Heritage Arabic eBook (HAeB) – Home

Here you will find resources on teaching Arabic heritage language learners (HLLs). These pages aim to provide instructors with research and pedagogical materials that address the unique cultural and linguistic backgrounds of heritage language learners of Arabic as well as the need for more context-based and project-based learning activities to be used with these learners. These materials maintain that language learning must be rooted in the language used by students in their communities, and that they be culturally relevant to them. The HAeB pages include reviews of research on heritage language learners and classroom activity ideas for your university-level classroom. These materials are intended to complement the leading Arabic language text books used at U.S. universities by providing additional, research-based support for heritage language acquisition.

Since 2015, the Center for Integrated Language Communities (CILC) – a National Language Resource Center housed at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) – has been producing diverse Arabic language pedagogical materials for college-level Arabic classes for heritage language learners (HLLs). This project was developed in response to the long-standing focus on Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) in U.S. Arabic language teaching, and to the recent instructional shift towards incorporating spoken Arabic into the curriculum. While this shift helps to more accurately mirror the linguistic reality of the Arab world, it also creates a situation in which heritage language learners either vastly outpace absolute beginners in speaking and listening or are pushed to learn (spoken) dialects other than those they are familiar with. Hence, the goal of this project is to offer free, open-source materials for heritage Arabic instructors to better address the needs of their students.

There has been considerable debate in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) regarding the usefulness of explicit rule-based instruction for language acquisition. Since many Arabic textbooks focus significantly on explicit grammatical instruction, these debates are important for Arabic language instructors to consider when developing their course plans. VanPatten (2016) is one of the most vocal proponents of the idea that “based on the nature of language as mental representation and the nature of acquisition…explicit knowledge cannot become implicit knowledge or help its development” (650). He argues that explicit and implicit instruction are very different processes and result in the acquisition of very different kinds of knowledge.

​Many of the activities that we offer on this website focus much more on developing and reinforcing implicit knowledge than on explicit grammar instruction. This is because most of the leading textbooks in the US already concentrate considerably on explicit grammar instruction. Educators who are looking for explicit grammar instruction activities already have significant materials available to them. Also, HLLs have a strong base of implicit knowledge with respect to their heritage language from which further proficiency and literacy may be developed through classroom activities. The heritage language materials offered here aim to help students gain some metalinguistic awareness of the differences between “dialect” and MSA. We encourage educators to engage in regular discussions with their students about the struggles they may encounter when learning MSA as a new register of Arabic.

The main goals of these materials are to develop:

  1. Linguistic awareness: What knowledge should Arabic HLLs have about the sociolinguistic dynamics and ideologies rendered by the Arabic language (including the social contexts and values attributed to different varieties of language) in order to evaluate and feel confident about their usages of different registers in different contexts?
  2. Communicative competence: What do Arabic HLLs need to be able to do with both MSA and their colloquial variety in order to communicate in the Arabic speaking world as well as in their US communities?
  3. Literacy practices: What literacy practices in colloquial Arabic (such as text message exchanges between family members, social media posts, etc.) do Arabic HLLs already engage in that may serve as a bridge to MSA literacy?


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