from Arabic childrens’ stories to physics textbooks to Penguin Classics.
Stalls labeled according to publishing organization and country of origin filled the main halls of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, with Japanese novels nestled against Egyptian philosophical texts.
The book fair was established by KITAB, a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Frankfurt Book Fair. The fair’s website ( says it aims to “develop the book and publishing industry and promote reading in Abu Dhabi and the neighbouring Arab Emirates.” Accordingly, the conference hall was filled with a mix of major publishing companies and smaller-level book merchants.
The visitors of the fair included local university students who were provided with book vouchers from the festival. Granted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, these vouchers provided students with 50 AED for extra reading material.
“I thought it was nice to see the Arabic versions of some popular contemporary novels,” said freshman Cole Tanigawa-Lau. “I loved finding that book on Arabic typography and I enjoyed the panel discussion, so I'd say I left satisfied.”
Alistair Blacklock is co-editor-in-chief. Zoe Hu is deputy news editor. Email them at
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