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ATIA 2017 Tawasol Arabic Open Symbol Set for AAC users

  1. Network, Learn, Share The Tawasol Symbol Set, Language, Culture and User Engagement David Banes Access and Inclusion Services
  2. Network, Learn, Share Arabic history, language and culture
  3. 3 Arab History • Desert dwelling semitic tribes in Syrian desert and Arabia (Assyrian inscriptions) • Arab defined as someone who speaks Arabic • Became largely under Muslim rule after the coming of Islam • Umayyad caliphate controlled Arab region and the capital was Damascus (Syria) for just under 100 years • Abbasid Caliphate took over for 700 years. Capital was Baghdad (Iraq)
  4. 4 Arab History • Golden Age under Abassid caliphate was influenced by the saying of the Prophet Muhammad “The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs.” • Became the centre of the world for science, philosophy, education, astronomy and medicine. • Ibn Rushd "founding father of secular thought in Western Europe"
  5. 5 Arab History • Ottoman Caliphate ruled for 400 years but then overthrown by British empire after World war I • Countries of Arab region split and ruled by British (Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan) or French (Lebanon, Syria and North Africa) • All fought for independence • Now 22 countries encompassing 422 million people in the Arab region
  6. 6 Arabic Language • Semitic language • Written from right to left • Diglossic (written vs oral) • Dialectical differences I want to drink water •‫ماء‬ ‫أشرب‬ ‫أن‬ ‫أريد‬(MSA) •‫ماي‬ ‫أشرب‬ ‫بدي‬(Levant) •‫ميا‬ ‫اشرب‬ ‫عوزة‬(Egyptian) •‫مويا‬ ‫أبي‬(Gulf)
  7. 7 Arabic Language • 28 letter alphabet
  8. 8 Arabic Language • Diacritic system • At later language learning stage, diacritics removed and words are read according to context Without diacritics With diacritics
  9. 9 Arabic Language • Letter shapes change depending on position in the word and context ‫م‬‫ا‬‫م‬ ‫ا‬‫ال‬‫م‬‫ل‬‫س‬ِ‫إ‬ ‫ز‬‫و‬‫م‬
  10. 10 Arabic Language • Sentences tend to be VS-O rather than S-V-O I like the dog ‫الكلب‬ ‫أحب‬ The dog I like • Adjectives follow nouns compared to English where the adjective precedes the noun I like the big dog ‫الكلب‬ ‫أحب‬‫الكبير‬ big the dog I like
  11. 11 Arab culture Family Food Land/ country Neighbours Marriage / pro- creation Religion
  12. 12 Family • Family is the centre of Arab society • Great respect for parents and elders of the community • Typically the man is the breadwinner and head of the family • Mother is responsible for the home • Tend to be big families especially if from rural areas – 5 children + • Aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents are very close • Children responsible for care of parents in older age • Parents referred to as “abu ____” (father of) and “umm ____” of their oldest son.
  13. 13 Religion • Islam, Christianity, Druze and Judaism • 90% of Arabs are Muslim but only 20% of Muslims are Arab • Shouldn’t be confused with culture but is the case a lot of the time (e.g. wearing hijab/covering face) • Islam way of life – so day to day tasks can be influenced by religion e.g. eating with right hand • Monotheistic religion, prayer 5 times a day, fasting of Ramadan, charity and pilgrimage
  14. 14 Food • Typically meals eaten together with family • Meat central part of Arab cuisine • Levant tend to use a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables as produce is grown at home or readily available (olive oil, nuts, garlic, pomegranate, figs, olives) • Gulf eat a lot of rice and meat and renowned for dates • North Africa have a lot of Stews and fresh bread
  15. 15 Land/country • Very patriotic region • Many songs about going back to the home land “He came back in a shroud saying: if this olive tree were to remember its planter, the olive oil would turn to tears” • Attachment to their land and produce • Refugees usually say “I just want to return to Syria.”
  16. 16 Which means… Effective use of symbols for communication is based upon familiarity Without an appreciation of language and culture, symbols do not easily transfer
  17. Network, Learn, Share Tawasol Project
  18. 18 • There is a growing number of individuals who can benefit from AAC • Learning disabilities are the most common primary disability for Arab speakers • 34% of those with another disability also have a learning disability. (Zetterström - 2012) • Their needs are being met by the use of externally developed AAC symbols systems Project Background Sample image used in AAC settings thanks to ARASAAC Symbols
  19. 19 Project Aims • To develop a freely available Arabic symbol dictionary suitable for use by individuals who have a wide range of communication difficulties. • To develop a set of symbols that are culturally, linguistically, religiously and environmentally appropriate for AAC users in Qatar and the Arab world.
  20. 20 • Lack of articles and research • Setting up forums and workshops • To involve symbol users, families, therapists, teachers and experts • To learn more about the use of symbols in Qatar and the ME • Advisory group, ‘critical friends’ and a voting system Iterative and Participatory Approach
  21. 21 What was the method used to collect data? Step 1: AAC forum + survey Step 2: Core vocabulary Step 3: Symbol Voting Data collection
  22. 22 • 20 therapists attended from 9 centers • Purpose of forum: - Know the demographic of AAC users in Qatar - Qualify AAC users concerns/issues with AAC currently Step 1: AAC Forum
  23. Survey Findings 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 to 5 6 to 10 11 to 15 16 to 20 21+ Most populated AAC user age group Number of ST's working with this age group
  24. 0 2 4 6 8 10 Most Prominent Diagnoses Number of ST's working with this condition Survey Findings
  25. Survey Findings Most Commonly Used Symbol Sets PCS Boardmaker Other (google images/pictures) SymbolStix Widgit Makaton ARASAAC
  26. 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 Pictures Electronic Sytems Gestures Real objects Manual Signs Other (BigMac, Keyboards) Most Commonly used AAC types Survey Findings
  27. 27 1. Culturally & Linguistically inappropriate symbols • Inappropriate symbols send mixed messages • AAC users can’t relate to foreign symbols • Arabic linguistic rules occasionally disregarded Concerns with Symbols in Qatar
  28. 28Challenges using culturally appropriate Symbols
  29. 29 2. The need for an English & Arabic Symbol Dictionary • Therapists speak English = Therapy in English • Expats make up 86% of Qatar • Nannies/drivers speak English Concerns with Symbols in Qatar
  30. 30 Linguistic Issues for Arabic AAC • Lack of Arabic core vocabularies • Diglossic nature of Arabic • Many dialects across Arab region (MSA, Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan, and Kuwaiti) • Bilingual situation - communication charts and devices based on English linguistic rules and Westernised concepts/imagery • Arabic morpho-syntactic structure will affect Symbol to text translation Sample images used in AAC settings thanks to Picture Communication Symbols (PCS)
  31. I read your red book today Read I ‫ت‬‫أ‬‫ر‬‫ق‬ book your ‫ك‬ِ‫ب‬‫ا‬‫ت‬ِ‫ك‬ ‫ك‬‫اب‬‫ت‬ِ‫ك‬ the red ‫ر‬‫حم‬‫اْل‬ today ‫و‬‫ي‬‫ال‬‫م‬ Symbol to Text: English vs. Arabic
  32. 32 Correct Arabic Symbol Sentence I read your red book today
  33. 33 Same Across Environments? Why a local core vocabulary was needed? • Vast differences in linguistic structures • Requests for symbols not available • Requests from teachers, therapists and other researchers in the field • Evidence  Non-symbolic as well as symbolic forms of communication are culturally dependent” (Huer, 2000).  Need to adapt AAC resources to meet characteristics of the Arabic written system, and to address the presence of diglossia and a lack of culturally appropriate vocabulary (Patel and Dakwar-Khamis, 2005)
  34. 34 Background on Core Vocabularies • 100-200 most common words make up 80% of the total words used to communicate (Hill, Baker & Devylder, 2000) • Gives AAC users independence and allows them to guide the conversation (Hill, Baker & Devylder, 2000) • Tendency to select concrete nouns that are easy to display as symbols (Schlosser & Sigafoos, 2002) vs functional words to generate language. Vocabulary Core “Common words that can be used across more than one setting” e.g. more, here, look Fringe “Words only used in one setting but are critical in that setting” e.g. Camel, Desert, Doha Reference: AAC: A way of thinking. Supporting Augmentative & Alternative Communication Technologies in the Classroom Second Edition.
  35. 35 Arabic frequency list: Collecting • Visited 7 centres/organisations across Doha to collect most commonly used symbols/words • Collected from classrooms, progress notes, AAC devices, therapists and parents • 1500+ words in total
  36. 36 Key Findings 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% English vs Arabic POS adjective adverb conjunction determiner expression interjection noun preposition pronoun verb English Arabic
  37. 37 Key Findings Arabic AAC vs Arabic language lists - Nouns: 54.9% in Arabic AAC to 54.5% in Arabic language - Verbs: 19% to 15% - Pronouns: 1.7% to 2.4% Arabic vs English - Twice as many nouns in Arabic (55% to 27%) - More verbs in English (29% to 16%) - More pronouns in English (8% to 2%) - Similar percentage of adjectives across languages and lists
  38. 38 • Between bespoke list and literacy list in Arabic there are only 2% of words that are similar • Between bespoke list and literacy list English translation 18% of words are similar Key Findings Literacy VS. Bespoke Arabic Only 2% similarities VS. Bespoke Literacy English translation 18% similarities
  39. 39Arabic Core Vocabulary: Consolidating • 1500 words vs 500 words initially • Started with 500 - that was “all that was needed” - Doha expert • Participants came back to us needing more complex words e.g. monotheism! • Arabic AAC in it’s infancy but participants’ requests to move into literacy and environment • Consolidation – religious and prayer symbols, The Prophet book, and curriculum based symbols
  40. 40 Graphic designer to use criteria for future symbols designed Criteria checked by AAC forum Criteria for symbol design developed based on comment analysis of AAC forum Symbol added to online symbol manager for AAC forum review Symbol uploaded to Google+ for internal team review Graphic designer to re-create symbol that is culturally, linguistically, religiously and environmentally appropriate AAC forum to choose preferred freely available symbol set Symbol Design Process
  41. 41 • ARASAAC vs. Sclera • ARASAAC preferred because closer in style to PCS and Arabs tend to like detail Choosing a Symbol Set as a Basis Thanks to ARASAAC and Sclera for their symbols
  42. 42 Internal Review: Google+
  43. 43 Upload to Online Symbol Manager
  44. 44 Symbol Voting
  45. 45Results: Criteria for Culturally Appropriate Arabic symbols
  46. 46 • Qatari Female: Abaya and Shela • Qatari Male: Thobe and Ghutra • General Arabic dress code: Hijab and modest clothing • Minimise gender mixing • Reduce display of physical affection with opposite sex (holding hands is fine) Cultural Factors
  47. 47 • Darker complexion and hair colour • Facial hair for adult male characters • Not too much skin showing • No stick figures Physical Features
  48. 48 Environmental Factors  Use local currency  Reduce greenery  Use local landmarks, foods, cars and use local architectural style
  49. 49 • Religious sensitivities • Religious holidays • Religious figures • Religious sayings/phrases Religious Factors
  50. 50 • Flip symbols to fit Arabic symbol orientation (right to left) • Male and female versions for each symbol • Including dual form of symbol where necessary Linguistic Factors
  51. 51 • Initially 45% of ARASAAC symbols voted as inappropriate for use in Qatar • Improvement in cultural suitability of symbols (4.38 out of 5) Results 3.20 3.40 3.60 3.80 4.00 4.20 4.40 4.60 Batch 1 early 2015 Batch 2 late 2015 Batch 3 early 2016 Batch 4 late 2016 Symbol Voting Averages scored out of 5 for each Criteria Feelings about symbol Represents word/phrase Colour contrast Cultural sensitivity
  52. 52 Implications • Arabic spoken words are very different to Arabic written words used • Concepts tend to be similar (seen in similarities in translation) but formal written Arabic more varied in vocabulary • Arabic is a deep language with many different words for differing contexts • Concepts, emotions, immediacy and points of reference can often be lost in translation
  53. 53 Implications • Core vocabulary for language learning and literacy not the same for English and Arabic • Communication boards will look different in Arabic • Composition of Arabic words and position in sentences can change so matching symbol to text problematic • Avoid translating from Arabic to English • Ideally bilingual speaking Speech therapist can be involved as linguists can take the functionality out of it
  54. Thank you for attending! • CEUs – Session Code: AAC=62 – More info about CEUs ( – For ACVREP, AOTA and ASHA CEUs, hand in completed Attendance Forms to INFORMATION DESK at the end of the conference. Please note there is a $15 fee for AOTA CEUs. • Session Evaluation – Please help us improve the quality of our conference by completing your session evaluation form in the mobile app. • Handouts – Handouts are available here ( – Handout link remains live for 3 months after the conference ends.
  55. Network, Learn, Share David Banes