Super Abla rescues Arabic

Omneya Yousry, Tuesday 30 Jan 2024

The Super Abla initiative is working on promoting the learning of Arabic in schools through a range of hands-on activities.

Esraa Saleh
Esraa Saleh


The Arabic language, with its exquisite script and rich history, captivates the senses and stimulates the interest of all those who discover it. It is a language that is more than just a means of communication, as it is also a doorway to a world of culture, history, and limitless prospects.

Many people enjoy delving into the mesmerising beauty of the Arabic language, while others are interested in the cultural, historical, and pragmatic reasons that make learning Arabic a worthwhile endeavour.

However, some young people today may be less taken with Arabic and may even do a lot of their reading in English. There are four main challenges that such young people face, the first of which affects primarily schoolchildren. 2016 figures show that 75 per cent of Egyptian primary schoolchildren cannot read and write in an age-appropriate manner, suggesting that they are not developing appropriate literacy skills in Arabic.

 The second issue is that many teachers of Arabic may be overly strict and do not do enough to develop a love of the language. A third issue is that some children and young people may lack a developed sense of their Arab identity, distancing them from the language. A fourth is that foreign content may appear smoother and more developed in a way that appeals more to children.

In order to meet some of these challenges head on, one Arabic lover in Egypt has developed Super Abla (super teacher), being purposeful educational content that respects and appeals to children and encourages them to connect the Arabic language not only to grammar but also to culture, history, and geography. 

Super Abla’s four primary pillars are creativity, passion, love, and working smart rather than working hard. “We worked to find solutions to the four problems often seen as frustrating children’s access to Arabic, starting with helping Arabic instructors who may feel that they do not receive enough support in delivering knowledge to students,” said Esraa Saleh, the 35-year-old founder of Super Abla.

“We began in 2022 and are currently working with a student population of over 8,000 children and 350 teachers. We have taught these instructors how to unlock their own creativity through TOT (Training of Trainers) sessions. We are holding interactive sessions at camps and other locations for children to teach them Arabic through storytelling, and we have designed instructional products in Arabic that connect the language to cultural and heritage events such as Ramadan, the Eid, and others,” Saleh said.

“What we do is to design extracurricular activities that can lead to a love of the Arabic language among children. We have discovered that many children may not have a solid vocabulary in Arabic, as they may be more used to using a foreign language such as English, German, or French. They may be more used to using languages that are not related to their culture, such as the foreign languages they hear on applications such as TikTok. This problem may affect all social strata in Egypt, including the middle and upper classes.”

 “It is having a significant impact on educational institutions, and one of our objectives at Super Abla is to attract children in our target group of three to six years old to love the Arabic language and to explore what the language has to offer,” she said.

There is now a Super Abla TV programme, and there are hopes that this can lead to increased exposure and moving video production in Arabic to the next level for children, including by making entertaining videos that they can enjoy. 

The Arabic alphabet is an art form in itself, with its elegant curves and delicate lines, and it is a form of writing that is admired across the world. Learning to write and understand Arabic calligraphy is akin to entering the world of an artist and is also a compelling reason to help children improve their command of Arabic. 

Moreover, the Arabic language is essential for understanding the complex tapestry of Arab culture. It is the language of a millennia-old civilisation that spans a huge region from the Maghreb to the Levant and beyond. Learning Arabic can help readers to immerse themselves in the stories of the Arabian Nights, the philosophy of Al-Farabi and others, and the works of the great Arab historian Ibn Khaldun. The language allows those who speak it to communicate with a culture that values hospitality, honour, and profound human connections.

 “The first difficulty we had was acquiring funding, and the second was having a mechanism for exposure and proving that we are good at what we are doing,” Saleh said.

“My family and friends have been my biggest supporters. My ambition is to turn Super Abla into one of the most important platforms for teaching Arabic to children in the Arab world and around the world, as well as to be well placed to win international awards.”

 “We want to use our YouTube, Shahid, and Watch It platforms to sell toys, stories, and edutainment games to help children learn Arabic and to expand our TOT offerings both inside and outside Egypt. We also hope to do more camps and storytelling sessions for small children,” she concluded.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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