Teaching in the target language: 3 Tips from OWN’s Arabic Classroom

Teaching in the target language has been one of the most challenging topics in the world of teaching foreign languages, especially when teaching high school (K12) students. As a teacher of one of the critical languages – and one of the most difficult languages – I am going to approach this topic from my experiences in my OneWorld Now! Arabic classrooms.

According to the STARTALK standards, foreign language teachers are required to speak in the target language 90 percent of the time, and minimize the use of English to 10 percent.

These some of the tips I use to stay in the target language:

  • Habits
  • Comprehensible activities
  • Technology to aid comprehension


I find it very helpful to say “مساء الخير  “  مع السلامة  “   “ أهلا “  (common Arabic greetings)  every time  I come to the classroom. As a result,  students will understand those greetings based on habit of listening to them in context.

Comprehensible Activities

I use comprehensible, varied activities that make sense to the students. I also have students work with different peers, so that they can have different information rather than listening to the same answer.

For example, if I know your favorite color  after asking you once, or twice in context, I will be bored asking the third time, because I already know your favorite color. So it’s time for me to ask someone else to retrieve different info and gain new vocabulary.


I use meaningful technology in class to help make the learning experience easy and fun. Teachers must be careful with the use of technology and the content they are trying to present. As example, if you are showing a video of a person drinking milk, and you are trying to teach the word milk in Arabic حليب  by pointing to the picture, some students might think that the world حليب    means the verb to drink in Arabic, while others might think you are referring to something else in the video, like the person in the picture or the drinking glass.

In conclusion, teaching in the target language can and should be fun for students. You job as the teacher is to use effective teaching methods to promote language acquisition. Time and time again, teaching in the target language wins as the best way to teach world language learners.

More on Teaching in the Target Language:

Going for 90% Plus, from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

Teaching in the target Language, by Professor Helena Curtain

STARTALK-Endorsed Principals for Effective Teaching and Learning, from STARTALK

By Rachid Rhenifel, OneWorld Now! Language Program Manager & Arabic Language Instructor

About Rachid: Rachid Rhenifel was born in the Moroccan city of Fes.  He received his B.A. in linguistics from the University of S.M. Ben-Abdellah in Fes.  He moved to the U.S. in 1998 and lived in Austin, Texas before moving to Seattle. He speaks Arabic, French, German, and English.  Rachid has taught for OneWorld Now! for many years and is happy to be working with a great team and wonderful students.  His hobbies include playing soccer and tennis. Connect on Twitter with @RRhenifel.









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