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5 Questions for an Ohio 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 Isabella—a student at The Ohio State University majoring in International Studies with a focus on Intelligence and Security and minoring in Arabic & Middle East Studies.

1. Which language did you learn in high school? What was your favorite part of that experience?

I took four years of Spanish in high school. This was my first time learning any language, and I instantly loved it. I really enjoyed how challenging it was to learn. I would find myself trying to translate anything I read into Spanish.

2. You’re currently an International Studies major and Arabic & Middle Eastern Studies double minor at The Ohio State University: Why Arabic?

Growing up, I knew that I wanted to work in the federal government in some capacity. There are specific languages that the government is looking for employees to speak, including languages like Arabic, Mandarin, and Russian. Since these languages are all considered more difficult to learn, I personally chose Arabic because I really appreciate Arab culture and would love to live in the Middle East someday.

3. What would you say have been some the challenges of starting a language that was new to you at university, and how have you overcome them? Any advice or tips for fellow learners who are considering adding a language?

Coming to college, especially going from learning Spanish (which is considered relatively easy for English speakers to pick up) to Arabic (which is one of the hardest languages for English speakers), I found it to be more difficult than I had planned. Learning an entirely new alphabet and new letter sounds was definitely one of the parts that was initially very tricky.

My best advice is to practice. And once you think you know a sound or a word or a grammar concept, practice some more.

It is so important to just set aside some time every day to speak and read in the language you are studying. Repetition is the key to memorizing words and getting your pronunciations correct.

4. We’d love to know what has surprised you about (or along) your language journey.

I was surprised about the number of resources that are provided to language learners at college. For my specific Arabic program, I am provided with optional daily tutoring, help from my professor outside of class, an online language learning program that works with the Arabic curriculum to provide more examples and help if needed, and a lot of Arabic books at all levels of difficulty for practice: the sheer amount of people and resources that are there to ensure that I am able to succeed.

Also, the support system of professors and classmates has been such a pleasant surprise.

I am always surrounded by people that are also learning Arabic, and we all go out of our ways to help each other if we need it.

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

My favorite Arabic phrase is a common one. السلام عليكم (pronounced Asalaam-u Alaykum) means “peace be upon you” and is used as a greeting. I think it is really cool that even when greeting strangers, this phrase is used to wish them peace and wellness.


Complete this thought: “Learning another language means…”

Learning another language means working hard for something that is so worthwhile.

What's next?

Isabella aspires to one day work for the government in a diplomatic capacity. In her words:

This summer, I am working in the State Department Student Internship Program. I will be working at the Consulate General in Casablanca, Morocco. I will be helping consulate employees with tasks like processing visas. I am so excited to have the opportunity to live in Morocco for three months and experience the culture.

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.