Suad Mohamed/ Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages

Arabic Language and Cultures Dinners and Field-Trip

As a Senior Lecturer of Arabic language and cultures, I have always dreamed to have more outside of the classroom resources to dramatically enhance my students’ communicative proficiency and expand their cultural fluency especially in what relate to diaglossia and multiculturalism in the MENA region.[1] Indeed, one of my most sought-after academic goals is to show my students that that contrary to some prevailing preconceptions, Arabic – both as a language and culture  is not monolithic. This specific fact is one of Arabic’s most salient features which is unfortunately not duly highlighted in the American academy.

While the formal Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) unifies Arabic speakers across MENA, the Arabic language is diglossic in essence. This is true simply because of the existence of regional dialects that are used daily in non-formal contexts. In our Arabic program at UVA we focus mainly on MSA. This leaves many of our students with unanswered questions about the lahajat that is the spoken dialects used across MENA. The colloquial varieties of Arabic have been clustered geographically in regional groupings such as Egyptian, Levantine, North African, and Gulf varieties.

For my dream project, I plan to develop a range of ideas and paths to feature the colloquial varieties and the concomitant diverse cultural practices across MENA. This is especially true of topics related mainly to regional food, celebrations, and other daily customs.  The goal of my dream activities is to make my students not only more familiar but also more appreciative of the linguistic richness and cultural diversity of the main area that we teach at our department.

This is indeed what a number of our students appreciate the most through our Morocco’s UVA Arabic summer program: the firsthand authentic learning experience of the richness and diversity of Arabic as a language and a culture beyond the textbook and the classroom.  I kindly ask you to watch this link!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_0hXfWPB-o

Such a memorable and mesmerizing experience motivates them to travel to other parts of the MENA region thus be more culturally fluent.

Activities:

For each dinner, I will invite a native speaker from one of the above-mentioned regions of MENA. Of course, the guest will speak a different dialect and will interact with my students over local dishes.  Before each dinner, I will provide my students with a kit full of key colloquial vocabulary and expressions spoken by the specific guest. These dinners will take place in multicultural restaurants in Charlottesville and Richmond. This is in addition to homes of some volunteering native speakers of Arabic living in Charlottesville, whenever possible.

A trip to Washington, DC to visit a MENA cultural exhibition or Arab film festival exhibition will definitely be the Dream of my Dream Idea!

Proposed budget:

Dinner 1:  Egyptian $350: name restaurant?

Dinner 2: Moroccan $350: name restaurant?

Dinner 3: Levantine: $350:  name Restaurant?

Dinner 4: Gulf: $350: name restaurant?

One day excursion to Washington, D.C. for 8 people to attend a cultural festival: $1000

Total $2,400

 


[1] Middle East and North Africa