Teaching Arabic Songs

One of my favorite classroom practices is playing songs on Youtube while students arrive to class. It exposes learners to the target language from the moment they enter the classroom, it wakes them up, and it helps them decompress if coming from another (stressful) class or meeting. Videoclips can even break stereotypes.

I’ve been doing this for many years now, and I’ve often seen it mentioned in my end-of-semester evaluations, which used to surprise me. Over the years, I’ve came to discover that very few Arabic teachers use songs on a regular basis; especially contemporary artists.

The presence or absence of songs in the Arabic classroom is directly related to teaching styles, curricular priorities, personal preferences, and the fact that most songs are in dialect. In any case, the use of songs shouldn’t be limited to a warm-up or pre-class time, but rather constitute part of the Arabic curriculum, especially if exposure to contemporary culture is one of your goals.

You might think this is an easy task, but it has its tricks. If you’re planning to use songs intentionally and purposefully this semester, here are some factors to consider if you want to make successful choices:

  1. Take into account students’ proficiency level (specially their vocabulary knowledge; you want students to connect easily with the lyrics)
  2. Pick an artist with good diction (it helps students with their listening & later with pronunciation)
  3. Select a song that has an adequate rhythm (if it’s too fast, sing along becomes challenging)
  4. Make time in class to rehearse line by line (students gain confidence & they improve their pronunciation)
  5. What about the dialect? Given the huge amount of shared lexicon among all Arabic registers, it doesn’t really matter. Just follow the previous suggestions.

Now.. you can be the one who decides which song to teach, but if you let students pick from a selection, their engagement will increase. (I’ve had students in my class pull out their phones, record our singing, and post it on Snapchat. That’s a peak moment!)

The following list includes some favorite songs that work well in the Arabic classroom. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the full length of the song for students to learn and enjoy.

KHALIJI SONGS

Omima Taleb (Saudi Arabia)
Hussein Al-Jassmi (UAE)
Talal Maddah (Saudi Arabia) – Starting minute 4:16

MAGHREBI SONGS

Saad Lamjarred – LM3ALLEM (Morocco)
Souad Massi – Ghir Enta (Algeria)
Zakaria Ghafouli – Hobino (Morocco)

EGYPTIAN SONGS

Cairokee – Ghammad Einak 
Dalida – Helwa Ya Baladi (performed by Lina Sleibi)
Amr Diab – Tamalli Ma3ak

SHAMI SONGS

Akher Zafeer – Akherto Lahen Hazeen (Jordan)
Ramy Ayach – Albi Mal (Lebanon)
Julia Boutros – Ala Shou (Lebanon)

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What song would you like to learn or teach next?

Me, I’d like to fully understand the lyrics and cultural connotations of this upbeat song that gives me an adrenaline rush every time I sing:

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