Hear from our students!
“It’s 2AM. An older man arrives at the emergency room, complaining of chest pains. He looks ill and frightened. And you stand before him helplessly, without the ability to communicate, to say a comforting word, to ask what happened, where it hurts, or when it began. For the most basic communication, you depend on random translators, and every conversation is fragmented, poorly understood, impersonal."
“We were a group of medical school graduates about to begin our internships, who chose to use our vacation after 6 years of medical school to become better doctors for our Arab patients. Givat Haviva’s Arabic Studies Institute created an intensive course in spoken Arabic with an emphasis on medical terms especially for us. We studied not only the basics of the language, but also codes of behavior and Arab culture. Our teacher taught us not only how to ask the patient how he is, but also how to communicate respectfully and create a bond of trust and understanding."
“Each of us finished the course by conducting a full medical phone interview in Arabic. Next time a patient comes to us who speaks only Arabic, we will be able to begin the conversation with him in his own language. We will still need translators to get a full medical profile, but the moment we have even a little language in common, the atmosphere changes.”
In July 2018, the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, passed the controversial Nation-State Law, revoking the status of Arabic as an official language in Israel. According to this law, Arabic, until recently an official language alongside Hebrew, became a language with a "special status." This means nearly two million Israeli Arab citizens may lose their legal right to receive services in their language.
Despite the prevailing view that "all Arabs know Hebrew," 40% of Arabs report that their ability to speak Hebrew is "not good" or "very bad." Moreover, although Israel’s Jewish citizens are required to learn Arabic during middle school, only a small fraction actually do. In 2016, only 2,800 students sat the matriculation examination in Arabic, which only tests literary Arabic, which differs from the spoken vernacular. The education system in Israel rarely teaches spoken Arabic. According to a 2015 survey, only 17% of Israel's Jewish citizens were able to understand conversational Arabic. The number of Jews who can write an e-mail in Arabic drops to a mere 1.5%.
The vast majority of public service providers in critical areas, such as hospital and medical clinic staff, social workers, municipal clerks in cities with mixed populations, Interior Ministry offices, and social security offices, are Jewish. As a result, Arab citizens seeking these services encounter significant communication barriers. These difficulties reduce their ability to receive the assistance that meets their needs.
This program aims to train service professionals in critical fields in spoken Arabic to increase the linguistic accessibility of public services despite the enactment of the Nation-State Law.
The project will target policymakers in various areas of public service who have the authority to mandate Arabic language training for public service professionals and to make it available at various institutions.
Professionals who interface directly with the Arab-speaking population at various public institutions, primarily social workers, medical professionals, and clerks in government offices.
If professionals who offer public services to the Arab-speaking population on a regular basis are taught basic spoken Arabic with the particular vocabulary for their area of expertise, Arab citizens will have improved access to services, and their needs will be more effectively addressed. This will also make the professionals’ roles easier, enabling greater rapport and an enhanced ability to address the needs of their constituency. Finally, it will break down social barriers and feelings of isolation, increasing the viability of a shared society in Israel.
The focus of this project is two-fold. The first is to teach courses incorporating basic spoken Arabic with relevant professional terminology to public service providers who serve Arabic-speaking populations. The second is to establish and maintain contact with administrators to create systemic change. This will allow training for Arabic linguistic and cultural familiarity to be delivered to public service providers who serve Arabic-speaking populations, in particular those serving in critical areas of medical and social services.
Short-term activities (1 year):
Establish contacts with policymakers at the professional level: Hold meetings with at least 15 managers in various public services to encourage them to offer Arabic instruction to their employees.
Implement courses in spoken Arabic for professionals: Conduct ten professional Arabic courses for service providers at various public institutions, such as hospitals, clinics, welfare services, Interior Ministry offices, municipal offices, tax offices, park services, etc.
Long-term goals (3 years):
Regulation: Create systemic change to require public services to be provided in Arabic. Mandate language and cultural awareness instruction for all critical service providers to be made an integral part of professional training. Ensure public institutions serving significant Arab populations deliver courses in spoken Arabic and cultural awareness to their professional staff.
Widespread implementation in public institutions: The program will constitute part of the institutions’ ongoing activities and be funded by them. We have mapped over a hundred potential sites for the courses, including about 60 hospitals, 20 mixed local authorities, 11 branches of the National Insurance Institute, and 16 branches of the Ministry of the Interior, which provide service to a large number of Arab citizens, where the program may be relevant.
The program will have an impact on policymakers at the professional level, including hospital and HMO administrators, government ministry branch heads and senior officials, and directors-general of mixed local authorities so that knowledge of Arabic among their Jewish employees will be seen as a condition for providing quality, linguistically accessible service to their Arab constituents. It will increase the number of Jewish workers who can communicate in Arabic, reducing alienation and rendering public services accessible to Arab citizens.
Knowledge of language and the ability to deliver service to the public in a particular language can be assessed with relative ease. In order to determine the program’s success, we will measure the following:
The number of institutions in which the program will become standard.
Number of students and groups per year.
Grades on level tests at the end of the course.
Survey of program participants on the extent to which they utilize Arabic in their work with the public.
Survey of satisfaction among service recipients in institutions implementing the program.
Arabic for Professional Service Providers
Increasing Arab-speaking communities' access to services