Posted on Monday, November 24, 2008
No matter what language is being spoken, there are some things that require no translation.
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Najwan Obeidat's encouraging smile after Alexander McCartin '10 correctly named, pointed to and pronounced in Arabic more than 12 parts of his body -- including his eye, nose, ear and mouth -- told the story.
The 28-year-old Fulbright FLTA was clearly delighted to see McCartin and Willy Golden '10, the two students in her hour-long, Beginning Arabic 3 bi-weekly tutorial session this fall readily grasping what she'd just taught them.
McCartin and Golden are among more than a dozen students studying Arabic at HWS through the Self-Instructional Language Program this year that has always provided Arabic-speaking tutorial instructors who are mostly naturalized U.S. citizens.
But Obeidat's coming to HWS this year through the Fulbright program affords an important addition --a full-time presence on campus of a Jordanian citizen who personably represents her country and culture and provides extra help to her students whenever needed.
Twice monthly, Obeidat, who before coming to HWS taught English as a second language to public employees at the National Institute for Training in Amman, also facilitates an hour-long Arabic Table at which she provides crucial insights into her culture through videos, slideshows, music and her own stories and through answering questions.
"Students can ask her questions they can't Google,'' said Gabriela "Gabi" Mrvova, Self-Instructional Language Program Director. "No language book can offer what a person coming directly from the culture can.''
Obeidat, who has a master's degree in translation from Yarmouk University and a bachelor's degree in English from Jordan University of Science and Technology, loves her work here.
"I enjoy teaching my students and seeing them progress day by day,'' she said.
McCartin, an international relations major who is also studying Chinese, said learning much about an Arabic-speaking country from one of its citizens has made the study of the language even more interesting. "It's a big difference,'' he said.
That kind of feedback is music to the ears of Ed Monks, assistant director of enrichment and professional development at the Institute of International Education that administers the highly competitive Fulbright FLTA program for the U.S. State Department.
This is the second year HWS have received FLTA grants. "There is such a demand for FLTA's, especially in Arabic, Russian and Chinese languages and we have a limited number of scholars that are nominated and funded each year,'' Monks said. "Hundreds" apply for the grants, but on average, for example, he said only 40 Russian language FLTAs and about 130 Arabic are placed.
For HWS to receive grants for two consecutive years is noteworthy.
"It means Hobart and William Smith Colleges have demonstrated all the qualities we look for before placing an FLTA, including being interested in enhancing its foreign language offering and providing good support for international students,'' he said.
The other Fulbright FLTA at HWS this year is Alla Sadovaya, 26, from Kazan, Russia, who, before coming to HWS taught English at Tatar State University of Humanities and Education in Kazan where she received her post-secondary education: a Ph.D in philology and a diploma in English and Chinese pedagogy. She also holds a certificate in Chinese from the Beijing 2 Institute of Foreign Language.
This semester she is providing instruction in four language labs for first and second year Russian and facilitates a Russian Table twice monthly. Next semester she will teach intermediate and advanced Russian.
"Alla is doing very well and is a huge addition to our program,''said Kristen Welsh, Assistant Professor of Russian Area Studies.
Irina Mikhaleva, also an Assistant Professor of Russian Area Studies, who is overseeing Sadovaya this semester, agrees. "She is very creative, very responsible and it is very important to have a young person like her giving insight about Russia,'' she said.
"It's a perfect opportunity for me to get acquainted with the educational system here,'' Sadovaya said.
Obeidat agrees. "It is a distinguished opportunity in my life. I am lucky to get the chance to come to HWS and experience the educational system, culture and community in America.''