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5 Questions for an Arizona Student of Arabic

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We’re asking students, recent grads, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…

Meet Charlotte—a current Arizona State University PhD candidate in Chemistry who holds a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry.

1. Could you share with us a little about your earliest experiences with languages? When and how did you begin learning Arabic? What were your first impressions and/or motivations?

Arabic has been with me in some form for my entire life.

My grandmother and her siblings immigrated from Palestine to the U.S. when she was an adult. When I was young, she taught my brother and me important phrases in Arabic and only allowed us to speak Arabic on the phone. She passed when I was young and so a lot of the Arabic that I learned had been forgotten.

When I went to college, I had the opportunity to take Arabic classes, and I learned so much about not only the language, but the culture that is attached to it.

2. As an undergraduate at ASU, you helped to organize the annual Language Fair for high school students (See details for the upcoming fair here!). What did this involve, and what would you share with other students about the value of these types of events?

I helped my Arabic professor with organizing ASU’s language fair back in 2019. My role was organizing high school students by language and escorting them to specific rooms where they would compete in a competition with other students learning the same language. I also represented the Arabic booth where the high school students could stop by after their competitions to learn more about our language program.

I would say that these events are an excellent opportunity to practice new languages in a setting that is outside of the classroom and to see what kind of further language studies they can pursue at the university level.

3. You were also active in the Arabic Club on campus! We’d love to hear more about that. What was your role? Do you recall a favorite event or activity?

I was the treasurer for the Arabic Club at ASU for about 2 years. I worked with a few other students to reactivate the club (it was previously inactive) and we were able to hold many events throughout the year including movie nights, tutoring sessions, and culture nights. We were working to explore the different cultures associated with the Arabic language (there are many!) and bring together students who came from these cultures and students who were curious and wanted to know more.

My favorite event we did was having a booth at our university’s “Arabian Night” where we had traditional Middle Eastern food and I wrote people’s names in Arabic on their hands with henna.

4. What has most surprised or intrigued you about learning Arabic over the years—either through family or in a formal setting?

The most intriguing thing to me when learning Arabic was learning how many dialects there are.

I was surprised when I started speaking Arabic to my family members that some of the words I was saying they didn’t understand. I was speaking very formal Arabic as I had been taught in school but didn’t realize that each culture will have their own unique dialect from each other.

5. Have you got a favorite word or expression in Arabic? What is it, what does it mean, and why did you choose it?

The word “habibiti” would probably be my favorite word. It translates roughly to “my loved one” and it can be used with close friends, family members, and significant others. This word is how my grandmother used to address me and it’s one of the first words I learned in Arabic.

Check out our Connect with Arabic and Language Programs & Funding pages to explore language scholarships, university programs, testimonials, and more! And, as always, visit @LangConnectsFdn on social media to share your story with us.