The Ohio State University
Home Authors Madhav
Written by Madhav January 4, 2016
In my life, I would say my contact with Arab people has been quite intermittent. Nevertheless, I have always been fascinated by them and their culture. When I was very young, I lived in Morocco for three years, and in the United Arab Emirates for one year. But as this was so long ago, my memory retains virtually nothing of my time in these two countries.
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca. Taken in 1998. Yes, I was cute. No, you may not pinch my cheeks.
I would say the most recent encounter I had with the Arab world was when I was briefly in Amman, Jordan in 2013. But I was not there as a tourist, and instead, was merely grounded at Queen Alia International Airport for a few hours on one of my family’s annual trips to India. So, to tell you the blunt and somewhat racist truth, for a long time, I saw Arabs as a congregation of people who were predominantly Muslim, resided in the Middle East, and communicated with a series of coughs and “KHHH” sounds.
He is clearly Algerian.
And maybe that is why I found them so mesmerizing. All these years, I had seen plenty of them walking around, speaking to one another, and carrying on with their lives. But, for whatever reason, I kept my distance from them. So I would scratch my head and keep wondering what to expect from them, even though the answers to my question were in front of my very eyes the whole time. As high school drew to an end, I decided that in college, I would strive to get to know the Arab people better. And in my mind, the first step to accomplishing this was to learn their language.
When I came to Ohio State, I decided to not continue with Spanish, but instead, to study Arabic. So, I enrolled myself in Elementary Arabic. In one semester, my knowledge of the language has grown considerably. I now know the alphabet, along with basic phrases and words. I can read it and write it to a substantial degree, though understanding it is still difficult because Arabs speak quickly and my Arabic vocabulary is not too developed.
But above all else, I think the class helped humanize Arabs for me. People in this country have not held the most benevolent views on Arabs for many years now. To be able to part the prejudices, stereotypes, and pre-conceived notions and come into contact with the raw (and quite honestly, wonderful) truth has been rewarding.
Inside and outside that class, I have become friends with incredible Arab people. Most are good people–just as most people on this Earth are.
They also know how to eat. I mean just look at all that MEAT.
I was also taken back by the diversity I saw in my little Arabic class. Despite sporting barely two dozen students, in attendance were international students, veterans, post-graduate students, ethnic Arabs and a pleasantly surprising number of non-Arabs. The professor I had was himself Chinese–a Chinese Muslim at that.
Elementary Arabic (1101.01) is taught by (and taught to) a conglomerate of capable and accepting human beings that come from a variety of different backgrounds. The course will expand your knowledge of the language, the people, and the culture and provide you with a solid foundation to come into contact with those very things in later life. Consider taking this class for your foreign language requirements, or merely for fun. It is worth four credit hours.
If you are still not convinced, check out this video I made for the course with one of my friends in the class. I must warn you, though, it is a real tear jerker.
Until next time.
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I enjoy sketching, volunteering, traveling, working out every other month, and being brutally honest.