Authentic Arabic Language Materials: Teaching Tools for Your Classroom

Foreign language teachers who attend a lot of workshops and conferences end up hearing a few buzzwords over and over again: backwards design, student-centered classrooms, standards-based instruction, integrating technology, twenty-first century skills, and authentic materials, authentic materials, authentic materials. Don’t get me wrong—I like a good authentic material as much as the next teacher, and I do try to use them in class as much as possible. But when I was a new teacher struggling just to put together a coherent daily lesson plan, I always thought to myself: “You want me to use authentic materials? Okay, then give me some!” Sifting through the vast wilds of the Internet in search of the perfect material is a completely unrealistic expectation for most teachers, but especially for new ones.


Recently I took a trip to Qatar with QFI’s Aber exchange, where I was able to collect some authentic materials. I won’t pretend to be able to solve your entire authentic material problem here, but I thought I’d share a few of the things I picked up.

1. Grand Heritage Hotel Menu (Click to download)

Theme/topic: Food, restaurants, travel

Source: The Grand Heritage Hotel

How you could use it:

  • Focus on keywords and develop global reading skills by separating section headings from the foods under them; ask students to match them up.  For a greater challenge, cut off the section headings entirely and ask students to give titles to each menu section by themselves.
  • Develop closer reading skills by asking students to select the foods that they would and would not like to order from the menu and defend their choices by explaining the ingredients in each that they like and dislike.
  • After reading, use it to make a restaurant role play feel more authentic; students playing “customers” can choose actual items off the menu and give their orders to students playing “waiters.”

Tips: This is a long menu, so pick and choose the pages that are most relevant to what you’re teaching—or differentiate by grouping students by skill level and providing them with different sections.  Also, students may find the angular font tricky at first, so ease students into it by reading a few headings together as a class.

2. Weather in Qatar  (Click to download)

Theme/topic: weather, travel

Source: Ash-Sharq newspaper

How you could use it:

  • Ask targeted questions to help your students find and understand the information that is accessible to them.
  • Ask students to create an oral weather report for Qatar based on the information they find in the newspaper.
  • Highlight cultural and geographical information: What are the prayer times listed on the bottom? What information is given about the ocean? What do these temperatures in Celsius mean, anway?

3. “The correct method for Nordic walking.” (Click to download)

Theme/topic: Body parts, health.

Source: Namat magazine

How you could use it:

  • Cut out the circular labels for actions have students try to figure out where each circle originally was, based on their knowledge of body parts (this much cutting can be time-consuming, so only embark on this if you have a student assistant who can help you).
  • For a unit on health and exercise, have students to practice guessing new words from context: if they already know body parts, ask them to try to guess the meaning of new verbs like ارفع.  After you go over the meaning of new key words, play “Simon says” and give more complex directions than the traditional game.
  • Focus on grammar in context by asking students to identify instances of سقوط النون في الإضافة (appropriate for intermediate or advanced students).

4. Open hours of a convenience store

Theme/topic: Schedules, time, days of the week

Source: Store in Education City, Doha

How you could use it:

  • Do a telephone role-play: Have half the class act as store employees and half the class act as customers.  Give the “customers” specific things to ask about when they “call” the store: For example, they might need to find out if the store is open at 11pm, or what the hours are on Sundays.  The “employees” must use the advertisement as a reference; later, students ask students to report back the answers the “employees” give them to see if they understood the advertisement correctly.
  • Ask students to give the information in the schedule in a different format, such as writing a text message to a friend who is asking when the store is open, or creating a day-by-day list of the store hours.

5. “Get control of your weight” (Click to download)

Theme/topic: Food, health

Source: Namat magazine

How you could use it:

  • Have students practice guessing new words and plurals like لحوم and زيوت from context using visual clues.
  • Ask students to skim the information about what constitutes a healthy diet and then given simple reasons they agree or disagree with the recommendations, orally or in writing (novice students can give simple statements like “نعم، الدجاج صحي.” or “لا، أنا نباتي” while intermediate and advanced students can try to get more information from the article and give more sophisticated opinions).
  • Ask students to exchange information orally about the most recent meal they ate; their partner can evaluate how healthy the meal is based on the “nutrition plate” on the second page.

6. Pamphlet on traditional Qatari women’s clothing (Click to download)

Theme/topic: Clothing

Source: “Decorations of the Qatari Woman” pamphlet, published by the Qatari Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage

How you could use it:

  • Ask students to create more illustrations for the pamphlet based on what they understand of the text (novice students are more likely to understand the headings than any of the details).
  • Find pictures of Qatari women today and ask students to compare and contrast Qatari women’s clothing in the past and today using the pictures in the pamphlet; you can use this to make a broader point that even though Americans may consider the hijab “traditional,” the way that women dress in the Middle East has been extremely varied historically. (You can extend this project by asking students to search for information on the way that men and women’s clothing in other Arab countries has varied over time and present any photos they find in class using the Arabic that they know.)

Of course, there are dozens of ways to use these authentic materials—do what fits your style and the needs of your classroom.  And if you find a good authentic material, pass it on to others, too!

By Sarah Standish, Academic Program Manager & Arabic Langauge Teacher, @sarahstandish

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