I have fond memories of watching the old Iftah Ya Simsim (the Arabic Sesame Street). As someone born outside the Arab world, and expected to be trilingual at a young age, the programme is probably one of the reasons I learned to speak Arabic as a mother tongue.
Even though the videos were old by the time we got them, and even though they felt like they were from a different era, we watched them over and over, in part due to a dearth of other Arabic material, but also because they were genuinely engaging for children at that time (by which I mean, pre-internet). So, this song still makes me nostalgic:
Now there is a new Iftah Ya Simsim, for a new generation, aiming to lay the foundations for a strong base in Arabic, reacting to the fact that increasingly “the younger generation is losing interest in their own mother tongue, and subsequently their cultural heritage due to a heavy reliance on the English language.”
Earlier this year, Rowan El Shimmi wrote about international schools in Egypt and the increasing number of young people born and raised in Egypt who feel that English is their first language in writing. The article discusses El Shimmi’s own experience and schooling, as well as this hour-long documentary film on Egypt’s international schools by journalist and film-maker Noha El Hennawy.
I’ve written a bit about this subject before here.
The new Iftah Ya Simsim, set to be aired in September 2015, is “created with the aim of turning the youth of the Arab World into harbingers of their rich culture, while being attuned to the modernity of the 21st century.”