Learning Arabic at LAU: a unique cultural experience
Despite the instability in the region SINARC still manages to fully immerse its students in the Lebanese culture through a rich and well-thought-out program.
The Summer Institute for Intensive Arabic Language and Culture (SINARC) at LAU had 35 students enrolled this summer. While the program includes language classes in both Lebanese dialect and formal Arabic, its unique asset throughout the years has been its emphasis on full immersion in the Lebanese culture.
SINARC Director Mimi Jeha explains that “despite the crisis in the region, LAU’s program is well-known and has a strong reputation both in Europe and in the U.S. It is truly a joy to receive these students from all over the world. We try to help them, even outside the classroom, to make the most of their experience in Lebanon.” The program has grown considerably since Jeha took on the role of director of SINARC, enriching it with cultural aspects, expanding the language courses to include Arabic tailored for media, and promoting LAU’s reputation abroad.
The courses offered this summer were elementary Arabic, upper elementary Arabic, two intermediate Arabic, two advanced Arabic, and intensive Lebanese dialect divided into three levels according to fluency.
Fifteen-year-old Serene Baab, an American student of Lebanese decent who took elementary Arabic believes the professors are outstanding. “My teacher knows how to communicate and makes the class so interesting that you are motivated to learn,” she states. Baab hopes to return next year to continue learning the language.
Kelvin Odelen, 25, a student at the University of Oslo in Norway, enrolled in SINARC to complete his bachelor’s degree in Arabic. “It is my first time in Beirut,” he says. “The classes are very well structured but for me what sets the course aside are the interesting seminars.” He chose the program on the recommendation of his university peers in Norway who had attended it in previous years.
The SINARC seminars aim to provide students with insight into Lebanese history and current affairs. This summer, students showed noticeable interest in one particular seminar dedicated to what it means to be a Syrian refugee in Lebanon.
As part of the full cultural immersion that distinguishes the program, the Institute organizes weekend excursions to tourist sites and famous landmarks throughout Lebanon, and holds film presentations on various aspects of Arab history, society, politics, and culture. “The students are very quick to adapt to the country and the culture in Lebanon,” says Tarif Bazzi, one of the professors who are encouraged to take on an active role by accompanying students on trips across the country. Another professor even hosts a traditional breakfast at her home in the northern town of Bishmizzine.
For seventeen-year-old Daniel Bring, from New York, the experience lived up to his expectations. “I had been accepted at Harvard for a summer language program but I decided to come to LAU in Lebanon where I can immerse myself in the culture.”
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