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My First Experience Teaching Arabic

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By Cody M. Smith, University of Louisville student

Lead with Languages Teacher Scholar Class of 2021

Ever since my first experience learning Latin, I’ve known that the best professional path for me is that of a language educator. In this field, one not only gets the opportunity to share his or her passion, but also the ability to make a grand impact on students’ lives. Over the nearly seven years I’ve been doing language, I have kept that dream close to my heart and have gotten certain reminders that this is the right path, including receiving ACTFL’s Lead with Languages Teacher Scholarship.

This summer, I got the chance to realize my dream by serving as a teaching assistant for Arabic at the Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth Camp (VAMPY), a residential program of the renowned Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University (WKU) which serves gifted and talented 7th – 10th grade students. The Arabic course lasts three weeks annually and is funded partly by Qatar Foundation International (QFI).

This first experience in front of the classroom has taught me lessons greater than any education textbook or class could—providing opportunities to interact with students, commit to designing proficiency-based communicative resources, implement cultural sessions alongside the language curriculum, and receive feedback from a master teacher.

Over the course of the three weeks, students learned to write all twenty-eight letters and communicate on routine matters including greetings, name exchanging, where they live, location, and describing things—all using hands-on activities to build their proficiency.

However, a language class can not exist without culture: Students also participated in activities including Arabic calligraphy, henna, dabke dancing, talks with refugees via Natakallam, drinking Qatari tea in Al-Majlis at WKU, and having an informational session with the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program. Students had a rich balance of both language and culture mixed with fun and engaging activities.

Cody pointing to Arabic script on a projection screen

The most interesting part about being in front of the classroom is turning incomprehensible language into comprehensible language. I remember that one morning, when we were working on professions in Arabic, the students had not seen the material before and it was brand new for them. But through constant practice and speaking, the students were eventually able to respond in Arabic to the questions I was asking them.

That, for me, is the most rewarding part of getting to work with students: the opportunity to expand their knowledge and open the world for them.

Although I have been involved with different languages for some time now, my own experience with Arabic began in September 2020 via the Virtual NSLI-Y program and, at that time, I wasn’t sure why I had chosen Arabic. Now, I realize that it was an important step in the development of my future, because it has become the first language I’ve ever taught in front of the classroom.

After this experience, I am certain that teaching is my future.

After all, there is no stronger energy than being at the front of the classroom delivering a lesson. Watching others go from no prior knowledge to acquiring language is an inspiring experience.

Interested in exploring your own pathway to a career in language education? Check out our Connect with Arabic and Become a Language Educator pages to learn about language scholarships, university programs, testimonials, and more!

And, as always, visit @LangConnectsFdn on social media to share your story with us.