Critical Language Scholarship Program | Studying and Bringing Arabic…

Studying and Bringing Arabic Opportunities to Others

By Aubrey McMahan (Nizwa, Oman '13)

Hi, everyone! My name is Aubrey McMahan (Nizwa, Oman '13), and I participated in the CLS 2013 University of Nizwa Arabic institute in Oman.

Prior to CLS, I studied international relations, the Middle East, and German language and literature at West Michigan's Grand Valley State University. I recently graduated and am now the newest internal communications specialist for the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). I realize how fortunate I am to claim employment with the federal government as my first full-time job out of school.

But, unfortunately, there are no advanced language classes provided at my local colleges and no public Arabic-speaking groups in my community. My civil servant position in the government also does not offer access to Arabic training.

I was feeling frustrated and thought I had exhausted my pursuit of opportunities to further the language skills I had worked so hard to develop during the CLS Program…

Calling the CLS Alumni Development Fund to the rescue!

I received a CLS Alumni Development Fund award that made it possible for me to bring Arabic training to myself in a community where opportunities for it are scarce. This solved my immediate problem: my private Arabic tutor guided me through my advanced Arabic textbook this winter, ensuring that I received the oversight and oral proficiency necessary to maintain my language skills.

But how to address the bigger picture? What about others in the community who may want to study Arabic but not have access to a CLS Alumni Development Fund award?

My community center offers cheap and convenient language courses ranging from Spanish to Chinese, but no Arabic courses. I saw an opportunity to make Arabic a part of the courses offered at the center, so starting this fall, I intend to see Arabic learners there… led by me!

In this way, I will be helping other Arabic students develop their language skills and possibly start conversation clubs in the community, which in turn might serve as a suitable channel for me and others to maintain our language skills. With help from the CLS Alumni Development Fund award, I have been able to improve my Arabic skills to a level where I feel ready to introduce others to the language.

I recommend that other CLS alumni take a similar approach: if you see a scarcity of your CLS language in your community, don't be shy about trying to start something new! Build off of what you learned during the CLS Program by bringing your experiences back home. Host a cultural event, start a conversation club, or teach the language in your community or on your campus. You'll be glad you did!