BY: SIMONE DE ALBA
SACRAMENTO — Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the country and a new program at the Thomas Edison Language Institute is giving students a chance to take on a new learning experience focused on the Arabic language.
In an ordinary classroom, tucked in the heart of Sacramento, the world feels just a bit smaller as students are learning how to read, write and speak the language with the guidance of one special teacher.
“For some people learning Arabic can be a little bit frightening,” Arabic exchange teacher Abdelilah Elalauoi (Mr. Abdel) explained.
But, as with any new language, you begin with the basics.
Many of Mr. Abdel’s students are multilingual.
“How many languages do you speak?”
“Three … English, Spanish, Arabic,” student Alexandra Walter answered.
“Me nombre es charlie.”
“How about in Arabic?”
“Es mi Charlie,” Charlie said.
Ten-year-old Charlie is one of Mr. Abdel’s students.
“I imagined that if my family went on vacation somewhere where they spoke Arabic then my family wouldn’t be able to communicate, he explained. “But, I would be able to speak Arabic.”
Learning another language is an advantage in our fast-paced and ever-expanding world
“The [classrooms] linguistic background, some of the students here are native speakers of Arabic, some are native speakers of Farsi,” Dual Immersion Coordinator Gerardo Guzman explained.
“Slum ma lekun? — Hi how are you?” student Jayden Howard recited. “I like it because it’s the same meaning in Farsi too.”
Through a grant, the Thomas Edison Language Institute was able to bring Mr.Abdel to teach.
“Actually, I am from Morocco,” Mr. Abdel said.
Speaking a generalized form of Arabic, students and teacher get to work — and it’s more than just reciting vocabulary.
“The program is not just about language, its about culture, traditions,” Guzman explained.
The students are learning and creating a mutual understanding, and it’s deeply personal. The class provides a chance for students to share a piece of themselves and their culture with their fellow classmates.
“I’ve seen our Arabic [speaking] students really flourish with pride at the opportunity to share their language in this prestigious manner,” principal Danielle Storey said.
“He’s also making a connection between Arabic and Spanish because we have so many words in common and that is enticing for the dual immersion, students making this connection,” Guzman said.
The lesson extends beyond books.
From the late Nelson Mandela, a quote that resonates with Mr. Abdel’s teachings:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his language it goes to his heart.”
“This will help them to communicate with other people from different cultures and from different countries. That will lead to a mutual understanding between people,” Mr. Abdel explained.
In this seemingly ordinary classroom, Mr. Abdel is doing the extraordinary.
“We need to help students build a kind of global mindedness,” Mr Abdel said.