By Gureni Lukwaro
Two American University of Sharjah (AUS) exchange students from the United States of America are urging the university to offer more Arabic courses for non-Arabic speakers in order to cater to a growing demand of non-Arabs wanting to learn the language.
According to Gabriella Crimi and Alice Naghshineh, Arabic is becoming more and more popular in the western world and the number of people who are learning or intending to learn Arabic is increasing continuously. Many colleges and universities in both Europe and North America have or are introducing Arabic courses in their course offerings. Interested students flock to these courses and others seek opportunities to come to the Middle East and North Africa study or improve their Arabic.
The two American exchange students came to AUS to expand their knowledge and use of the Arabic language. Crimi who came to AUS from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and Naghshineh from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia came to AUS in the Fall 2013 on Boren Scholarships. Boren Scholarships offer American students opportunities to go out to universities outside United States of America to study languages that are less taught or are much needed in the US.
“My experience at AUS has been very enriching, I like the place, I like the diversity here and I am very impressed how interested and helpful AUS International Exchange Office is to exchange students,” said Crimi who double-majors in Economics and Arabic and minors in French. “But on the other hand, I have been having difficulties in finding the right Arabic courses that I was hoping to take.”
“I have been studying Arabic for a while and I was hoping to build on that by taking intermediate and upper level Arabic courses for non-native speakers but I’ve had difficulties finding the right courses as AUS has many courses for beginners and much more advanced courses for native speakers and almost nothing for intermediate and upper level courses for non-native speakers. So I have had to take translation courses as well as taking some courses for native speakers,” said Crimi.
Naghshineh who majors in mathematics, Economics and Arabic says she experienced similar experience of not finding suitable Arabic courses that cater to her needs.
“AUS needs to offer more courses, or custom-tailored intermediate and advanced Arabic classes for non-native speakers if the university wants to continue to adequately cater to the growing need of non-native speakers wanting to come here and expand their knowledge, command and practice of the language,” said Naghshineh.
“The university can also do other things outside the classroom to enhance its Arabic language offering. Simple things like having conversation sessions for foreign students with native Arabic speakers and professors so that we practice and use the language, encouraging native Arabic speakers to engage other students in Arabic, offer incentives such as certificates to native Arab speakers who help foreign students like us practice our Arabic, they can have tutors who run tutorial Arabic speaking sessions for non-native Arabic speakers, arrange things like coffee roundtables strictly in Arabic or even arrange few strictly Arabic events on campus. The main idea is to provide as many platforms as possible for foreign, non-native Arabic students to practice their Arabic skills,” added Naghshineh.
The students urged the university, especially the department of Arabic and Translation studies to increase the pool of Arabic courses non-native speakers can choose from as well as the variety of Arabic course levels and styles that can be offered to foreigners who come to AUS specifically to increase their Arabic language skills. This, according to the students, would help cater to the growing need of foreign students who are eager to come to study Arabic at AUS.
Dr. Rounak Husni, Head of Department of Arabic and Translation Studies at AUS said, “The department has developed eight different levels of Arabic for non-native speakers, including two levels of elementary courses, two intermediate courses and one advanced Arabic course. This is in addition to many other upper level courses, such as Media Arabic and Gulf Arabic. The department however, is currently offering only three of these courses but would be very happy to offer all these courses in the near future.”
“Historically low enrolments in upper level Arabic as a foreign language courses prohibit the department from offering a greater selection of course,” continued Dr. Husni. “Faculty Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) courses at AUS are the top in the field of second language acquisition and they have long experience in TAFL teaching both in Europe and North America.”
We look forward to more students coming to AUS to learn Arabic as a foreign language. This will resolve the low enrolment problem and many more Arabic classes can conveniently be scheduled to benefit these Arabic language enthusiasts who choose to come to AUS.
Gureni Lukwaro is a Writer, Editor and Social Media Specialist at the American University of Sharjah.