High school students from all over the state of Oregon piled into the EMU on Friday, May 3 at the University of Oregon to attend the 41st Annual Foreign Language and International Studies Day.
The event was jam-packed with presentations and workshops – held by the UO’s own language, linguistics and international studies communities – that were designed to teach Oregon high school students about different cultures from around the world.
One of the presentations, taught by UO Arabic language instructor Faten Arfaoui, provided an introduction to the Arabic language and Arabic countries and culture. Arfaoui – who was born and raised in Tunisia – and several students from UO Arabic language courses wore traditional Tunisian clothing to showcase Tunisian culture throughout the presentation.
Arfaoui said she enjoyed holding the presentation because she loves teaching other people about her culture.
“I hope the students enjoyed listening to the new information,” she said. “I hope they got some ideas about North African and Middle Eastern culture and why students learn Arabic.”
The aspect of the presentation that Arfaoui said was her favorite was watching UO Arabic language students teach right alongside her. She said the fact that high schoolers were able to hear directly from fellow students they could relate to made the experience that much more beneficial.
Tigard High School senior, Anthony Hernandez, said he liked the presentation overall, but thought it was particularly interesting to learn how knowing as little as one or two words of Arabic is all it takes to form a bond with an Arabic speaker.
“The way you can just say a word and they’ll welcome you into their home – I found that very interesting,” he said.
Arfaoui said this welcoming nature is rooted in Arabic’s ties to culture and religion. She said it’s important to teach students this because these three factors go hand-in-hand.
“I enjoy teaching Arabic because you cannot remove the culture or religion from the teaching of the language. It’s all mixed,” she said.