Reflections from a High School Arabic Class

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We’re wrapping up our 10-week-long Arabic Out West class this week, during which Eagle Rock students learned how to read, write and speak the Arabic language. They also learned about the Arabic-speaking community in Colorado by studying the immigration process for Arab immigrants and refugees.

Throughout the trimester we partnered with Aza Adult Daycare, a community center in Denver that serves refugees and immigrants who are mostly from Iraq.

We made the trip down to the community center four times, and during each visit the class participated in a different activity. The first trip to Aza saw the students prepare materials for a cooking class. During our second outing, the students interviewed different clients at Aza about their experiences in the United States and in Colorado. The students then compiled the interview material into short podcasts to show what they learned about the people they interviewed.

Our interviews gave us valuable insights into some of the challenges that the clients face as they adjust to life in Colorado. One common theme that all of our interviewees touched on was that learning the English language is often difficult once they arrive in the U.S. In order to address this challenge, the class decided to design a few activities that would help the Arabic speaking clients of Aza Adult Daycare learn English.

We started by helping a staff member at Aza teach an English class about cooking vocabulary and cooking idioms.

For our next visit the students designed two activities to help the clients practice English in a fun setting. One Monday, we traveled to Denver so the students could lead these activities. One group of students participated in a makeover party where they helped women at Aza apply makeup and nail polish — then taught them the English words that went along with that makeup session.

The second group brought along games like Uno and Dominoes to play with some of the men at the center. The students used these games as a way to start conversations in English as well. Over the course of the trimester, the class logged more than 40 hours of community service, interacting with the Arab-speaking immigrants and leading them in activities.

After learning about the attitudes and misconceptions that many Americans hold toward Arabic-speaking immigrants in this country, the class decided to include messages to other people in the Unites States who have not had the opportunity to interact with Arabic-speaking immigrants. Here are three podcasts that were created by students in the class:

Eagle Rock student Ziyad co-taught and was a student in the class. In his podcast, Ziyad decided to include information about several people that he interviewed.

Another student — Bethzaida — discussed lessons that she learned over the course of several visits to Aza:

Maxim was inspired by a story that he heard during one of our visits to the daycare, and he decided to use the story in his podcast.

To learn more about the progressive lineup of classes here at the Eagle Rock School, please read the following blog posts by Eagle Rock’s associate director of professional development, Dan Condon:

Please Note: Music for the podcasts came from and

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About The Author: Matthew Liston is a 2014/2015 Public Allies Teaching Fellow who specializes in World Languages at the Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. He has experience in speaking both Spanish and Arabic and has worked as a Spanish classroom aid as well as with an AMA mentoring group working to organize cultural events. Originally from Boulder, Colo., Matthew lived and worked at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Breckenridge, Colo., prior to coming to Estes Park for his yearlong Public Allies fellowship.

Comments (2)

  1. Marwan Johnstone says:

    This is really well done. Some great podcasts and some very interesting information here, I’m really impressed. It would have been really cool to have taken this class back when I was an ERS student!

  2. conno ralfson says:

    I want to learn arabic, and I am wondering if anyone has experience with trying several places. Which places are the best, what are the differences in methods, what are the cheapest ones… Any comment will be appreciated

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