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UC Arabic Studies summer program open to area high school students

An $88,000 grant will provide an opportunity for immersive study of language and culture

Headshot of Grace Thome

Grace Thome

Select Greater Cincinnati high school juniors and seniors will have an opportunity this summer to participate in an Arabic Language program at the University of Cincinnati.

During the immersive four-week program in UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, students will be introduced to beginning phonology, script, and basic structures of modern standard Arabic and spoken Arabic of the Levant, which are dialects of the eastern Mediterranean coast of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Sponsored by an $88,000 grant from the National Security Agency and the STARTALK National Foreign Language Center, the program offers 100 percent tuition funding and five semester hours of college credit to students who complete the course.

Globalization and a growing demand for Arabic speakers among employers make the program a great opportunity for students, says UC’s Grace Thome, associate professor of Romance Languages and Literature.

“Ohio education is shifting towards a focus on global awareness, and very few high schools offer courses in Arabic,” she says.

Beyond language training, students will respect and show sensitivity when interacting with people from another culture.

Grace Thome, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literature

“Jobs tied to international trade have grown and are looking for people with language skills who are able to explain the culture of people the U.S. is doing business with,” Thome adds. “The study of Arabic can lead to exciting careers in various fields, including foreign correspondent, reporter, translator, international banker, international consultant, manager of government relations for oil companies, market analyst for export companies, foreign service officer, intelligence analyst, etc. The U.S. government currently considers Arabic a critical language, and many scholarships and fellowships in Arabic studies are available.”

Students also will study Arabic culture, music, poetry, food and dance, all through the lens of an Arabic wedding. “I chose the theme ‘Festivities of a Traditional Arab Wedding’ to guide our curriculum,” Thome says.

“The Arab world consists of 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But despite variations from country to country, the commonalities are the wedding party, the family, the socio-familial life, the reception, the celebration, the traditional dancing, the music, the instruments, the variety of food, the beautiful clothing, the honeymoon and, last but foremost, love and poetry,” she says.

The course covers a wide range of vocabulary and extracurricular activities to enhance learning the language and understand of the culture, she adds. Field trips include visits to an Islamic center, a Maronite church and a bakery, where among other things students will learn to prepare the Arabic staple pita bread. In addition, students who complete the course emerge with a deeper understanding of social interaction beyond traditional boundaries, Thome says.

“Beyond language training, students will respect and show sensitivity when interacting with people from another culture,” she says. “They will learn how to listen carefully and evaluate another speaker’s message with a positive attitude, without judging and comparing. Learning an important critical language such as Arabic motivates students to prioritize lifelong learning, and keep up with globalization.”

The course runs from June 17 to July 12, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on UC’s Uptown Campus and will include several field trips. Area high school juniors and seniors with a minimum 3.5 GPA and a beginning level of Arabic language study are eligible for consideration.

Applications are due May 23. For more information and to apply, please visit: https://www.artsci.uc.edu/departments/rall/startalk2019.html.