When you sign up for a summer Arabic intensive course, you expect to log many hours in the classroom and perhaps even more in the library doing homework. And in turn, you also expect significant improvement in the four basic language skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing. However, some language teachers argue that there is fifth skill that is just as important as the others—cultural appreciation. 
Oddly enough, I never realized how important this fifth skill was until I spent a summer studying Arabic in Bloomington, Indiana. 
Clearly, Bloomington is not Cairo. But in Instructor Mohamed Ansary’s class, Indiana and Egypt don’t seem that far away. Regularly lamenting the fact that “American students learn how to talk about the United Nations in Arabic before they learn how to communicate with an Arab taxi driver,” Instructor Ansary, an Alexandria native, makes it his mission to teach his students Arabic culture just as much as he works to improve their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.

By William Murrell





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