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12/27/2016

Aisha's Language Practice Hub

 

My experience with the language hub has helped me advance my spoken Arabic and make new meaningful friendships outside of the international school. In weekly meetings with my partner, we start with suggested topics and adapt our conversation to gaps we discover in our vocabulary or grammar. For example, when we were taking turns talking about our families and where we come from, I realized I was having some trouble with numbers when trying to describe my parent's ages, and with colors when trying to describe my sister's hair. So, my partner taught me the words, and asked me questions to prompt responses using the new words I'd learned. We also use our conversation time to talk about cultural differences. When we were discussing our universities and fields of study, we started talking about the difference in teaching styles and class sizes, and I explained some of the complexities in the American higher education system, like rising tuition costs, work-study and federal student loan programs. She was so surprised to hear how much my public university tuition is compared to her tuition here at the University of Haifa, and asked me how American students ever pay back their debt. When she was talking about where she was from, I asked her about the divisions or tensions between students from Arab neighborhoods, Druze villages, or Jewish areas. We've never had to try very hard to discuss more difficult sociopolitical things. There is a lot of mutual curiosity, good intention and vulnerability in this kind of a partnership. My partner has become a very close friend, and someone I can turn to to ask sensitive questions about Arab culture when I am curious about something I see or read. She can teach me things I can't really learn in the classroom, both about Arab culture and about the Arabic language. The word choices and cadence used by young people are very different than the language used in the classroom - even when we are being taught "colloquial" Arabic. It's also very helpful to have a 'voice model' of sorts. I ask her to pronounce words I've already learned, I listen carefully, and repeat them back until they sound natural, like her. The language hub has been such a valuable experience. I've learned a great deal, stretched my comfort zone, and gained a true friend. I would definitely recommend it to any international student trying to learn a language!

 

Christen Scalfano, CIEE Haifa Fall 2016

College of William & Mary '18 | International Relations

 

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