An Interview with Louissa Taha Abdelghany, Professor of Arabic and French
Professor Louissa Taha Abdelghany joined the World Languages and Cultures faculty in September 2015 as a full-time professor. A native of Lebanon and an instructor with many years of experience, as well as boundless energy, Professor Abdelghany is currently teaching Arabic and French courses. She has also been charged with promoting Arabic language courses and the Minor in Arabic Studies at Salem State. We asked her a few questions to get to know her better.
What are your first impression of teaching at Salem State University?
I have to admit that so far teaching at SSU has been a unique experience. The majority of students here juggle between their studies and their jobs. They are very hard-working and determined, and I truly admire their dedication and respect their effort to keep the balance between classes and work.
I’m especially enjoying my Arabic class and the laughs I hear once I ask my students to loudly repeat an expression and pronounce an Arabic sound that does not exist in English. I’m so glad to be a part of the SSU community and I’m excited to provide more to both the Arabic and the French programs.
What’s it like to study French or Arabic in Professor Abdelghany’s class?
There are no specific sets of techniques I intentionally apply in my classroom or one specific style of teaching I follow. My experience has taught me to be flexible in my approach and to listen mostly to my students themselves and try to meet their interests and their needs.
I strive to maintain a comfortable classroom atmosphere where conductive learning takes place. Students have to feel comfortable in a language classroom to be able to participate without any fear or hesitation. I always encourage my students to speak, give comments and ask questions.
I also believe that motivation is the key element in any foreign language classroom. Therefore, I tend to do whatever it takes to keep my students motivated during class time, and involve them in classroom presentations and collaborative activities. I am a very active and energetic professor and my goal is to be able to transmit this positive energy to my class. Language is engaging and fun so I intend to use games, art, songs, video clips, poems, newspapers and movies frequently in my lessons.
You’ve been fortunate to learn several languages during your life, how do you think this has changed you?
Growing up in Lebanon, where everyone could speak at least two and sometimes three languages, I took the concept of multilingualism for granted. It is not until I moved to the United States when I truly realized the significance and the value of languages. I started to view languages in a different way, to appreciate their motion and conception and to acknowledge what they mean and represent in the world. I began to see that the study of languages is a way to learn to better understand ourselves and our place in the world, and also a gateway to discover other cultures and to celebrate diversity, collective traditions, and individual expression.
What would you say to a student who might be interested in studying Arabic or French?
I would definitely encourage them to learn if not one of these fabulous languages, maybe both if they have the opportunity to do so. While studying Arabic is totally different from studying French, both languages will open up the students’ world, introducing them to rich cultures and civilizations. With the growing importance of the Middle East in international affairs, there is a large demand for workers in the West who are versed in the Arabic language and culture. Knowing Arabic is a significant asset these days, one that makes graduates more marketable in a variety of fields like business, industry, education, finance, journalism, translation, international law, consulting, and foreign services.
Both Arabic and French are associated with many cultures, what do most people not realize about these languages?
Both Arabic and French are among the top ten most spoken languages in the world. While Arabic is the sixth most common spoken language, French is the tenth.
Most people don’t realize that there are 420 billion Arab speakers in the world (native and non-native). They also don’t know that Arabic has contributed numerous words to the English language like: قطن [koton] cotton, سكر [succar], sugar, غزال [ghazal] gazelle, قيثارة [qithara] guitar, الكحول [alcoo’hool] alcohol, صحراء [sahra’a], sahara, قيراط [qeerat] carat, ليمون [laymoon] lemon, الجبر [aljabr] Algebra.
In regards to French, people are not aware that there are more countries in Africa where French is the official language than in Europe.
Anything else to add?
I would like to encourage all students to make the study of languages a priority and to fit it in their busy schedule. It is sad to know that only 18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English, while 53% of Europeans (and increasing numbers in other parts of the world) can converse in a second language. Learning languages would promote global communication and would also increase international understanding, something we are desperately in need of in our days.