Teaching Arabic: Contexts of Diglossia, Culture, and Heritage

Saturday, April 28, 2018
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saieh Hall for Economics, Room 146
1160 E. 58th Street, Chicago IL 60637

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago is pleased to organize this special conference on the teaching of Arabic at the K-12 and university levels. Study of Arabic among college and university students is at an all-time high, and an increasing number of high schools across the country are adding Arabic to their world language offerings. With the understanding that Arabic language education exists on a continuum that spans the educational divide between high school and college, our conference will integrate perspectives on pedagogy and best practices from both K-12 and post-secondary Arabic language educators. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Public school teachers can earn 7 ISBE professional development hours for attending the entire program.


9:00-9:15 AM: Light breakfast and coffee
9:15-9:20 AM: Welcome
9:20-9:40 AM: Noha Forster: “Notes from the field – fuṣḥā and ‘ammiyya”
9:45-10:45 AM: Session 1
• Wafa Hassan: “Teachers of Arabic and Their Professional Needs”
• Mahmoud Abdalla: “Content-Based Instruction from an Arabic Perspective”
10:45-11:00 AM: Break and roundtable setup
11:00-12:00 PM: Roundtable discussion
12:00-1:00 PM: Lunch with student-driven conversations
1:00-2:30 PM: Session 2
• Munther Younes: “Dealing with Diglossia through Integration: The Arabic Program at Cornell University”
• Mouna Mana: “Feeding What? Reflecting on Feedback Strategies in the Arabic Classroom”
• Federico Luque Macias: “Teaching Modern Standard Arabic in the International Baccalaureate High School Classroom”
2:30-2:45 PM: Coffee and tea break
2:45-3:45 PM: Session 3
• Nevenka-Korica Sullivan: “Developing a Discussion-Based Curriculum for Advanced Learners”
• Mutazz Alabd: “Arabic in a Heritage Classroom: Challenges and Instructional Practices”
3:45-4:00 PM: Keynote setup
4:00-4:45 PM: Keynote address
• Kirk Belnap: “The Transformative Potential of Integration in the Arabic Curriculum”
4:45-5:00 PM: Program conclusion 

Conference Speakers

Mahmoud Abdalla, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Arabic Language Studies at Middlebury College. Prior to joining the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), Mahmoud taught and supervised undergraduate and graduate programs at various universities and academic institutions in Europe, the Middle East and the United Sates. His M.A. in linguistics is from Essex University, and his Ph.D. in applied linguistics is from the University of Edinburgh. An award winning teacher, Mahmoud received the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Council of Students of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis in 1999. He was recently awarded the Lilian Stroebe Centennial Recognition Medal from Middlebury College. As a professor, he has lectured extensively on linguistics, Arabic pedagogy, and Arab culture and society. He also has extensive experience in building intensive and immersive study abroad programs and in developing curriculum for a wide range of Arabic language and cultural studies programs.  Mahmoud’s research interests include: second language acquisition; second language pedagogy; heritage language learning; and language, culture, and identity. He also has acted as an external reviewer and consultant for numerous academic institutions in the United States and Middle East.

Mutazz Alabd, Chair of the Arabic Department at the Universal School Chicago. Mutazz holds an undergraduate degree in Applied Linguistics with an MA degree in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language from the American University in Cairo. He is currently the Arabic Department chairperson at the K-12 Universal School in Chicago. His research focuses on heritage students' learning and acquisition of Arabic.

Kirk Belnap, Professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University. Kirk is director of the National Middle East Language Resource Center, a Title VI LRC that brings together language experts from more than twenty universities. He is also co-P.I. with Robert Blake (U.C.-Davis) on the award-winning website Arabic without Walls and director of BYU’s STARTALK summer Arabic high school camps.

Wafa Hassan, Director of the Arabic Language and Culture Department at Global Educational Excellence; Director of the Michigan Arabic Teachers Council. Dr. Hassan is a graduate of the George Washington University School of Education and Human Development and has served, since 2007, as the Director of STARTALK summer program for training teachers of Arabic language in the Detroit metropolitan area. Prior to joining GEE, Dr. Hassan was Assistant Professor of Arabic language and culture at Western Michigan University and served for seven years as the Outreach Director for the Arabic Language FLAGSHIP Program and high school Arabic curriculum project at Michigan State University. She has extensive experience nationally and internationally in teacher preparation; curriculum development and assessment. Dr. Hassan is co-author of a new standards-based Arabic book series (Arabic 1, Arabic 2, and the teachers’ guide). Her research is focused on Arabic teachers’ professional development, pedagogy, heritage learners, assessment, and second language acquisition, and she is the current President of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL).

Nevenka Korica-Sullivan, Senior Preceptor in Arabic at Harvard University. Nevenka teaches Arabic at Harvard University. Before coming to Harvard, she taught at American University in Cairo specializing in teaching the advanced level learners. She is the co-author of Media Arabic: A Coursebook for Reading Arabic News (AUC Press, 2007), and Umm Dunya, Advanced Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (AUC Press, 2013). Her professional interests include second language acquisition, pedagogy and curriculum development for higher levels of proficiency.

Federico Luque Macias, Arabic World Language Teacher at Lincoln Park High School. Federico teaches Arabic to high school students at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago. Before that, he taught Spanish at Disney II Magnet High School, and ESL at a Cambridge Exam Preparation Center in Spain, where he won the Touchstone teacher competition in 2014. His scholarly interests include the Romance, Germanic and Semitic languages and comparative translation. He holds a doctoral degree in Interculturality and Arab-Islamic World and an MA in Translation and Interculturality from the University of Seville. 

Mouna Mana, QFI Consultant. Dr. Mana is a language pedagogy expert with a focus on teacher learning, Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL), formative assessment, and online language learning and professional development. She has taught Arabic at the university level and with high school heritage learners of Arabic. She has extensive experience evaluating K-12 and university language programs, including reviews of curricula and curriculum articulation. She has supported the development of Arabic programs in the U.S. and in the Middle East as well as conducted research on various topics of interest to the field of Arabic language education. She has mentored and trained teachers of Arabic pursuing state certification and has provided numerous professional development workshops nationally and regionally. Dr Mana has consulted for CAL, ACTFL, International School Services (ISS), and QFI, and she has published articles and book chapters on Arabic language teachers' professionalization. Dr. Mana holds a Ph.D in Education from UCLA with a focus on language and literacy.

Munther Younes, Reis Senior Lecturer of Arabic Language and Linguistics at Cornell University. Dr. Younes earned a B.A. in English and a diploma in education from the University of Jordan (1974), and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin (1982). Before joining Cornell in 1990, he taught Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California and, prior to that, he taught English and linguistics in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He has developed an Arabic program at Cornell that is radically different from Arabic programs elsewhere in its integration of spoken Arabic with Modern Standard Arabic in a way that reflects the use of the language by native speakers. His research interests include Arabic linguistics, teaching Arabic as a foreign language and the language of the Qur’an. His publications include the three-part textbook series ‘Arabiyyat al-Naas, The Integrated Approach to Arabic Instruction, Kalila wa Dimna for Students of Arabic, The Routledge Introduction to Qur’anic Arabic, and In Search of the Original Qur’an, all published by Routledge. He has also published a number of articles in Arabic linguistics, teaching Arabic as a foreign language and the language of the Qur’an. Munther was the recipient of two awards for distinguished teaching at Cornell University, the Clark Award in 1992 and the Sophie Washburn French Instructorship Award in 2017. He also received Official Commendation for Exceptional Performance at the Defense Language Institute in 1988 and 1989. In the past ten years Munther has led a number of workshops at Cornell University and at a number of other institutions on the integrated approach to teaching Arabic as a foreign language.

Keynote Address

Kirk Belnap will deliver the conference's keynote address, titled "The Transformative Potential of Integration in the Arabic Curriculum."

Description: Foreign language study in the West has played a key role in a quality education, dating back to at least the fourth century De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii written by Martianus Capella (born in present-day Algeria). The aims of a liberal arts education remain unchanged: well-rounded global citizens capable of the critical thinking needed to address the challenges of the times in which they live. Key learning outcomes of the visionary "LEAP Challenge” announced in 2015 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) include communication and intercultural knowledge and competence, ideally achieved through "High-Impact Educational Practices." This presentation will demonstrate how early engagement with the real and messy Arabic of today can draw more students to persist in the study of Arabic and eventually embrace advanced study of its great literary heritage. In so doing, we can also demonstrate that language study belongs at the heart of a 21st century liberal arts education and may be one of the most effective ways to achieve its goals.

Roundtable Questions

1.) What about teaching Arabic engages you the most right now? What are you excited about?

2.) If you teach in a university, what would you like to know about the classrooms some of your students are coming from? And if you teach in a K-12 setting, what would you like to know about the programs your students will find in college?

3.) How does the fact of diglossia in the Arab world affect your teaching of Arabic? All of us, or our programs, have made the decision to either teach written Arabic together with one or more dialects, or to keep the instruction of each in separate classes. Based on what you know of the approach you or your program have not chosen, is there something you could borrow from the other approach that would benefit your program?

4.) We know that all language instruction is influenced by the specific linguistic and cultural backgrounds of our students. How do the elements of family and culture, as well as linguistic and religious heritage, play a role in your classroom? If you have a large group of heritage learners, how do you blend instruction for them with instruction for your non-heritage students?

5.) How has your own teaching of Arabic evolved over the course of your career? Is there some event or factor that has caused a major change or transition in your approach to teaching?

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