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Last Finds - February 2008

Golden Arabic Lyrics: Using Music in Arabic Class
By MaryClaire Peroutka, NCLRC intern; Georgetown University

Teachers of every language are constantly on the lookout for newer and more accessible ways to present material. Multimedia provides popular new forms for teaching—what better way to present material to students who are constantly hooked into iPods, iPhones, and mp3 players then to give them more music and more videos?

The problem with using music in a foreign language is that very few French pop stars sing in the same textbook French that students learn. They use slang, they speak too quickly for still-learning ears, and diction is nonexistent. In Arabic pop music, the problems associated with dialect amplify this problem.

Golden Arabic Lyrics (www.arabiclyrics.net) is a tool for Arabic teachers and students alike. By providing the text, transliteration, and translation of songs, teachers can give their students a helping hand when they push “Play.” The website, begun in 2006 in the United Kingdom, is not officially a teaching resource. Rather, it is a site for aficionados of Arabic music to put up lyrics, discuss their favorite songs and artists, and browse for the words to that particular song.

The breadth of music available on the website is fairly impressive, reaching from classic Arabic singers like Fayrouz, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Oum Kulthum, to contemporary stars like Natacha Atlas, Nancy Ajram, and of course Amr Diab. The artists available span the generations and musical genres. Simply playing a Nancy Ajram song for an Arabic class can be difficult for students, but playing the song and then handing out the lyrics can help with comprehension.

The only real problem with this website is that since it is just a hobby and not a professional site, the quality and amount of material can be spotty. Some songs have the lyrics in Arabic, in transliteration, and translated into English. Others have only the Arabic and transliteration. Many have just the transliteration. The transliteration may be acceptable for an upper-level class with some previous exposure to transliteration, but lower-level classes may be more comfortable with the Arabic text itself, and beginners may require both the Arabic and the English side-by-side. Golden Arabic Lyrics gives teachers an excellent head start towards this, but teachers themselves may need to do a little work before class.

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