How did the idea for “ICTA” come about?
It came about from a need. I was meeting a lot of foreigners in Saudi Arabia who wanted to be able to speak Arabic. I love the Arabic language and so I thought about opening a language school that would not only offer Arabic language classes but also act as a bridge between cultures by lessening the cultural “gaps”or misunderstandings between expatriates and Saudis.
What kind of classes do you offer?
Our classes are based on creativity, engagement, and flexibility. We offer a variety of classes ranging from basic conversation to advanced writing skills. There are “Arabic for special-purposes”classes such as for business and medicine while other classes focus on the classical Arabic of the Quran. We also offer intensive courses for students who only have limited time to spare. Besides our language classes, we also offer courses in calligraphy and Islamic art.
Tell us about your students
At the beginning ICTA used to serve only women but now we serve men, women, teens, and children – anyone who has the desire to learn Arabic. We also help native Arabic-speakers who have spent a long time abroad and who may wish to brush up on their writing and conversational skills in the workplace.
And the teachers?
Most of them are Saudi women. I’m also a leadership coach and I like to call our teachers leaders in the sense that they actually lead their students through the learning experience. We share our language and at the same time we share our culture.
Would you say Arabic is a hard language to learn?
I think Arabic is a language almost anyone can learn. Once someone finds themselves in an environment where making mistakes is considered to be perfectly normal and even encouraged they will have more confidence to speak. And so part of what we do is to alleviate people’s anxieties about language learning. The students enjoy our holistic approach and the friendly atmosphere and they say this helps them to learn better. One of our students from South Africa told me that after just one course she had been able to communicate with her neighbour Another Spanish student told me she had visited Egypt and was able to understand what people were saying to her. She was so proud of herself
What kind of benefits does a knowledge of Arabic have for expatriates?
There are many benefits of knowing Arabic. We have helped literally hundreds of people to learn Arabic and in this in turn has helped them to find jobs or flourish in their current jobs. Our students are able to meet people from all over the world and our classes help them to socialize and to broaden their circle of friends. Students who are mothers are able to help their children with their Arabic homework which strengthens the bond between them. One of my students told me that she had been living in Saudi Arabia for more than ten years and had been unable to find Arabic classes. She was so grateful to have finally found a place where she could learn the language and make new friends.
Does ICTA serve the community in other ways?
Yes. In 2014, I started a campaign for children called “Talk to me in Arabic”. I discovered a lot of children in Saudi Arabia no longer used Arabic as their first language. So the goal was to encourage them to speak Arabic and to teach them to love the Arabic language. Each year, the campaign focuses on a different topic and we celebrate with an event on International Arabic Day on December 18th. We have more than 30 partners involved with us in the campaign such as The Comedy Club, Crave Burger, The Foodies, and many others.
What are your goals for ICTA?
Vision 2030 has three main goals: a thriving economy, a vibrant society and an ambitious nation. I believe ICTA can contribute to these goals. I want to open state-of-the-art language schools with classrooms, libraries, small theatres and child-care services in every city in Saudi Arabia. I want to start special classes for pilgrims to Mecca and Medina to help them communicate with locals. In the longer term I’d like to look at opening language schools outside Saudi Arabia.