JEDDAH: Pop music, TV sitcoms and the power of social media have combined to help encourage Saudis to learn more languages. Multilingualism is becoming increasingly common, especially among younger generations, due to the vast pool of knowledge and information available on the Internet.

Millennials from the Kingdom and throughout the Middle East have been benefiting from mediums such as shows, movies and music to learn new languages, with many fluent or able to express themselves in numerous foreign tongues.

And while traditional classroom teaching methods remain the choice of some, easy access to social media and its diverse sources of entertainment is proving to be one of the chief driving forces in contributing to the spread of language learning.

The growth in the global popularity of the South Korean music genre K-pop is one example of how the phenomenon has taken off around the world.

Sara Rifai, 32, a language instructor at Jeddah University, told Arab News: “This generation is more privileged, and learning a language isn’t just a classroom activity anymore where an instructor speaks non-stop and students are limited to their desks.

“Learning a language goes beyond classrooms these days. It is a part of every aspect of the learner’s life. They can also sign up to online courses and download learning apps on their phones.”

Language enthusiast, Loay Al-Shareef, uses social media platforms to spread his knowledge. In 2012, he created a YouTube channel to share his language-learning methods with others, and now has more than 87,000 subscribers. “Back in 2012 YouTube was a trendy platform,” he said.

Al-Shareef, who speaks and teaches English and Hebrew, said: “I want to develop myself in Syrian Aramaic. I like acquiring old languages, semantic languages, and Greek and any language that has to do with ancient religions and heritage, especially Middle Eastern, Abrahamic religions.

“I have loved languages ever since I was a kid, and I learned all the languages through entertainment by watching movies, listening to songs and going to the cinema,” he added.

And Al-Shareef is not the only one to benefit from shows, movies, and music. Kim Namjoon, leader of one of the biggest K-pop bands, BTS, recently admitted on an American TV show that he taught himself English by watching the hit 1990s sitcom “Friends.”

“When I was a teenager all the Korean parents would make their kids watch “Friends.” First, I watched it with Korean subtitles, the second time with English subtitles and then I just removed subtitles completely,” said the South Korean rapper.

Content creator Al-Shareef preferred online learning because it could fit around his busy life, unlike classroom lessons which usually had rigid timetables.

“I always prefer to learn languages online because it gives the learner the benefit of providing them with what they want at the right time. They don’t have to be tied to a schedule,” he added.

Rifai said: “I personally don’t like the traditional way of learning because learners are treated as passive receivers of knowledge, and the teachers are the only source of that knowledge.

“Learning a language should be fun, engaging, communicative and structured. Learners should be allowed to construct knowledge by working together with their peers.

She said a combination of learning in a classroom environment and through social media was most effective.

Al-Shareef said: “Those who want to learn a new language should focus on phrases used commonly in that language. Common phrases are the best way to acquire a new language because a language is made up of reoccurring sentences. If learners memorize and understand 100 to 300 phrases, they can manage day-to-day conversations.”

Many social media influencers have taken it upon themselves to teach languages to their Arabic-speaking followers.

One Saudi influencer dubbed Teacher Mohammed gives short English lessons to his 1.2 million followers on his Instagram account, while another called Ms. Elham teaches English via her Snapchat account and YouTube channel.

Copyright: Arab News © 2019 All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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