Transcending Borders, Empowering Learners

A Preliminary Review of a Novel Online Language Program


  • Elizabeth Saylor North Carolina State University
  • F. Zack Jenio North Carolina State University
  • Youssef El Berrichi Mohammed V University, Rabat


Arabic, dialects, multidialectal pedagogies, engaged pedagogies, virtual exchange


This paper presents a preliminary review of the Yallah al-Quds (YAQ) virtual language and cultural exchange program, a novel online language program that offers multilingual and multidialectal learning environments for Arabic learners. In YAQ’s self-directed and co-creative teaching and learning model, teams of native speakers of Arabic and English organize discussion groups around particular topics of interest (e.g., literature, music, poetry, politics, social justice, mental health, the environment). Viewed through the lens of translanguaging, YAQ’s virtual classrooms become transformative spaces where plurilingual and multidialectal learners are encouraged to bring their full linguistic repertoire to use in a dynamic, equitable, and collaborative environment. YAQ’s diverse participants are encouraged to use all the linguistic resources at their disposal, including all varieties of Arabic, to collaboratively negotiate meaning, build metalinguistic awareness, and connect across boundaries. Using a multi-method approach, this study focuses on the learners’ perspectives by investigating the impact of this plurilingual model on learners’ pre-program expectations and post-program reflections. Analysis of data collected from participant surveys presents promising trends of increased self-reported confidence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Students also stated that they gained real-world exposure and learned about new topics through the program. Ultimately, the preliminary findings suggest that the novel YAQ model presents a challenge to monolingual language ideologies by highlighting the value of engaged pedagogical approaches such as translanguaging within technology-mediated learning environments. In a future study, we hope to further examine the effects of the program on teachers and use these results to improve the program, which can complement international study abroad programs and traditional university courses by empowering students and making learning more meaningful for teachers and students alike. 

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Saylor, North Carolina State University

Elizabeth Claire Saylor is Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University and holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley. A passionate teacher of Arabic language, Elizabeth’s research focuses on mahjar literature, Arab women’s contributions to the early Arabic novel, and early Syrian immigration to the Americas.

F. Zack Jenio, North Carolina State University

F. Zack Jenio (any pronouns) lived in Dubai, UAE for a decade before graduating from North Carolina State University with both his bachelor's and master's degrees. His research focuses on programmatic evaluation and community assessments. 

Youssef El Berrichi, Mohammed V University, Rabat

Youssef El Berrichi is a Ph.D. candidate in applied linguistics at Mohammed V University and the director of Roots Academy in Morocco. Passionate about fostering connections through culture and language, he blends art, history, and creativity into language classes to create enriching and innovative learning experiences.