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Teaching Arabic in Iowa

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Beyond the caucuses, life continues in Iowa with surprising irregularity. Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the Federal Language Acquisition Program, 230 elementary students in Kalona—population 2,300, 97% white, and historically Mennonite—are learning to speak Arabic, according to Sam Freedman of The New York Times. Kalona teacher Susan Swartzendruber, who learned Arabic while teaching in Egypt as part of a Mennonite social service program, convinced her school district to apply for the funding.

Twenty miles north of Kalona in Iowa City, Zahra Al-Attar heard through a posting at her mosque that an elementary school was looking for a native Arabic speaker to teach. Ms. Al-Attar, who was exiled with her family from Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, had no idea what to expect. “When I first started, I thought, ‘Wow, Arabic in Kalona? What’s this going to be like?’ But everyone has been so welcoming.”

But the idea of teaching Arabic in Kalona has not been without opposition. Kalona principal Jim Cayton fielded complaints that Christians were being taught to be Muslims and some worried that students were learning “the language of the enemy.” Ms. Swartzendruber acknowledged the tension in the community: “Of course I was worried. There’s almost no diversity here, and most people have been here forever. But I thought, all the more reason to do it here. What better way to break down the stereotype…”

7 Comments

What is the purpose of teaching Arabic? Is this a language that will be useful for the majority of students? Is this just an attempt to introduce the students to a different culture? If it is, and this might be a good idea, wouldn't it be more efficient to just teach that?

The teaching of Arabic or any other language besides English is very beneficial for all students. People always categorize and assume the worst when another language is being taught in schools. We have to remember that, with brain growth due to learning a new language, they will excel in standardized testing in the future IF they continue with the language learning. Another secret, most will not retain the language unless they start using it outside the school, in this case they have to travel to Iran or Iraq to test the language.
Great job for teachers in the school district.

Learning to speak a new language, even at a basic level, is an entree to understanding complexities of another culture, an advantage for thriving the 21st century. I applaud this language instruction program that will transport students beyond borders without the cost of air fare. All this, plus the obvious intellectual benefits!

Arabic is also in high demand in many positions in the government, business, and other organizations that deal with the Middle East, because not many Americans speak it. These elementary-school children, if they stick with the language, will have a very marketable skill someday.

HELLO . MY NAME IS MOHAMMAD I WAS A TEACHER OF ENGLISH IN JORDAN (MY COUNTRY) FOR FOUR YEARS. I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO TEACH ARABIC, BECAUSE I MISS TEACHING SO MUCH.YOU CAN CONTACT ME IF YOU NEED TO LEARN.

hi or marhaba in arabic
it is a wonderfull job to teach others how to speak another language it is very good to bridge the gap between the arab world and americans.
i am very happy
i would like to thank Madam Zahra Alatar

Mr Hassan Hamma holds a BA from Morocco and has an extensive experience in teaching,

At 21 years of age, he lived in France for two years to study French and English in the University of Grenoble.

After graduating with a BA in Arabic literature from Hassan the second University in casablanca, Morocco,he has received a German Language Certificate from the Geothe institute in Morocco.

Now,he is a highly,qualified and experienced teacher,he is fluent in Arabic,French,English and German.

He enjoys teaching students in a French school in Casablanca-Morocco.

He is interested in joining a school to teach Arabic or French .

.

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