Tag Archives: Arabic

Summer Series: Alex Zakrzewski ’18 Earns Language Immersion Studies Award to Study Arabic

By: Sarah Garwood

A bit of respite at the fifteen hundred year old Mar Saba monastery nestled in the Judean desert.

The Fordham University International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program has graciously provided me with funding to further my studies in Arabic language via the Language Immersion Studies Awards (LISA). Having already been acquainted with the fundamentals of the Arabic language between my studies at Fordham as an undergraduate and my study abroad experience in Jordan, I was thrilled to take this opportunity to enhance my linguistic ability in pursuit of professional proficiency. I firmly believe that there is no better way to truly master a language than immersion, forcing yourself to converse in your non-native tongue on a daily basis. In a few weeks, here I have made enormous leaps and bounds in my language ability.

A scenic view of the plains of Northern Israel from the El-Muhraqa Monastery in the heights of Mount Carmel.

I have chosen to do my immersion in two different locations, the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the Druze village of Daliyat El Karmel. For my first month of intensive language learning, I studied at Bethlehem University, spending most of the day in the classroom during week and utilizing my lessons extensively on weekend excursions to nearby cities in the Palestinian Territories. Bethlehem University is a renowned institution with a strong Arabic language department under the auspices of Dr. Moin Halloun, a specialist in Palestinian Arabic.  For my second month of language immersion, I embedded myself within a Druze village on Mount Carmel. Living here for a month has provided me with a unique insight into Druze society and familiarized me with the dialectal idiosyncrasies of the Syrian Arabic which is spoken here. Living in a host family setting here where Arabic is exclusively spoken ensures that my learning continues outside the classroom. In-country language learning is particularly important for Arabic as it is a language with regional dialects that differ substantially from the formal Modern Standard Arabic used in professional settings and the media. Consequently, students outside the Arab world can spend years studying a language in their home countries only to find their Arabic nearly useless for conversational purposes on the ground. There are major differences in letter pronunciation, vocabulary, verbs, sentence structure, and grammar that one cannot adjust to without immersion. Immersion has allowed me to hone my speaking and listening skills in practical settings and for realistic purposes.

The campus of Bethlehem University, a former De La Salle Christian Brother’s school turned first West Bank university at the behest of John Paul II’s recognition of the need for higher education in the Palestinian Territories.

Focusing on practical skills such as language learning has become increasingly more important in a world where the global migration level, and consequently cross-cultural contact, is at its highest in decades. The IPED program’s holistic approach to educating development professionals empowers them to handle complex challenges with pragmatic solutions. A key component of these solutions involves communication and linguistic competency. I strongly encourage future IPED students to take on the task, albeit tremendously challenging, of learning another language for professional purposes. Doing so will undoubtedly compliment the other practical skills that the IPED program stands to offer.

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Language Immersion Study Award: David Masagbor – Egypt

I studied Arabic for a period of 6 weeks at the Arab Academy in downtown Cairo. Arab Academy offers courses in both colloquial and classical Arabic. Having lived in Egypt before and having an acceptable grasp of colloquial Arabic, I chose to study the classical form of the language.

David at the Arab Academy

David at the Arab Academy

Arab Academy is an exceptional institution. I will 100 percent recommend it to anyone looking to learn the language. Classes aren’t group sessions. Every student has their own tutor which allows you to learn at your own pace and ask as many questions as you want. My classes typically started between 12pm and ended 3pm. The first hour was spent practicing basic responses to common questions while the other two were spent mastering the alphabets, forming words with them and eventually whole sentences. The teachers were very patient and understanding.

Can’t make it to class for some reason? No problem, Arab academy offers classes online as well. They organize online sessions for students unable to be physically present in class for whatever reason. Students are also given access to their online resources and can self-study at their own pace and complete assignments online as well.

Arab Academy is also very diverse. Students come from just about everywhere…the US, Chile, Europe, everywhere.

Jumping for joy about Arabic!

Jumping for joy about Arabic!

Unfortunately, I did not do much travelling while in Egypt partly because, well, I had been to most places prior to this trip (completed my undergrad degree in Egypt). I did get to reconnect with old friends though and visit places I didn’t get to visit while I was an undergrad such as the Cairo Tower from which you can observe all of downtown Cairo and many parts of the city west and east of the Nile River. I also visited the “Time Square” of Cairo aka “where every Cairo resident avoids” aka “Oldest tourist trap of the Middle East”- The pyramids. It was fun though don’t get me wrong.

David at Giza

David at Giza

Being that it was Ramadan, I was able to share in the breaking of fast (Iftar) with friends after 6pm everyday during the period which made the experience all the more interesting. I thank IPED for giving me this unforgettable opportunity in Cairo!

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Prestigious Awards: Samantha J. Andrews on the Boren Fellowship in Jordan

When I am not studying, I find opportunities to travel around Jordan. One of my first trips was to Petra.

When I am not studying, I find opportunities to travel around Jordan. One of my first trips was to Petra.

This is a guest post by Samantha J. Andrews (IPED ’17) current recipient of the David L. Boren Fellowship.

The Fordham IPED program, followed by a year of intensive Arabic language study as a David L. Boren Fellow in Jordan, has given me a solid foundation from which to transition my career. As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have always felt a strong sense of duty. Leaving active duty service, I searched for new ways to serve my country. Fortunately, Fordham IPED offered me a Public Service Fellowship, connecting with a variety of opportunities to chart my career transition.

I was first introduced to the David L. Boren Fellowship through Fordham’s Prestigious Fellowships Office, which actively seeks out IPED students for application to competitive scholarships. I was immediately interested, as the focus of my graduate research was on the Middle East. Through our program’s career trips to the United Nations and Washington DC, as well as talking with our director, Dr. Schwalbenberg, I learned how important it would be in my career to have greater experience in the region. Thus, with the guidance and support of Fordham IPED and its staff, I applied for a twelve month, intensive language program in Jordan.

I spend three to four hours per day in formal language instruction. Here, I am pictured with one of my teachers and another student reviewing the day's lesson.

I spend three to four hours per day in formal language instruction. Here, I am pictured with one of my teachers and another student reviewing the day’s lesson.

Every day I spend in Jordan, I feel thankful for the opportunity. My language studies, while challenging, are rewarding. My sole mission in Jordan is to immerse myself in the language and culture, learning as much as I can from my experiences. Fortunately, I have found it easy to build relationship with Jordanians, due largely to their generosity. One of the highlights of my fellowship was an invitation to attend my language teacher’s wedding. The experience provided valuable cultural insight, as well as an opportunity to cross cultural barriers and build relationships with a group of women that I may otherwise have never known.

I would recommend the David L. Boren Fellowship to students who want to gain a greater understanding of a particular country or region. The Fellowship is unique because it gives you the freedom to identify your language and research goals, and then, design a program around them.

Sharing in my teacher's wedding celebration was a unique and wonderful experience.

Sharing in my teacher’s wedding celebration was a unique and wonderful experience.


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