Arabic program expanding again



Arabic teacher Ruqayya Jarad. Lincoln’s Arabic program is growing again after a shortage of new students in 2019 and 2020.

Arabic teacher Ruqayya Jarad, known to her students as Ustada, استاذة, experienced a shortage of new students in 2019 and 2020, so she wrote to the administrators at Lincoln asking for help. They responded by promoting her class to students at West Sylvan, one of Lincoln’s feeder schools. 

Jarad says she is seeing an improvement this year, especially in her 1-2 class.

“What I like about teaching Arabic is that I teach the culture… teaching the language by itself doesn’t make any sense to the students,” Jarad said. 

The Arabic program’s education goes beyond the language. When Jarad teaches, she teaches Arabic culture, food, norms, slang and songs. She believes teaching culture in tandem with the language provides context to why certain phrases are said.

To raise awareness, Jarad believes that Lincoln has the power (as a well-known school) to set a quality example of how the Arabic program can impact the community positively. She believes that Lincoln should be actively trying to learn and understand languages that aren’t from European culture, especially in a time where Arabs are being stereotyped by the media. 

“The media [is] portraying the image of Arabs in a very negative way,” she said. “If we want to spread awareness and … bring change, we should start with teaching the language.”

Jarad believes that what students learn in class, they bring to their own families, spreading authentic knowledge instead of buying stereotypes.

“We have fun in our classes,” she said. “We watch videos, we listen to songs, we dance.” 

  Jarad believes that starting the language in elementary and middle school, similar to the Spanish immersion program, would be a great way to grow the Arabic language in Oregon and get more kids involved. With the recent loss of West Sylvan Middle School’s Arabic program, it is more prominent than ever that the language is still exercised before the high school level. Fortunately, Jarad has had the opportunity to teach around eight students from West Sylvan who are interested in taking the Arabic class. 

“We need to start strong,” she said.

Elizabeth Rouchelou is a sophomore at Lincoln High School and a student in Jarad’s 5-6 Arabic class. She appreciates how the Arabic language is different from other languages taught at Lincoln, and wishes it were offered in more schools, as Lincoln is the only high school that offers Arabic in Oregon.

“[The class] is super fun,” Rouchelou said. “The teacher is really nice, and there’s a good community amongst the students.”