Weaving Arabic through my Junior Courseload

My biggest academic question: How can I fit Arabic into everything??

Arabic in math class. Arabic in biology. Arabic in French. Arabic in English. Despite my school not offering an Arabic class, I have managed to incorporate Arabic language or culture into nearly every one of my classes.

Of course, there’s my study hall period, which I have transformed into a legitimate Arabic class. Every other day, for an hour, I step out into the hallway and Skype my tutor in Amman, to practice conversational Levantine dialect. What I love about my Skype classes is that I am not bound by a specific curriculum or course requirements; rather, I can choose to discuss any topic of my interests. This means that my teacher and I have spoken about a range of intriguing subjects, from women’s rights in the Middle East, to immigration and the Arab-Israeli conflict. My Arabic classes equip me with complex, useful vocabulary and I can definitely say that my Arabic has improved even more than when I was in Jordan!

Aside from my formal class, I find that I am able to incorporate Middle Eastern culture and issues relating to the Arab world in my other classes. Just a few weeks ago, for an English project, I wrote an essay comparing and contrasting the rights of women in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, an assignment that gave me an opportunity to explore the region even deeper. Currently, in history, I am working on a research essay which discusses the role of British personal interest in the Balfour Declaration (the document that essentially established the State of Israel), and how the document exacerbated strife between Israel and Palestine. What’s more, for my IB Extended Essay, which I am doing in French, I am writing about the impact of the French language on Moroccan culture. That means that I will definitely be discussing its interactions with the local Arabic dialect as well!

And then there’s math. Here is where things get exceptionally interesting. I would say that I am good at math, but it’s not April Fool’s day so I won’t joke around. To be honest, math is definitely not my thing. I find it complicated, challenging, and pretty daunting. However, what happens when you throw Arabic in the mix? Arabic and math? For IB, we are required to undertake a large research or exploration project for each subject, called an Internal Assessment (IA). When we were first introduced to the Math IA, I was worried. While I knew I was free to explore anything I was interested in, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make my topic math-y enough. That’s when the idea dawned upon me: Arabic grammar! Throughout my studies of Arabic, I have focused mostly on speaking and communication, meaning that some of the technical aspects of the language have fallen through the cracks. But what better way to spend math class than to explore and analyze the grammar system of one of the most complicated languages in the world? And with that, I came up with my research topic, in which I evaluate the permutations and combinations of Arabic morphology, or, in simpler terms, I assess the patterns of Arabic word formation through probability. Arabic has a beautiful and complex roots and patterns system through which words are formed, and although understanding it through math is challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding because I am gaining more insight into the language!

You would think it would be hard to incorporate Arabic into biology, but, as I have realized, when there’s a will, there’s a way. Or if there isn’t a way in sight, you make one! For biology, we are also required to undertake an IA, which is supposed to be an independent lab investigation. I have always been intrigued by the idea of sound perception in plants, and as I began doing my research, I found experiments that had shown that plants had different reactions to different types of music or voices. So what about… different languages? It sounds like a stretch and it probably is, but think about it: plants respond to sound by sensing vibrations produced by sound frequencies. So if different languages have different sound systems, couldn’t they have varying effects? And with that, my biology IA topic is to compare and contrast the effects of direct verbal input in English and Arabic on Pisum sativum, or pea plants. Next thing you know, my “ground-breaking research” could prompt every gardener to learn Arabic so that they can speak to their greens! 😀

In the past, I used to complain about not having enough “options” or “freedom” in school, but as I’ve realized, if you find that something is lacking, change it! Granted, my school doesn’t provide Arabic as a course, but if I am studying Arabic on my own and conducting Arabic-related research in nearly all of my other classes, doesn’t that make up for it? I think so! I am incredibly lucky to go to a school where my teachers are flexible about letting me create my own path. I am very excited about these projects and endeavors, and Inshallah I will have some great topics to write about as a result!

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