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Our emerging Arabic program helps Arabic learners at Loyola find connections between classroom learning experience and multiple investments of Arabic as applied to their own worlds. Students celebrate their ability to own their Arabic learning as it fits their needs and enjoy discovering opportunities in which Arabic helps them in diverse personal contexts.

Not Lost in Translation

Posted on: February 4th, 2013 by sabbadi 1 Comment


My name is Sarah Tiwana and I am currently in my third year of undergrad. I am a Psychology and Anthropology double major. I decided to take Arabic for so many reasons; some of the most important reasons were in regards to being able to attain better understanding when reading the Quran, but also because I wanted to learn Arabic for conversational purposes. The Arab world has always fascinated me, and I thought that if I decided to pursue my anthropological studies further I would want to focus my studies on the Middle East, so taking Arabic seemed like a logical choice!

This past semester I took a refugee resettlement class, and through this class I was paired with an Iraqi refugee family. My role was to help the family get adjusted to life in America, and help them with anything else they needed. The mother in my family wanted my partner and me to help her four year old son learn English so that when he started kindergarten next year he would not fall behind. Teaching four year old English when he knew mostly Arabic was not an easy task, I felt a little relieved that I was currently taking Arabic 101. As a four year old our family’s son always had a lot to say, the only problem was trying to understand what he was saying! As he struggled to find words in English to express himself I struggled to find the meaning for the Arabic words he used.

As my knowledge of Arabic grew so did his knowledge of English- we were no longer lost in translation! My knowledge of Arabic allowed me to understand the gist of what our family’s son was trying to convey, and it also allowed me to exercise my translating skills for my partner’s understanding. My knowledge of Arabic allowed me to help our family’s son learn English as well as communicate with our whole refugee family more effectively. Visiting my refugee family also provided me with a place to practice my Arabic as well as to continue learning new words. My experience with my family also exposed me to Iraqi culture and customs. The mother in our family makes the world’s greatest tea (don’t tell my Mom!!). My knowledge of Arabic really helped and still helps me communicate with my refugee family- I feel like we have all learned a lot from each other! :)

I look forward to expanding my knowledge of Arabic in 102, and practicing what I have learned with my refugee family!

One Response

  1. avatar Beenish says:

    I find it facinating that you could use the language in real life. It seems so exciting to get to know the family in a way you were not expecting. It is a great deal that you took the initiative as well to reduce the language barrier by taking Arabic. It is hard for refugees to come to a new country and learn a new language. It does not help with the language barrier they have with other people who don’t always know Arabic. You were able to relate to this family on a whole different level, with more understanding. They were lucky to have you. :) I am glad that you are spending time with this family this semester, and that you really learned from this experience.

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