The Arabic Language Institute (ALI) will soon have a three-story building situated in the middle of the King Saud University campus which will be dedicated solely for the ALI and its affiliates to facilitate all their efforts including teaching, research, new projects and access to resources.
The ALI was established in 1974, making it one of King Saud University’s older programs.
The structure will feature 28 classrooms equipped with smart boards, five language laboratories with 112 workstations, a fully-equipped auditorium with a capacity for 190 persons, four electronically conference rooms with 20 study cubicles for graduate students destined to study abroad, the ALI library, 20 computer workstations and an entertainment game room to provide students relaxation during down time. The entire complex will be equipped with a wireless system.
A room for female students also will be included with its closed-circuit system which can also be used to function as a distance learning center, a revolutionary addition to the ALI’s activities. The ALI will, therefore, be in a position to distribute learning internationally in an inexpensive manner and help boost the number of students learning Arabic.
On the ground floor, space has been allocated for the Teaching Arabic to Speakers of Other Languages Research Chair (TASOL) and researchers offices while administrative and faculty offices will be on the third floor. A multi-purpose room will be developed for workshops and special events and meetings and enough extra space will be available through to allow for the hiring of new IT staff, faculty and support personnel.
The latter personnel will assist in the implementation and maintenance of functional websites for the faculty, managing student web application instead of email, initiated a paperless program for circulars, uploading syllabi and course descriptions to be integrated with the KSU system, listing textbooks and other required material and the posting of ALI news and event schedules.
The auditorium will have a video conferencing capability, which will enable faculty and students to communicate nationally and internationally with peers on relevant topics and activities, as well as an opportunity for virtual seminars on language teaching, learning, and assessment with other Arabic language schools.
The aforementioned multi-purpose room will fill a void needed to interact with native speakers. So far, the students’ learning environment is neither a foreign language nor a second language. It is a unique situation in which students live and study in the target culture with little opportunity to interact with native speakers other than their teachers and ALI staff. With the expanded space, particularly the multi-purpose room, they can have a conversation partner program. It will also allow for intramural activities such as skits, competitions, lectures, presentations, and debates. These may develop into extramural activities by involving peer institutions virtually or physically.
The presence of enough classrooms to deliver instruction to the ALI students located on one floor will allow instructors to have their offices in their classrooms. This arrangement saves time and makes the classrooms more personalized.
The ALI launched a community-service program last semester, teaching Arabic to KSU’s medical staff. The project was enthusiastically received, indicating a need for additional programs and the spacious ALI facility should make this possible.
Last year, the TASOL Chair launched three major projects, one being a battery of standardized proficiency tests in all language skills. The project is still driven by paper and pencil, but plans are being made to computerize these tests and the expanded office space will make it possible to hire at least one or two additional specialists to assist in the transition.