Q&A: Students share appreciation for Arabic class


Alex Martin

The Arabic 7-8 class virtually makes hummus together.

Katlyn Kenney

Lincoln High School offers an extremely unique opportunity for its students: taking Arabic language up to the IB level. As the only public school in the state that has this course offering, not only is the program special, it is also well-loved by all participating students. Unfortunately, class sizes have always been small, with the program and language getting limited exposure. Forecasting for the coming school year has shown that not enough students are going to take the program going forward, which could mean the loss of the program. 

The Cardinal Times spoke with different students in the Arabic program to hear their perspectives on the Arabic class at Lincoln. Juniors Leila Besic, Dalida Farhat, and Lea Rocheleau in the 7-8 Arabic class shared their thoughts, along with seniors Anna Miller and Carson Nitta from the 9-10 Arabic class. Interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Note: In Arabic, we called our teacher استاذة, which can be written in English as Ustada

Why did you choose to take Arabic?

Leila Besic: I began taking Arabic at West Sylvan because I realized it was a very unique opportunity that other public schools in Oregon don’t have. I also knew Arabic would be helpful to me in my future, as it is beneficial in many careers and one of the most spoken languages.

Anna Miller: I chose to take Arabic because I had heard such incredible things about the program from family friends. 

Dalida Farhat: I chose to take Arabic because not only is it the language my parents speak at home, but it is also such an interesting language to learn as it is so different from English.

Lea Rocheleau: I chose to take Arabic because of the amazing opportunity and it seemed like a really unique and exciting language to learn. I loved learning the alphabet and how different speaking and writing the language is from English. 

Carson Nitta: I started Arabic in 6th grade because the language intrigued me and it sounded fun to learn a more unique language compared to Spanish or French.

What is your favorite part about the class? About the culture? About our teacher?

Besic: I really love everything about the class, but if I had to pick, I would say my favorite thing is all the amazing activities Ms.Ruqayya plans for us. Everything we do is so interactive and fun yet it also teaches us so much. The culture is amazing! Everyone is so kind-hearted and genuine. The food is really good too! As for Ms.Ruqayya, there are way too many things I love about her for me to pick just one. As a student in her class, you can really tell Ms. Ruqayya loves all her students. She tries so hard to make us happy and make class fun for us. Just a few days ago, Ms.Ruqayya taught us how to make hummus on zoom, knowing we were stressed with the workload of other classes. Even with online school, Ms. Ruqayya manages to find fun (and delicious) activities for us to help our mental health. She’s very very compassionate, funny, empathetic, talented, and one of the strongest people I know. 

Miller: The current 9-10 class has created such a strong community and I love everyone so much, and I am so grateful for this experience and this family we have created. Ustada Ruqayya feels like a second mom to me, she is the kindest, most generous, empathetic, and caring person I have ever met, and the best teacher on the planet. The care and dedication she puts into her class and to her students’ health, mental and physical, is unmatched. I think my favorite part of the class is just the incredible group of friends and the connection I will have with these people forever, and the kindness I have been taught.

Farhat: I love not only the environment and community we have built over the years but also the activities we do in the class itself. We have done many fun activities that other classes don’t get to do, like cooking food, while also learning from it.

Rocheleau: My favorite part of the class is the community we have in my class. We’ve known each other for a long time and we all have a really good time in Arabic class. Also, Ustada Ruqayya is an amazing, engaging, and loving teacher who makes me excited to come to class every day. 

Nitta: The class community is super tight and Ustada is by far the nicest and most caring teacher I’ve ever had. The culture is super unique and diverse and taking Arabic has opened my eyes to a whole new part of the world.

Why would you encourage others to take Arabic?

Besic: I would encourage others to take Arabic because it’s truly a very unique opportunity that Lincoln has been privileged with. It’s my favorite class and offers so much to the community.

Miller: I encourage everyone to take Arabic. Yes, it is challenging and can be difficult at first, but it is such an incredible skill to have. Taking Arabic will push you, but it is so worth it. We also have so much fun! We learn to make hummus, we host our annual culture night, with a fashion show, and many other incredible things. There is so much more than just learning the language that goes into Arabic, and that’s what I love about it!

Rocheleau: I would encourage others to take this class to expand the Arabic program and make an even stronger community. You get to learn a very unique language and tell everyone about what you are learning. Although the language is different and challenging, the class itself is not incredibly hard if you attend every class and try your best.

Nitta: The Arabic program is incredibly important to Lincoln, it is the only PPS high school that offers Arabic making it very unique. I also think it’s the coolest language you can learn right now. Not only is it difficult to find Arabic teachers in America but it is also one of the most prevalent languages in the world, just as important as Spanish or English. Also, there are many opportunities that open up to people who can speak Arabic because of how few people have that skill in America. 

What has your biggest takeaway from the Arabic program been?

Besic: My biggest takeaway has been learning so much about the language and culture. I feel as if I could effectively visit an Arabic country and manage to hold a conversation and live my day-to-day life there. Furthermore, the culture is so beautiful and everyone deserves to experience it.

Miller: My biggest takeaway has been the stereotypes broken about Middle Eastern and Arabic culture. As Americans, we all have this idea of what we think we know about the Middle East and about Islam, but most of it is wrong. Islam is a religion of peace and kindness, and the more we spread this message through the Lincoln community, the better. 

Farhat: My biggest takeaway from the Arabic program is how big of an impact the classroom environment has on one’s learning experience. Since the community in the Arabic program is so structured and tight-knit, learning the language is even more fun than it usually would be.

How has the Arabic program impacted your life?

Besic: Arabic has impacted my life more than any other class. I’ve learned so many things and created unbreakable bonds with my fellow peers and teacher. Ms. Ruqayya has taught us many life lessons, like to always be kind and compassionate and that hard phases in life will pass.

Miller: Arabic has impacted my life in so many ways, but the main one would have to be that I’m planning to major in it in college! I am so excited to continue my Arabic studies in college and work with other incredible students from all over the world.

Farhat: After participating in the Arabic program I am now able to keep conversations in Arabic, read articles and books in Arabic, and write in Arabic.

Rocheleau: The Arabic program has impacted my life in a lot of ways because I have learned a lot about the language and culture in ways that I would not know if I did not take this class.

What would you tell other students who are considering taking the class?

Besic: I would definitely encourage other students to take the class! It was the best choice of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Miller:  I would tell other students to take this class if you’re considering it, no question about it! You will not regret it at all. 

Farhat: Do it!! Taking Arabic was one of the best class choices I have ever made. Everything about the class is amazing as it always keeps you involved. There are also so many opportunities that arise outside of the classroom by just joining the Arabic class.

Nitta: If you enjoy learning languages there is no better language to learn. If you want to learn about a rich and unique culture there is no better language to learn. If you just want to broaden your worldview there is no better language to take. 

Why is the Arabic program at our school so important and what would losing it mean?

Besic: The Arabic program is so important for so many reasons. For one, Lincoln is the only public high school in Oregon that offers Arabic, making it very unique and valuable. As it is not offered at many schools, students at Lincoln must take advantage of this amazing opportunity! Losing it would be a tragic loss. Losing Arabic would mean losing an amazing teacher, culture, and class.

Miller: The Arabic program at Lincoln is so unique, and we cannot afford to lose it. When I tell other people that I am studying Arabic in high school and plan to in college, they don’t believe me! Arabic is an amazing language, and the class is so much more than just 1 hour of your day. Losing it means losing the best teacher and best program at Lincoln that has been so successful to its students and has provided a safe place for its students. I can’t imagine Lincoln without the Arabic program and how much it has taught me.

Farhat: The Arabic program at Lincoln is so important because it allows students to experience cultures and languages they would’ve never been exposed to prior to taking the class. Losing it would mean the loss of those in-depth teachings of many things we would not have learned in other classes.

Rocheleau: Losing the Arabic program would be so sad for me and everyone in the program currently. This has become a much bigger part of our life than just a language class (In the best way possible) and not having this opportunity would be really hard for us and Lincoln. It is a big part of Lincoln and a really interesting thing you can have on your resume or for college applications!!

Nitta: Losing the Arabic program would be a huge blow to Lincoln’s already limited diversity.