We at Georgetown University Press love talking with our authors and learning more about how their textbooks came to be. Read on for a chat with the authors of the Jusuur Arabic Language Program, Sarah Standish, Richard Cozzens, and Rana Abdul-Aziz, as they talk about why they developed the program and the resources that teachers can expect with Jusuur.
In developing Jusuur, what need were you trying to fill and how did you go about it?
We embarked on this project to respond to the increased demand and interest in Arabic over the years. We wanted to create a book that focuses on building communicative proficiency and intercultural competence, especially for beginning learners. The Jusuur textbook is organized thematically and allows students to start communicating about their daily lives, touching on topics such as introducing a friend, finding a time to meet, and discussing how often they practice certain hobbies. The content is brought to life with audio-visual materials, readings, photographs, infographics, and classroom activities. Each lesson includes opportunities to explore and reflect on related cultural themes, letting students build intercultural communicative competence. They learn, for example, how it may be necessary to refuse an offer of a drink a few times, and how to use appropriate body language when meeting others of different ages or genders.
Being classroom teachers ourselves, we know how difficult it is to teach and create curricular content at the same time. Our hope is that Jusuur will provide the framework, guidance, and day-to-day activities for both teachers and students to succeed. This textbook program can be easily tailored to meet the goals of a variety of teaching and learning contexts and will be useful to both new and seasoned instructors.
Can you say a bit about the process of developing Jusuur?
The idea for creating Jusuur grew out of our own experiences in the classroom, responding to the needs of working teachers. We began when Sarah and Richard were both teaching full-time in high schools, while Rana was teaching at a university and advising high school Arabic teachers across the US. We know first-hand that getting our students interested in Arabic and interacting in the language requires going beyond what existing textbooks offer. We want to ease the burden on teachers in similar situations who are spending extra hours creating their own curricular materials to let the language come alive for their students.
While developing the textbook we collaborated with a number of educators in diverse institutions: the content was used in real classrooms over multiple years and students and teachers provided feedback on their experience with the materials. As the project comes into existence, our hope is that Jusuur offers an extremely practical resource for hard-working teachers.
How can instructors tailor Jusuur to their own needs?
The Jusuur program exists to help students begin to master the fundamentals of the Arabic language—not to master the book itself. As such, the materials are designed to give the instructor flexibility and choice in how to teach and lead their class.
Jusuur offers materials in both Levantine dialect and Modern Standard Arabic, allowing the instructor to choose which register of Arabic to teach and practice, while also exposing students to the other. The book also allows instructors to move at a pace that suits their class, with a variety of activities to support and build each communicative competence. This richness gives instructors the flexibility to complete everything or skip activities, depending on how much practice their students need.
What materials and resources does Jusuur offer?
The book is full of interactive and engaging communicative classroom activities which help students to progress in all four language skills. For example, students are asked to read an infographic about how Saudi students spend their free time, then survey each other about the same topic, and finally compare their classmates’ free time with that of their Saudi counterparts.
At JusuurTextbook.com, teachers will find general suggestions, external resources, and models for classroom language, alongside printable handouts. At the conclusion of each unit, there is a suggested Integrated Performance Assessment that brings together the various communicative and cultural competencies of that unit. There are audio-only listening exercises, as well as a large number of videos created specifically for Jusuur. These are short dramatic scenes that were filmed on location in Jordan.