The Language to Know in Today’s World

By HANEEN AHMIDA & FANNI ABONYI

After high school I would only continue to study Arabic if the CIA pays me a ton of money.”    

When the Arabic course was first introduced in 2011 it was an X block class, TA was actually  the first school to offer Arabic in the State of Maine. It wasn’t until 2013- 2014 that the language became part of the regular school day offerings. In 2014-2015 Arabic II was offered, then last year Arabic III opened its doors to the students. While many students take French or Spanish because colleges expect 3 years of a second language, there are very few who know about or decide to take something different. Everyone in arabic has a unique story regarding why they decided to take the class.

In terms of its influence in the modern world, there are more than 420 million people who speak the language. The language is currently the sixth most spoken language in the world. There are more than 26 countries where Arabic is the national language. According to Istizada marketing agency (which focuses on the Middle East and the Arabic speaking world): “Approximately 90% of people in the Arab world identify as Muslim. The majority of people in the Middle East region are ethnically Arab but other major ethnic groups include Berber and Kurdish”. Ali Ahmida, a professor and former chair of Political Science at the University of New England is fluent in Arabic. As a Libyan and a muslim he is happy to see Thornton offering Arabic and said, “Absolutely take Arabic, it is one of the major languages of the world, a way of breaking barriers, prejudice, and ignorance. It influences today’s world immensely.”

Arabic is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. It is a Semitic language and the major language of the modern Middle East. It is also the language of the Quran the central religious text of Islam. According to Omniglot.com Arabic is the language of Scripture and prayer for 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. That includes approximately six million Muslims in the US!

The first inscription in a language recognized as Arabic dates from 328 CE.

Ahmida believes this long history intertwines the language with many of the elements which make us most human and said,: “The language that gave us the Greek science and literature, as well as philosophy. It is one of the most remarkable world languages. It’s a fantastic part of world cultures, a language of art, communication, literature, and calligraphy. It is also one of the major languages recognized by the United Nations. A language in any society is the real key to understanding a culture.”

In general, this beginning course in school will allow students to gain the basic skills needed to communicate in classic Arabic/ Fusha. Although the main goal of the class is to develop listening and speaking skills, students also learn the Arabic alphabet. Through activities and practical conversations students begin to understand basic language patterns, as well as pronunciation and vocabulary. Arabic teacher Roula Maalouf is from Lebanon and teaches Arabic I, Arabic II/III, and French.

During her classes students not just learn the language, but also the cultures of the  Middle-East. Her students say that always makes the classes more fun, unique and interesting with her personality. Ms. Maalouf creates the classes by herself. Students don’t have books, instead they get specially designed packets of vocabulary, exercises, and she comes up with her own study games. To get the students closer and more familiar with the Middle-Eastern culture they plan food parties where students have to bring their home-made Arabic food and share it with the class.

Because Arabic is not one of the more expected choices in high school language study, it turns out each student who is currently taking the combined course of Arabic two and three course, has a personal back story as to why they decided to take the class in the first place. Just stepping foot inside the classroom one can instantly encounter the noticeable amount of energy, whether it is Mrs. Maalouf’s humor or just the echoing sound of laughter causing a passerby to peer their head through the door. With every different profile comes a new glimpse into why the course itself is so enlightening and beneficial to any student who is interested in not only learning a new language, but becoming familiar with a new culture.

 

IMG_1554Name:Haneen Ahmida

Level: Arabic II, 2 years of Arabic

Why: “I decided taking Arabic mostly because of my Dad. (Haneen is the daughter of professor Ali Ahmida interviewed above.) He is from Waddan, Libya so he is fluent.

In my Freshman year they didn’t offer Arabic, so I took Latin for two years. Then in my Junior year I found out about the class, so I decided to take it.”

What do I like about the class: “Our teacher is really energetic, and fun. The class is just really comfortable, we really like each other, we are like a family. We talk, but we also get work done. It’s a good way to get through the day.”

How I can use my Arabic:” Sometimes I speak Arabic with my father, but I’m not as fluent as he is. We also have Arabic TV Channels that  I watch sometimes. I think in today’s world it’s really useful to speak Arabic. I want to become fluent in Arabic in the future.”

Favorite story: “On the first Arabic Class, one of Josh’s question was to Ms. Maalouf was: ‘How do you say Adam in Arabic?’ Ms. Maalouf said: ‘Adam’ and then he goes: ‘No, how do you say it in Arabic?’ So Ms. Maalouf said: ‘It’s just Adam.’ And he didn’t get it for a long time. So since then sometimes we call him Adam.”

 

IMG_1556Name: Josh Jacques

Level: Arabic II, 2 years of Arabic

Why: “My dad told me I just couldn’t pick up Spanish, so it was just the next best thing. Well I started in Mrs. Maalouf’s French, then I heard there was Arabic so I texted my dad and was like ‘dude I’m gonna take Arabic’ and he was like ‘Ha good luck’. It also looks good for college.”

What do I like about the class: “It’s fun. I’d like to continue to take Arabic for the rest of highschool. But I think here it only goes up to Arabic 3, I’m just gonna have to make Maalouf do Arabic 4 for me.”

How I can use my Arabic: “After highschool I would only continue to study Arabic if the CIA pays me a ton of money. One time I was in Starbucks waiting in line and this guy was on the phone like yelling in Arabic. Then I heard the word girlfriend, and afterwards he was really upset so I decided to ask him ‘got girlfriend issues?’ and he was like ‘yeah’. I think he really appreciated it.”

 

Name: Lucy MaIMG_1552comber

Level: Arabic II, 2 years of Arabic

Why: “Going to Seeds of Peace in 2015 made me want to work towards peace in the Middle East. I realized if I wanted to talk to people there, I would have to learn Arabic. As so
on as I got back from camp, I emailed my guidance counselor to enroll me in the Arabic class.”

What do I like about the class: “Now I am in my second year of taking Arabic, and loving every second of it. My favorite thing about the class is definitely Mrs. Maalouf. She manages to effectively teach us while still making the class fun. Having a teacher who grew up speaking the language really adds to the experience too.”

 

Favorite Story: “On the last day of Arabic last year, Mrs. Maalouf brought our Arabic class (all eight of us) outside. We ate Arabic food at a picnic table and just talked about summer and life in general.”

Name: Annie Karim

Level: Arabic III, 3 years of Arabic

Why: I study Arabic because it’s the language that my family speaks and I would like to be able to interact with my mother who only speaks Arabic.”

What do I like about the class: I love everything about the class but mostly like how we not only talk about the language but also the culture.”

How I can use my Arabic: I use the language to talk to my family.”

Favorite Story: Anything Mrs. Maalouf says is funny.”

 

IMG_1553Name: Salma Khalifa

Level: Arabic III, 3 years of Arabic

Why: I want to be able to talk to my father’s side of the family in their native language.”

What do I like about the class: Mrs. Maalouf is amazing.”

How I can use my Arabic: I talk to my dad and eventually when I get to a high enough level, may translate.”

 

 

 

 

IMG_1555Name: Connor Winn

Level: Arabic II

What do I like about the class: I like the teacher, Mrs. Maalouf, and I also like the look of the language itself, it’s cursive and I think it’s a beautiful language. I can recognize Arabic letters and numbers and predict the meaning of words even if I don’t know what they mean.”

How can I use my Arabic: I study Arabic because it’s a unique language that isn’t French or Spanish. I also want it to be my major at Annapolis naval academy.”

Favorite Story: My favorite story in Arabic was watching kid’s cartoons last year because you had to really think about what you thought was being said.”

 

Overall, the Arabic language, however seemingly complicated to some, is actually a highly useful tool in the developing modern world. The fact that this language is easily accessible to the average highschool student is a great opportunity to help broaden one’s insight upon the Middle East and just for simply personal enlightenment. Mrs. Maalouf encourages everyone to take every language offered at TA. She also says that indeed every foreign language is interesting to learn, Arabic has always been valuable but nowadays she thinks people are more open to the Arabic world for business purposes or due to the war that is happening in the Middle-East.

هل ترغب في تجربة اللغة عاصف الجديدة؟

If you don’t know what this sentence means, take Arabic!

 

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