By Jared Hopkins, Economics Major, Arabic Student
Jared Hopkins, a senior economics major, took Arabic language courses at SSC and last summer won the Critical Language Scholarship to pursue his studies in Arabic in Amman, Jordan. He has independently traveled through the Middle East and Central America to personally survey regions with poor economic infrastructure. He has recently applied for another National Security Initiative scholarship to live and study in the Middle East for an academic year.
The complexity of the linguistic-cultural relationship behind Arabic was no doubt a driving factor for me to continue learning the language after my first elementary course at Salem State. In addition to dissecting complex grammatical rules, memorizing vocabulary and, very slowly, giving class presentations in the target language, I also tried to experience the cultural milieu. I went to trips to cultural centers and mosques, traveled to Morocco, and heard visiting lecturers from various regions of the Arab world. Even so, I realized that to really delve into the nuances of the language and culture—to in effect become Arab—it was clear that I had to relocate.
Under funding by the US Department of State and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, I had this opportunity. I applied for and got a Critical Language Scholar grant for the summer of 2008. Providing funding for students of any of the ten ‘critical’ languages, students are awarded a fully-funded eight week immersion into the target language. Additionally, students are provided funds for cultural excursions, independent travel, learning materials, and health insurance. To me, this translated into the perfect opportunity to (1) learn the language where it’s spoken, (2) not spend a dime of my own money for eight weeks, and (3) use the language in several neighboring cities and countries where it is also spoken.
Nearly every aspect of our trip involved usage of our target language, for even our typical class day consisted of taking a taxi to our language school, the Qasid Institute of Modern Standard Arabic, one of the most notable modern language institutes in the Middle East. While in class for five hours a day, five days a week, we would rotate throughout the day to any one of the geographically-themed classrooms: Arabic Grammar in classroom Basra, Reading in Beirut, and Colloquial Arabic in Baghdad. For lunch we would take taxis to our favorite dives for hummus, baba ganoush, or falafel.
As for my favorite aspect of the program, outside of the great travel opportunities and a paid for seven days beach resort vacation, the optional private tutoring proved the most memorable. Here students were given the opportunity to ‘hire’ tutors for up to twelve hours per week for instruction in anything related to Arabic or Arab culture. Most often accompanied by my newly acquired best friend from the program, we would cover colloquial Arabic, read from various historical texts, or even visit a market or dine in a restaurant with monolingual staff. As with every other aspect of the Critical Language Scholarship, great effort was made to provide students the means needed to acquire the language, and even the opportunity to form lasting friendships.
Though highly competitive, the Critical Language Scholarship accepts applications from any matriculated student that has completed at least one year of general college coursework. To date, the languages offered include: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu, and few require any previous instruction in the language.
For more information visit clscholarship.org/programs.php ¦