header

Home | Schools | Guide to Teaching | Materials | Professional Development |Standards | For Teachers | News | About Us

 Languages? Ask Dora

Topics:

 

Setting Up School Programs

Do you have information on how school districts have implemented Arabic programs?
Telling a School Board of the need to begin teaching languages like Arabic

Teaching Arabic

I am a native Arabic Linguist and was offered a teaching job though I have never taught before, what advice could you give me?
What's the latest research on teaching Arabic to Americans?
Choosing between non-Western languages

Learning Arabic

How do I become fluent in Arabic?
Learn Arabic at my own pace
Could you recommend a good school for learning Arabic?

Learn basic Arabic in a short period of time
I can hardly put together a sentence in Arabic without confusing my subject/verb agreement. Help!

Reference and Materials

Arabic proficiency test
How do I recruit critical needs language teachers?
Best book to teach Arabic for English speakers for the first time in High school
Teacher educator looking for information on Arabic certification in New York City and State
Story on the opportunities for college students to learn Arabic
Could you recommend some program or method for distance or self study of Arabic?
As an independent school teacher, how can I find money to "refresh" my Arabic Skills?


 

Do you have information on how school districts have implemented Arabic programs?
Dear Dora,
A colleague suggested that I contact you. We are examining the addition of a critical language in my district. Would you have any information on how other school districts have implemented Arabic programs, how the curriculum has been developed, how the teachers have been prepared in terms of pedagogy, and what impact the addition of Arabic has had on the existing languages taught at a school?
Liz


Dear Liz:
You have asked all the right questions for which there are no real good answers, but I'll try to address them!

Each school district seems to have implemented its critical languages program differently. Fairfax County started out as a small response to the growing presence of Arabic language speaking populations as well as Islamic ones by hiring a couple of teachers to teach at the high school level. The program grew and it is now going to be implemented at 5 sites (thanks to a FLAP grant), using Web-based instruction in addition to classroom-based instruction. They are in the process of beginning to develop a curriculum and materials for the distance learning activities.

Chicago Public Schools is building its program based on its successful foray into the teaching of Chinese. They have created a partnership with De Paul University and will be working on developing materials. They have developed their standards for Arabic based on the state and national standards. They will start in the high schools (3 of them I believe) and plan to eventually have a K-12 articulated program.

Minneapolis Public Schools applied for a FLAP grant several years ago and with the University of Minnesota developed a curriculum which they have been implementing mostly at one high school. There are several other schools that have now picked up on Arabic and are planning to introduce the language-- again at the high school level.

Thanks to the efforts of one woman with a vision and the laws behind the bilingual education act, the Dearborn public schools introduced a two-way program at an elementary school, but once the funding ran out, it was changed to a regular foreign language program. There are other programs at the middle school and high school levels, as well as some charter schools in Dearborn. Up until this year, they were not articulated, but thanks to a K-12 flagship grant to Michigan State University, this is about to change. MSU will be working closely with the Dearborn schools to develop a long-range articulated program with all of the additional teacher training, curriculum and materials development efforts included.

Delaware is instituting an Arabic program by using a distance program that comes out of Cairo. Another school in Massachusetts has done the same thing.

Virginia Beach Public Schools determined to implement an Arabic language program. They hired a consultant who helped them develop standards to meet the Virginia and their district SOLs.

An elementary public charter school in Atlanta determined that its foreign language for all of its students was going to be Arabic and implemented it in the school.

As you can see, it's all over the map. There is a concerted effort I think to try to develop standards. We do now have national standards which are available in ACTFL's revised edition of Foreign Language Standards for Learning in the 21st Century. Chicago took them and adapted them to their state standards.

My suggestion is that perhaps what you might want to do is to apply for a 3-year FLAP grant in the coming grant cycle. It was a little disheartening to note that out of all the grants, only 5 were focussed or included Arabic in them, so if you put together a good plan, I would no doubt think that it's going to get funded. (And NJ has a good reputation for good plans!) I would also suggest that you talk to Janice Jensen. If I'm not mistaken, she has some plans re critical languages to be offered in NJ.

Of course, there's always the issue of getting the school district board to approve all this. We have heard both good and bad stories about support but at the moment, the winds are blowing in the right direction.

I'm sure your next question is whether you can get copies of the standards. The curriculum for the Mpls. Schools is online. VB apparently is not allowed to share their curriculum. I think that Chicago will post theirs online. Delaware follows it World Languages standards which are also online.

There is one other resource that I think will be good to consult although I'm not quite sure how they're going to make it available, but Concordia Language Villages is developing a credit bearing course for high school students. Their program is immersion but the basic components of the course will be useful, I'm sure. Ghazi Abuhakema is the director of the CLV Arabic program. He is now teaching at Montclair State and may be a good resource for you.

As for teacher training…we have mountains to climb on this issue! There is but one certified Arabic as a foreign language teacher in the country. There are teachers who are licensed by the state to teach Arabic. Virginia is one of those states. There are no programs that train teachers to teach Arabic as a foreign Language (TAFL) in the country. Most teachers are certified through some other means, e.g., they are French teachers or ESOL teachers. Others are given provisional permission and need to meet state requirements, but usually through some other means. Others are given a language test and if they are deemed proficient in the language and have certification in something else, they are then "certified" -- whatever that means.

We, and others, have tried to meet this gaping need through summer institutes. The most active one has been the NCLRC, but there are efforts out on the West Coast and the National Middle East Language Resource Center has also undertaken some teacher training activities. This coming summer a federal program known as STARTALK will also include some teacher training. Some of it will be teacher-to-teacher (from the Dept. of Education) and some of it will be institutes. And there are a couple of universities that are planning to start up TAFL programs but they haven't quite started up yet. We expect that at some point there will probably also be a distance learning program but finding funding for this has not be terribly successful as of this writing.

Materials -- another area that makes one a little crazy. At the high school level, there are a couple of textbook and series that are being used that most teachers seem to be reasonably pleased with -- they tell us that they supplement them. At the elementary and middle school level, there is very little. There is one series that is carefully articulated K-2 or 3 that was published by Al-Deen Foundation in California. There is one self-published textbook by a middle school teacher that others also find useful. And there is a series published in the Gulf that is for K-6, but is entirely in Arabic. Some people like it and some don't. There is another series published in Chicago that doesn't quite meet expectations, but has some components that are quite usable. In other words, teachers will have to cobble together their teaching materials. We've discovered that they are quite creative that way!

This all sounds like such a dark picture, but please don't be discouraged. One has to start somewhere, and we've come a very long way in a very short period of time. You ask about the impact. At the Salt Lake City ACTFL convention (I think that was 2000), there were 3 of us who managed to find each other who were interested in Arabic. The following year I think I had 7 people (that included us 3 plus four more) at an Arabic session. By this past ACTFL convention, Arabic sessions were competing against each other! We've managed to get teachers to present. We have found an incredibly open reception on the part of FL teachers. We do hear that the teachers in the commonly taught languages are a little nervous about whether this focus on critical languages is going to take away from their resources, but so far it hasn't happened. The lack is the lack of interest on the part of the Department of Education, and those in the critical languages are being very loud and clear about the fact that they are not interested in supplanting French, Spanish and German (although the last is already endangered!). If you look at what is happening with Chinese, I suspect that you can tell that parents are voting with their feet and so making the languages available to their children is a good thing. Arabic will never be huge, but it can become an accepted foreign language to be taught in the schools.

If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to write back. If there is some way we can help, ask. If we can, we will. If not, we'll try to put you in touch someone who might. And please let us know when and if Tenafly institutes an Arabic language program. We'd love to have you on the list! I'll ask Salima Intidame to add you to our e-mail list to receive any additional information. If you'd rather not be on the list, let me know.

Thank you for contacting us.
Dora

Back to top


I am a native Arabic Linguist and was offered a teaching job though I have never taught before, what advice could you give me?

Dear Dora,(This question was originally addressed to Yana)
I am a native Arabic linguist and was offered to teach Modern Standard Arabic to intermediate students, though I've never taught before except for mentoring non-native students. I'd like the opportunity to do it but I am hesitant. What advice would you give me?
Najida

Dear Najida:
Congratulations! You do not indicate if this is a full or part time position nor at what level you will be teaching, so I'm guessing at what you need to know.

I will address your question in a more general way in one of my future columns, but in the meantime, here are some questions that you should probably answer before you accept the position.

1. Is this a position that will terminate at the end of the academic year?

2. Are there certification requirements you must meet if you are to become a permanent member of the faculty? Can you reasonably meet these requirements?

3. Is there a ready supply of teaching materials or will you have to find and/or develop your own?

4. Is there mentoring support for you on a regular basis while you learn how to be a teacher?

I do not know anything about Arabic and cannot address issues specific to the language, so I am also sending your request to Dora Johnson, who may have some additional advice.

Good luck to you!
Yana

(See Dora's answer below)

Dear Najida:
Is the job you have been offered one that is teaching adults or K-12? It makes a difference. I think the questions that Dear Yana raises are ones that you should consider. In addition, there are more issues regarding the teaching of Arabic, and especially intermediate Arabic that might be problematic. If you could describe the situation in more detail, perhaps I can put you in touch with a couple of people who might be able to provide you with some advice. No matter what, you will need to get some training. Issues such as methodology, the requirements of the course (e.g., what does the institution mean by intermediate?), the types of students you are going to be teaching, the training you received, and so forth. The fact that you are querying whether you should take the position or not says that you are aware of potential problems, which puts you far ahead of lots of people!
Dora

Back to top


What's the latest research on teaching Arabic to Americans?

Dear Dora,
I came across your article a couple of days ago and decided to write you asking for advice and guidance. I am interested in learning more about the teaching of Arabic in United States . I would like to find the latest research ideas regarding the Arabic language instruction to American students. I am a graduate student here in the US and would like to get involved in research but at my University there is little interest in Arabic. I would really appreciate any help you may be able to extend. Thank you.

Hello!
The main focus on Arabic language teaching that is different from the way in which Arabic is generally taught in Arab countries is that speaking proficiency is emphasized first rather than literacy skills. There has been a fair amount of discussion about this because the hot topic of whether one should also teach a dialect along with Modern Standard Arabic always comes up. There is no consensus on this topic! What is agreed on is that students must be taught Modern Standard Arabic.

The American Association of Teachers of Arabic has a journal called Al-'Arabiyyah which is published I think once or twice a year. You may want to find out more about it by contacting the AATA ( http://www.wm.edu/aata/ ). There are also other pieces of information that will give you some sense as to what is happening in Arabic language teaching. There is, for example, a National Middle East Language Resource Center that you can link to from there where you can also find information.
Dora

Back to top


Learning a Foreign Language

How to become fluent in Arabic?

Dear Dora,
I am currently a senior at Ohio State, and my minor is in Arabic. I am interested in becoming fluent in Arabic, but find this a difficult task to achieve. What I have learned up to this point has certainly been helpful, but I'm looking for more of an intense program to learn Arabic. Of course I am aware of the Defense Language Institute in California that trains the military and agency members, but do you know of a similar program that is open to civilians? I appreciate whatever guidance you can give me.

Hello!
There are a couple of options, although the summer intensive program at Middlebury is full. If you want to go to another summer program, you might want to contact the Middlebury program and attend it next summer.

The other possibility is since you are a senior is for you to consider applying to the National Flagship Language Initiative program that's funded under the National Security Education Program, http://www.casl.umd.edu/nfli/. The two Arabic programs that exist at the moment are at University of Maryland and Georgetown University and I understand that there are more planned. Dr. Mahdi Alosh at OSU can probably provide you with a fair amount of information about the programs since he has been involved in training and testing with them. You also may want to check out the Web site of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic. http://www.wm.edu/aata/. There are intensive summer programs listed on that site which may be of use to you. Some depends on what kind of Arabic you want to work on. For example, this summer there an intensive Syrian Arabic course being taught at the University of Illinois--Urbana Champaign.
Dora

Back to top


Learn Arabic at my own pace

Hello Dora,
I live in Washington DC. My goal is to speak and read Arabic. I would like to learn in an environment that will progress at my pace, and not according to a set schedule. In other words, if I find out that I can learn fast, I would like to move at that pace rather than wait.

My question is, which program or person would you recommend for me around the metro area. By way of competency in Arabic, I can say that I am a beginner with no prior knowledge except the few alphabets I have been reviewing. I understand there are several dialects of Arabic. My goal is to be able to read and communicate in a standard international environment as well as be able to study religious or classical Arabic.

Thank you for your guidance.
Sincerely,

Prince Tambi

Dear Prince:
You pose a bit of a problem. It sounds to me that you really want to learn Arabic, but you want to get your feet wet first. It does not sound as if you are looking for a real classroom teaching situation because it would be difficult for you to go as slow or as fast as you want in a group situation. So I suggest that perhaps a self-instructional course might be the best way to go. There are a number of these courses on the market and they most likely will introduce you to Arabic. One popular one is the Rosetta Stone series, www.rosettastone.com (or the kiosk at Reagan National Airport!). The initial cost may create a bit of a sticker shock, but it certainly is less expensive than hiring a private tutor. Another option might be to sign up with Arab Academy, www.arabacademy.com. It is an online course and presumably you would work at your own speed with some guidance. I do not know what the cost of enrolling is.

One other possibility, in case you want to do this inexpensively, is to contact the Global Languages group which is coordinated out of The George Washington University. You can find them at http://www.globallanguagegroup.com

Once you have decided whether you want to pursue further study of Arabic, there are a number of places that you might enroll. The universities and colleges in the Washington area offer Arabic courses as do the Middle East Institute and the Department of Agriculture Graduate School. For religious studies, you may want to contact one of the mosques and they will be able to guide you to a place where you can learn Arabic within that context.

Good luck.

Back to top


Could you recommend a good school for learning Arabic?

Dear Dora,
I'm an adult who wants to learn Arabic. Could you recommend a fine, excellent school? Thank you.

Hello!
Where are you located? The programs at University of Michigan, Ohio State, Brigham Young, Middlebury, University of Georgia, Georgetown University, are possible places to get a good introduction to the language. The problem is whether they actually accept students for no credit during the school year. You'd have to check with them. Middlebury has a wonderful summer intensive program, and I believe Michigan and Georgetown also have summer programs.

If you are in the Washington, DC area, the Middle East Institute and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Graduate School are the two places where Arabic is taught regularly for non-academic purposes.

I suggest that you go to http://www.carla.acad.umn.edu/LCTL/ . There you will find the best list I know of where Arabic is taught, with contact information.
Dora

Back to top


Help! Only six months to learn Moroccan Arabic before leaving on holiday!

Dear Dora,
I am going to Morocco in a couple of months. I need to learn the commonly spoken dialect. I understand it is a mix of many languages! If you can provide me with assistance on how to go about learning this dialect, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Hello!
For some curious reason, to my knowledge, new Moroccan Arabic textbooks have not been issued recently. The ones I know of are from the 60s and the 70s. They're quite adequate, but with the exception of a couple of French books and the Lonely Planet phrase book, the only two sets of books I know of are those produced by Georgetown University Press and the University of Michigan Dept. of Middle Eastern Studies. I suggest that you visit the Language Materials Project web site at: www.lmp.ucla.edu for more complete information. There are descriptions of these texts in the database. They can be ordered directly from the institutions, or you might want to contact Schoenhof's Foreign Books: http://www.schoenhofs.com/, and order the books you want from them.

Back to top


I can hardly put together a sentence in Arabic without confusing my subject/verb agreement. Help!

Dear Dora,
I am a first generation daughter that understands about 35% of the language (Arabic) and can hardly put a sentence together without confusing my subject/verb agreement. I am in the Detroit area and am looking for a school that teaches Arabic. Last summer I took a course at a local community college and learned nothing but the alphabet. My main goal is to speak Arabic fluently as a second language. I am finding it difficult to find an Arabic school that is not taught Islamically. If you have any suggestions please reply.

Hello!
Gosh, I don't really know what to say. I would agree with you that it is probably difficult in the Detroit area to find a school outside of the public schools that doesn't also teach Islamics along with the language. From a Muslim point of view, the two go hand in hand. And your story about only learning the alphabet is also a familiar story. I really don't quite know where to send you. I wonder whether you should consider starting out a little on your own and with someone who might be willing to work with you one on one until you feel like you can become part of a more advanced class.

You fit the profile of what we call a heritage language speaker. You have some knowledge of the language, and probably a lot of culture. So beginning classes can end up being very boring and not terribly useful. Yet, your command of the language does not give you access to a more advanced class because your proficiency is not good enough!

It also sounds as if you feel that the Islamic Arabic schools focus more on religion than they do on the language. Since I don't know them, passing judgment is not appropriate. However, I also think that this does have something to do with that middle ground of proficiency/lack of proficiency in a language.

Have you looked into whether there are some full-fledged Arabic classes at Wayne State? I'm pretty sure there are. If you're willing to drive, the Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor has a wonderful Arabic program. You might want to give both departments a call and find out whether they have available resources that you can tap into. Then you might want to contact the head of the Arabic bilingual programs in the Detroit schools. My sense is that she would also know what might be a good school for you to attend.

Finally, I'm assuming that you are interested in learning to speak Modern Standard Arabic as a second language. Because if you're interested in speaking one of the dialects, it's going to be a little bit harder to access resources. Your parents⁄grandparents probably speak a dialect of Arabic, which is where your comprehension comes from and why you are having trouble with syntax if you're trying to speak MSA.

There are some good resources for learning Arabic now. I'm assuming that the language bookstore in Troy is still in existence. You might want to try them to see what is available that you can afford. You can also go to http://www.lmp.ucla.edu and search for Arabic. There is a fairly long list of different textbooks, including self-instructional ones that may be of interest to you. I'm sorry I can't be of more help. However, don't get discouraged. If you're determined, you will work something out!
Dora

Back to top


Choosing between non-Western languages

Dear Dora,
I had contacted you before and found your response to be helpful. I am clerking a committee for my school regarding the addition of a non-Western language. The process thus far has been a lot of work, but also very rewarding for all of the committee members. We have looked closely at every possible option from Urdu, Hindi, and Farsi to Korean and Swahili. Of course, as you may have imagined Chinese and Arabic are really the two final contenders. We are waiting for the results form some surveys before we make our final decision. My question now is related to research on foreign language learning. I am a Spanish teacher and know that the earlier one starts learning a language the better, but I need the research to show to the committee members. Do you know where I could find some? Is there any research that focuses on Non-western languages specifically? Namely Arabic and Chinese. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
David

Dear David:
My apologies for not having written to you sooner. It has been a particularly busy month!

I am not sure that there is any research that would point directly to learning Chinese and Arabic in early childhood. The research so far has focused on the more commonly taught languages although there are a few snippets here and there that may be used as examples. So whatever we can provide you with is general research that confirms that starting to learn a language earlier gives one a legup. The process is pretty much the same linguistically and cognitively. Whereas it is true that perhaps Chinese and Arabic are not considered "easy" languages to learn, the approach(es) used in teaching children is what should be taken into consideration. There are some videos now of example of how children have mastered Chinese at a fairly early age.

However, the two persons who can best answer your question specifically are Nancy Rhodes and Ingrid Pufahl in our Foreign Language Education Division since they deal with early FL education a lot. One of them will respond to you with the resources that you may need to bring to your committee. Perhaps they can also provide you with a couple of contacts in schools who may be helpful to you in forming your argument for teaching these two languages. Both staff members are out this week, but I'm sure that they will respond to you as soon as they return next week.

With best wishes for the New Year.
Dora Johnson

Reply from Ingrid Pufahl

Dear David:
Thank you for your email, which was forwarded by Dora Johnson. Unfortunately, we do not have any research that would show, specifically, that starting Chinese earlier leads to higher proficiency. Having said that, you may want to look at our web site, specifically the Benefits of Early Language Learning, http://www.cal.org/earlylang/benefits/index.html and the annotated bibliographies listed.

Another helpful link may be http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/november/learningExpectations.html which lists the number of hours needed to achieve proficiency in a variety of languages.

However, these are in reference to experienced and motivated adult learners. The College Board, too, has very convincing data that students who study a foreign language longer do significantly better on the corresponding AP test (but again, I don’t think they have Chinese data yet).

However, I will look into research being done overseas, where many countries have switched to mandatory language learning in the early primary grades. If there is anything else, I may help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,
Ingrid Pufahl
Foreign Language Education Division
Center for Applied Linguistics

Back to top


Resources and Reference Materials

Arabic proficiency test

Hi Dora,
I got your name from Marty Abbot who mentioned that you would be a great contact person. My school board, the Greater Essex Board in Windsor, Ontario, is in need of an Arabic proficiency test, for reading, writing and speaking in Arabic, so that we can have an idea of the Arabic skills of our teacher candidates. The classes they will be teaching are Primary classes in Arabic and English. Do you know of any reliable tests that we could purchase for this purpose? Any leads would be appreciated. Please call or email, my contact information below. Thanks!
Ina

Dear Ina:
For reasons of certification and verification, most school systems have been using the ACTFL assessments for oral and writing proficiency. They do have their costs, but they use trained and certified testers. In my opinion, the peace of mind is worth the cost! I'm hoping eventually we'll have something along the lines of a Praxis that will be for Arabic teachers, but we aren't there yet! For information on what that entails, you need to contact Language Testing International. www.languagetesting.com
Best wishes,
Dora

Back to top


How do I recruit critical needs language teachers?

Dear Dora:
I am in Frederick, MD and am working to create an all-girls public charter school (7th-12th) which will focus on providing instruction in Critical Needs Foreign Languages: Arabic, Chinese and Russian. The school system is questioning whether I will be able to locate teachers for these classes. Can you please advise as to whether you have a pool of candidates that would be available for August 2009 to teach year one classes for our school? Please inform me if you have any suggestions as to ways for me to begin to recruit these teachers.
School Planner

Dear School Planner:
What a wonderful idea, starting a charter school that focuses on instruction in critical needs foreign languages. I can best answer your questions about Arabic, and will need to refer you to others for Chinese and Russian.

The school system is right to query whether you will be able to find qualified teachers to teach these languages easily. However, that does not mean you can't find them. For Russian, I suggest that you might want to contact the American Councils on International Education/American Council of Teachers of Russian. In addition to providing resources for Russian, this organization also has a program with the U.S. State Department where Arabic and Chinese language teachers come to the U.S. for one year to teach. They are put through some reasonably intensive training before they are sent out to the schools. Their salaries and modest living expenses are paid by the program, so that is an option for getting teachers.

It will probably be a little more difficult to find a “qualified” Arabic teacher stateside, but it's not impossible. The National Capital Language Resource Center through its Arabic K-12 network can put out an announcement and I think you will get applications from native speakers as well as near-native or proficient speakers of Arabic. We will be glad to work with you on helping you identify teachers.

As for Chinese, another good bet is to go through Han Ban, which is the Chinese agency that is sending Chinese teachers abroad to teach Chinese. Many of the programs that are being set up now are being done through this agency. Han Ban also provides support. However, again the person who knows the most about this program and can be the most helpful is Shuhan Wang at the Asia Society. [Note: Dr. Wang suggests that anyone interested in Chinese programs should order the Asia Society’s handbook, Creating a Chinese Language Program in Your School: An Introductory Guide. http://www.askasia.org/chinese/startaprogram.htm. This URL provides a sampling of what the handbook contains.]

The problem you are going to encounter, and that's a nationwide problem, is if you are insistent on certified teachers. They are far and few in between, and unless you are willing to offer them the security of full time work and tenure, it's going to be hard to lure them from wherever they are to Frederick, MD. Various approaches are being tried now to resolve this problem, one of them being summer institute training for teachers. In the case of the Middle East Institute, for example, teachers can get credit for the training in Arabic. Many of the programs that are being funded by STARTalk also provide credit for the teachers. They have been offered in Minnesota, California, Kentucky, among others. So, if a teacher is certified in something else, then that teacher can take these trainings and begin the process of becoming either certified or qualified to teach one of these languages, if they meet the requirements of the state. My sense is that charter schools are not quite as insistent on certification as they are on wanting qualified candidates who they know can teach well.

It's not impossible to find teachers, but it will take some careful planning and organizing.
Dora Johnson

Back to top


Best book to teach Arabic for English speakers for the first time in High school

Dear Dora:
I know a lot about your proficiency and your professionalism, therefore I need your suggestion and advice. What would be the best book to teach Arabic for English speakers for the first time in High school?
Thank you so much in advance,

Amale

Dear Amale:
If you are looking for textbooks, the two most popular for high school students, even though they weren't directly written for them, are the Al-Kitaab series that are available through Georgetown University Press (www.press.georgetown.edu/arabic.html) and Ahlan wa Sahlan published by Yale University Press (www.yale.edu/yup). Both series are sensible and written by experienced teachers. Inshallah, some day we will have enough funds to develop materials directly for high school students. There may be some coming out of some of the programs, but at the moment, these are the two that are in use. With best wishes.
Dora

Back to top


Teacher educator looking for information on Arabic certification in New York City and State

Dora,
I am a teacher educator in New York City and am writing a program to provide initial Arabic certification in New York. In order to submit the proposal I need information about other available programs and I have been looking in a variety of places with no luck. At our state website I get Arabic language program information of which there are many, and little information as to whether there are education components. I wonder if you would have a resource that would help me find this information as we would like to get this program through the college and available for interested students.
Thank you.
JD

Dear JD:
You may have to swim a bit upstream and do some phone calling/e-mailing in order to get what you're looking for. To my knowledge, the only two programs that have established teacher training programs for Arabic are DePaul University and the University of Michigan. Both are absolutely new and I'm not sure that they have any documentation to offer you. DePaul is going to gear up this summer with initial funding from STARTALK which is part of the National Security Language Initiative Program. There are other places that are planning to institute teacher training programs. Michigan State University is deeply involved in a K-16 program for Arabic (NSEP flagship), and is also going to be working with their School of Education to put into place a certification program. I also have been told that Brigham Young University is working with another university to institute a certification program, but I have no idea where that is in terms of implementation. Finally, the California Foreign Language Project is also developing a program through Cal State Long Beach. The head of the Arabic flagship program at the University of Maryland College Park is also in the planning stages of putting together a TAFL MA and is talking to the school of education to coordinate it with the idea of it being a certifying program.

Some other states have developed alternate means of certification. Maryland, for example, uses teachers already certified in a subject and if they pass the OPI at the superior level, they are then given provisional permission to teach Arabic and that seems to go on forever. I don't know whether NCLB will ultimately cut that short, but the Department of Education is under such pressure to certify teachers of critical languages that it's likely to look the other way regarding the "fully qualified" clause. Virginia is actually certifying its teachers if they have taken a requisite number of courses and it doesn't matter where one has taken the courses. Minneapolis certified its only Arabic teacher and may be on its way to certifying others, but that was done through the portfolio system. And I understand that Concordia College is now going to coordinate something through the Concordia Language Villages for teacher training and possible certification. Other systems such as Delaware have been certifying teachers under their World Languages program. And I also heard via the grapevine that New Jersey is considering a certification program. And there is a Web site for the foreign language educators that may lead to some answers about NJ.

No doubt there are others. If you need to talk to someone who has thought through what Arabic language teachers need to have in order to fit the qualified picture, the person to talk to is Dr. Mahdi Alosh. He is formerly from Ohio State University but has moved to the US Military Academy at West Point. He and two other experts have a chapter in a volume on Arabic language teaching that outlines what they see as basic requirements for a qualified Arabic instructor. It's a book worth getting. Wahba, Kassem M., Taha, Zeina A., and Liz England, eds. Handbook for Arabic Language Teaching Professionals in the 21st Century. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006. Order from Amazon.

You may also want to take a look at the STARTALK programs that are posted on the National Foreign Language Center's site, http://www.nflc.org. There are quite a number that are offering teacher training programs and the idea is that they will eventually lead to certification -- at least that's what the intent is. It is wonderful to hear that NY is investigating certification because I think if it happens, Arabic programs will proliferate quickly. Hopefully, you are in touch with Debby Almontasser who is heading up the new Khalil Gibran International School scheduled to open this fall.

And please keep us posted on the progress of your efforts.

Best wishes.
Dora

Back to top


Story on the opportunities for college students to learn Arabic

Dear Dora,
I’m working on a story about the breadth and depth of opportunities for college students to learn Arabic (Modern Standard and colloquial). Thank you!
Best regards,
Sierra

Dear Sierra:
There are no final figures for the availability of Arabic language study at the postsecondary level at the moment. The Modern Language Association is the group that collects that information, and they are in the process of updating their survey which they do every five years. So you will get a bit of a hedge from them because they do not want to sound authoritative when they don't have final figures, but I think that if you talk to David Goldberg he will give you a fairly good picture of the reports they're getting.

The other group you need to talk to is the American Association of Teachers of Arabic. The president of AATA is Karen Ryding at Georgetown University. You can reach her at rydingk@georgetown.edu. I'm sorry I don't have the phone number. She will also tell you that they are getting reports about the huge (for Arabic!) increases in offerings and that the classes that already exist are doubling, tripling and quadrupling. Dr. Ryding will probably refer you to the AATA Web site that has a listing of schools that offer Arabic (www.wm.edu/aata), but I know that that list needs to be updated also. The breadth of Arabic being offered at the moment is quite wide, I would say. Wherever a college (both 4-year and community) or university has been able to hire someone to teach, they have been doing it from all we can understand. Most teach Modern Standard Arabic, and I would dare say that probably very few teach colloquial Arabic unless they are teaching it to students who have achieved a fairly high proficiency in MSA. E.g., Georgetown and Michigan are two institutions I know that follow that process. I have seen announcements about teaching a regional variant of Arabic, but I personally would want to see how it is being presented.

The general consensus is that if one is to teach Arabic in a formal situation, one teaches MSA. It used to be that "dialects " were absolutely no-no's in the MSA class, but that is changing and there is some consensus building that says that when the occasion warrants it, a "dialect " is fine to use. In fact, there is one textbook published through the Language Resource Center at Cornell University that does combine both MSA and Levantine Arabic. There are textbooks that focus on dialects. Georgetown University Press is one of them. You might want to contact them and see who is ordering their dialect volumes. And I believe there are some British publishers that are also producing dictionaries, grammars and textbooks that focus on dialects. That says there's a demand for them but that information is also hard to find. Of course, the biggest Arabic language school is at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. At last report, I heard they had something like 2,500 students going through language training and some 300 teachers! It's not postsecondary but there will be a ripple effect from that effort that will show up in the universities. And the Department of Defense has also funded two graduate level flagships (Georgetown and the University of Maryland) that are supposed to produce high level proficiency Arabic speakers. And at the undergraduate level, there are two universities that are also focusing on high level skills, Michigan State University and the University of Texas, Austin. MSU has a K-16 program that they are developing with the Dearborn schools in an effort to create an articulated program.

As for depth, I don't know if anyone can even begin to answer that question. The general trend is that most students take a year of the language but there is a significant drop in the second year and by the time students reach their third year of language training, the numbers are quite small. I suspect that most respectable Arabic language programs provide 1st and 2nd year programs and will provide a 3rd and even 4th year if there is a demand for them. And there are reasons for the lack of depth. Institutions generally don't hire instructors on a full-time basis, so they are often dependent on someone being in the area who might be able to teach the language. In one case that I know, the coaching is done via distance learning. And there are not many well-trained teachers who are able to teach Arabic as a foreign language. However, I think that Dr. Ryding will be able to provide you with better answer than I. I am copying her with this response, in the event that I am providing you with wrong information!

If you have additional questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Dora Johnson

Back to top


Could you recommend some program or method for distance or self study of Arabic?

Dear Dora,
Greetings,Our son and daughter "did" Arabic camp this summer. Their strong interest continues. We have books on Arabic language, history, and culture. At times they even look at flash cards while we ride in the car. Our local high school is very open to having them study Arabic here. This is a town of only 800 people so you can imagine that it is not a subject that they are set up to teach. We are asking you to recommend some program or method that we could use for a distance or self study. They could start this upcoming semester if we can set it up in time.
Thank you for your consideration and for your work on the Language Villages,

Bryce

Dear Bryce:
Thank you for this wonderful e-mail! How encouraging it is that the school is willing to entertain Arabic language study. The two main distance learning courses that we know of that may be of use are those run by the Arab Academy in Cairo and Arabic Without Walls. The Web site for the Academy is http://www.arabacademy.com . Arabic Without Walls should be accessed through http://uccllt.ucdavis.edu/ under distance learning or http://arabicwithoutwalls.ucdavis.edu/aww/info.html. It's based on the Brustad and Al-Batal textbooks published by Georgetown University Press.

I do hope your children will go back to the Concordia Language Villages Arabic camp. http://clvweb.cord.edu/prweb/arabic/default.asp I don't know if you know that they are going to offer a 4-week credit bearing course this summer and it promises to be good. The government is also funding two-week (and possibly 4-week) immersion experiences in various sites around the country. This program is known as STARTALK. The sites have not been chosen as of this date, but the National Foreign Language Center expects to have planabic camp. hs in place by the end of January.

Finally, for additional books, etc., a good source is http://www.Noorart.com . It's the largest Arabic language book distributor in the U.S. I don't know if they will send you books for review to see if they suit your children or not, but you can try. The other source that I know of is the International Book Centre (yes, Centre!). The Web site is http://www.ibcbooks.com/flash.html. With best wishes.
Dora Johnson

Back to top


Telling a School Board of the need to begin teaching languages like Arabic

Dear Dora,
I just read a presentation given by you in 2002, Communicative literacy development in Arabic K-12: What works. I am a nursing student at South Dakota State University. For my Community Health Nursing final project, I would like to address to the Sioux Falls Public School District the issue of minimal foreign language offerings in the middle schools.

It's been encouraging to see that other states are looking into adding Arabic, Chinese, and Russian to their curricula. I'm wondering if you have any advice or resources to recommend as I research and prepare a presentation to educate the Sioux Falls School Board of the need to begin teaching languages like Arabic. Any advice you have would be helpful!

The National Capital Language Resource Center website has been helpful, but there is so much information to navigate through.Thank you!

Hello!
Congratulations on your effort. Educating school districts probably is the most effective way to begin the process of raising awareness. Whether they will act on it is another question, but perhaps with pressure from the parents...

Unfortunately the school level that you picked is a waste land in terms of foreign language. In general, middle schools tend to get ignored anyway, despite the fact that educators know that this is where we lose most of our kids. Most of the foreign language programs that are being instituted, particularly those focusing on the less commonly taught languages, are at the high school level. The exception has been the recent FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) grants funded by the U.S. Department of Education. ED had some priorities in its announcement for the grants that focused on Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Russian, so some school systems have come up with world languages programs for FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School). But these are submitted proposals. They are still being reviewed and probably nobody will hear anything until well into August.

I'm assuming in your research you came across the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI). ED was supposed to get something like 14 million dollars to allocate to language programs, but it was not authorized by Congress, so the bulk of the work has been left up to the Department of Defense and the State Department. The State Department has started what seems to be a fairly popular program of providing venues for students to go overseas to study in the summer. Again, this is focused on high school students. It also allocated funds to Concordia Language Villages to start an Arabic Language Village, which got its start this summer. This is the only place that I know of that actually caters to kids from 8-18 and thus catches the middle school kids, but it is a summer program only. It is also interesting that of the Secretary's recent proposed priorities announcements (Federal Register, August 7, 2006), one of them continues to be focused on language.

The Department of Defense through its National Security Education Program (NSEP) has funded (so far) three K-16 flagship programs. The oldest one is being coordinated through the University of Oregon's Center for Second Language Studies (http://casls.uoregon.edu ), and is focused on Chinese. Another Chinese program was just funded through Ohio State University's East Asian Language Resource Center (http://nealrc.osu.edu ) and an Arabic one is about to get up and running through Michigan State University's Center for Language Education and Research (http://clear.msu.edu ). You can also get to these and all the other LRCs through http://nflrc.msu.edu.

In addition, the Department of Defense is also funding summer institutes. They funded one this past summer at Howard University here in DC, and are supposed to fund some K-12 ones for next summer for Chinese and Arabic.

That doesn't mean everything is a waste land! New Jersey's department of Education received a grant last year to work with 8th graders (at least assess their progress) and you can view the announcement at http://www.state.nj.us/njded/news/2006/0714ie.htm . New Jersey is one of the states that takes its foreign languages very seriously. I suspect there is some of the same being done in Delaware, where a member of the Asia Society has been involved in a rather extensive project undertaken by the society that has surveyed Chinese language programs across the U.S. The report is available on the Asia Society's Web site, http://www.askasia.org/chinese/ . There are a couple of middle schools in Dearborn, MI that have Arabic programs that CLEAR at Michigan State (mentioned above) might be able to tell you about, and of course there is the most successful FL program in the country that's been going on for over 25 years, and that's the Glastonbury school district. Their website is http://www.foreignlanguage.org/ . The American School Board Journal published an interesting article online on foreign languages you can read at www.asbj.com/current/research.html.

I have this sneaking suspicion that you are also asking for advice and guidance. Unfortunately, this may be something that you may want to talk to some other people about. One person who comes to mind is Martha (Marty) Abbott at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). She has some good ideas and ACTFL is promoting the effort to increase the teaching/learning of foreign languages in the schools. I would also suggest that you try to contact Professor G. Richard Tucker at Carnegie Mellon University. He and colleagues and graduate students have been working with a small school district outside Pittsburgh on developing an articulated foreign language program. Admittedly it's Spanish, but I think the pieces that go with instituting a solid program that has a long life is very important. There are some summaries of that effort, including a Digest that we produced here at CAL (www.cal.org/resource/digest/digest_pdfs/0103-Tucker.pdf).

I'm sure you have a million more questions. I'll be glad to answer them, but will stop at this point. Please keep us in the loop with your efforts. Best of Luck,
Dora

Back to top


As an independent school teacher, how can I find money to "refresh" my Arabic Skills?

Dear Dora,
I am a French and Spanish teacher at an independent school. I also speak fluent "street" Arabic due to being married to a Lebanese and having lived in the Middle East. My department chair wants me to teach a semester of Arabic in our upper school. The only problem is that my formal training in Arabic dates way back and I need a refresher on the alphabet (I can read slowly but don't remember all of the letters) and basic grammar. If I were in a public school I could get grant money to pay for my study. Is there anything similar for independent school teachers? My school is affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Thanks for your help!

Hello!
I don't know of any funds for this sort of thing. You might be able to get the diocese to pay a little bit of money towards bringing you up to speed, but the problem is where you would go to get the training? Enrolling in a slow semester course would not work very well. You could write Middlebury College and ask them if there are ways that you can apply for scholarships to take the intensive course there in the summer.

There are two other things you could do. You could sign up with the Arab Academy and take their online course. I don't think it's terribly expensive. It operates out of Cairo, at http://www.arabacademy.com/. In fact, you might be able to sign everybody in your class up for this online course and that way you would only have to stay one or two steps ahead of your students!

The other thing you could do is to get the Al-Batal/Burstad books from Georgetown University called Alif Baa or Mahdi Alosh's textbook from Yale entitled Ahlan wa Sahlan. Both these books also are quite usable with high school students.

And you could also contact us directly at the National Capital Language Resource Center if you're interested in being on our K-12 Arabic Language Teachers Network. http://www.arabick12.org/.Thanks for writing,
Dora

Back to top


 

Home | Schools | Guide | Materials | Professional Dev | National Standards | For Teachers | News/Salamat |About Us | NCLRC Website

 

Copyright © 2007
The National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC)
2011 Eye Street NW, Suite 200 Washington DC 20006

Graphic and Web Design: Andean Frog. If you have a question about this site contact the Webmaster