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Arabic-Learning Students Explore Language at Home and Abroad

posted on: Feb 8, 2019

SOURCE: SPECTATOR

BY: LOGAN GILBERT

Arabic is the official language more than 22 countries in the world, with over 200 million native speakers. It’s no surprise that Seattle University students would want to learn this language, leading to the creation of the new Arabic minor at Seattle U.

Seattle U started the program in 2016, meaning that the first students to take Arabic classes as first-years will graduate next year.

TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR
TARYN OKAMOTO • THE SPECTATOR

French and Arabic Lecturer Amina Moujtahid teaches the Arabic classes offered by Seattle U and did a large amount of the work to get it up and running, designing the curriculum and creating worksheets. She filled out all of the paperwork that was instrumental to getting the minor program going, as well as the study abroad trip.

“It was a very long process and it took me countless hours to get the booklets and readings, but everything is beautiful now,” Moujtahid said.

When Arabic was first offered at the university, there were 12 students that originally got involved with the program, and of that first year, eight decided to pursue an Arabic minor. Junior International Studies Major Karina Arroyo is part of the Arabic minor’s first cohort of students.

“The year that I got admitted to SU, I got an email in the middle of the summer asking if I wanted to take Arabic, so I was like ‘Yeah I want to take Arabic,’” Arroyo said.

Moujtahid currently teaches two years of Arabic classes alongside her upper-level French language classes. She also teaches independent study classes and offers calligraphy lessons to some students.

With the program being so small, Moujtahid does all of the work for the program, and she is an important part of making the minor program what it is, including the study abroad trip to Morocco this summer. Because of this, many of the students feel well supported by Moujtahid.

“Professor Moujtahid runs the whole thing. She’s the only professor in the program,” Arroyo said. “All of our study materials, everything that we do, she created.”

Along with the Arabic language classes, Seattle U will offer a study abroad program over summer quarter that will take students to Morocco this year. The students will live in Rabat and the program will take students all around the country, visiting cultural heritage sites and learning about the country that sits at the crossroads of Arabic, Amazigh, and French culture.

Through the program, students will hear from a poet and a singer, travel to a hotel in an oasis run by a group of Amazigh women, and they will take classes in Islamic history and architecture.

“There will be about 40 hours of in-class studying for the program, and on the weekends we will go to the historical sites in Morocco. The students will be with host families for the trip so they will live speaking the language.” Moujtahid said.

French Professor Victor Reinking worked with the study abroad program and helped to make the Morocco trip this summer possible. Reinking has taken students to Morocco for several years as part of the French department’s yearly study abroad program. He said he believes it to be important for students to learn the language that they are studying in a country where it is spoken.

“You can never really internalize the language until it becomes a human reality,” Reinking said. “You are speaking to the people in their own language, and there is a magic moment where you are not speaking with your teacher or your classmates.”

Many students, however, feel unsupported by the Seattle U administration. Because of the size of the program, the school does not give it as much funding as some of the larger programs.

“There’s no funding for tutoring. It’s been a real uphill battle,” Arroyo said. “One of my friends was a tutor and she got cut.”

Because of the lack of tutors and small size of the program, finding ways to learn the language and study can be really difficult, especially in a country that has a small Arabic-speaking population when compared to languages like Spanish and French.

“It can be hard to find resources outside of class,” Junior International Studies Major and Arabic Minor Colleen Cronnelly said. “I’m hoping as the years go on they won’t have that issue.”