In an effort to make Arabic more accessible to those unfamiliar with the language, Qatar Foundation International (QFI) and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) recently launched Madar Al-Huruf, a mobile application that introduces native English speakers to the Arabic alphabet.
The mobile application uses an interactive and innovatively-designed Arabic language wheel created by Moneera Al-Badi, a Qatari graphic designer and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.
Meaning ‘wheel of letters’ in Arabic, Madar Al-Huruf is both a physical handheld and virtual wheel. It is user-friendly, designed to be rotatable on two sides and allows non-Arabic speakers to learn how to match English letters and sounds, such as their name, to their Arabic phonetic counterparts.
With QFI support, Moneera worked closely with US-based teachers of Arabic in Washington, DC to finalise the wheel's design. Two Arabic teachers in Tucson, Arizona also assisted in developing the user guide and curriculum.
Originally launched in the US as a physical device, the wheel is being brought to the digital world through the combined efforts of QCRI, QFI and the original designer, in an effort to extend its reach globally to individuals and communities unfamiliar with Arabic.
With QCRI’s expertise in technology around Arabic language research and development, and leveraging the technical advancements that have been made thus far, QFI is now launching the Mobile Application version of Madar Al-Huruf.
Users can download the app from the iTunes store and onto their smart mobile device by visiting https://itunes.apple.com/mx/app/madar-al-huruf/id717596929?l=en&mt=8.
"Learning the basics of Arabic by writing your name, the name of your hometown or a friend's name demystifies the language and increases appreciation for the culture in the process. And that is the goal of Madar al-Huruf," says Maggie Mitchell Salem, Executive Director at Qatar Foundation International.
Dr Stephan Vogel, Principal Scientist in the Arabic Language Technologies team at QCRI, said, “We identified a gap in the online education domain for language learning and have been developing supportive technology for language learning including an assistive language learning tutor and an Arabic e-book reader.”
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