A group of gifted Iowa high-schoolers will get a jump on their college education and an international career opportunity with the “Foreign Language Institute” at the University of Iowa. Jan Warren is student program administrator for the Belin Blank Student Center. It’s being presented in connection with the school’s international programs, and is the first time this language institute’s been offered, with its first language to be Arabic. Mona Sari (sorry) teaches linguistics and the Arabic language, and says many University students take it as part of their academic requirements. If they’re taking religion, international studies or political studies they may choose Arabic to help add a world dimension to their studies, or they can choose it to fulfill a foreign-language requirement in place of the usual French or Spanish. Sari says the sixteen 9th through eleventh-graders taking part in the summer language institute had to apply and be recommended by their teachers. She says there are both language and culture components of the summer program, with classroom lessons in the morning and visiting speakers or field trips in the afternoons. They’ll also watch documentaries, come up with questions for the visiting speakers, and cooks will come to prepare foods and explain the different cuisines from parts of the Arab world. Sari says history, climate, religion and past invasions by other cultures all influence local cuisine and explain its ingredients and recipes. Students will visit Iowa’s “Mother Mosque,” and also a Greek Orthodox church in Cedar Rapids.The priest at the church has told her sometimes parts of the service are performed in Arabic, and the students will see the Islamic Center and learn how both it and the Orthodox Christian church were built by a collaboration among Cedar Rapids’ Lebanese immigrants. Even if a high-schooler doesn’t plan to go into world trading or translation work, Sari says learning Arabic will teach them about Muslims and Arabs in this country, as well as helping them learn other languages. Sari says when she teaches Arabic she tries to tie in examples from French and Spanish, which she also speaks, and compares them to English because, though things on the surface may seem foreign and weird, “Underlyingly, it’s the same thing.” The Foreign Language Summer Institute gets underway tomorrow (Sunday) at the University of Iowa and runs through June 18.
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