January 19, 2003 - Wausau Daily Herald: Tunisia RPCV Diana Ackerman teaches Arabic to increase understanding

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Tunisia RPCV Diana Ackerman teaches Arabic to increase understanding

Read and comment on this story from the Wausau Daily Herald on Tunisia RPCV Diana Ackerman who will teach Arabic this summer for children during its annual College for Kids program to understand Islamic culture at:

Arabic classes get no takers*

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Arabic classes get no takers

By Keith Uhlig

Wausau Daily Herald


Not a single person signed up for basic Arabic language classes at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County, forcing their cancellation and disappointing educators who thought the course would be timely.

The university planned to offer two Continuing Education classes - Beginning Arabic Part I starting Tuesday and Beginning Arabic Part II starting March 4 - and hoped that the buildup toward war in Iraq would spur enrollment.

"It grieves me," said Samy Abadeer, a native of Egypt, who was slated to teach the courses. "It's very important. ... People don't know the importance of learning about Arabic. This is the language of the terrorists."

Vicki Richmond-Hawkins, coordinator of Continuing Education, thought some would be interested in taking the class because people want to understand the culture.

Richmond-Hawkins bases that opinion on an overwhelmingly positive response to a three-day symposium on Islam during the university's Good Ideas program shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Good Ideas is an annual forum for seniors, and the Islam symposium course was taught by UWMC philosophy professor Mark Brown.

So Richmond-Hawkins was enthused when Abadeer, an adjunct faculty member of Upper Iowa and Cardinal Stritch universities, approached her with the idea of offering the Arabic language courses.

"I guess people want to learn about the culture, not the language," Richmond-Hawkins said. "It's a difficult language to learn."
The Sept. 11 attacks prompted Abadeer to step forward to teach the class. The language is the key to learning the culture, he said, and it's crucial to understand the Arab culture now.

The Arabic language courses aren't the only victims of indifference. Richmond-Hawkins had to cancel courses in English literature and teamwork, as well. The numbers of participants in other courses are down, too, and she thinks it's because of a softening economy.

Richmond-Hawkins said the university will offer an Arabic language course this summer for children during its annual College for Kids program. That will be taught by Hawthorn Hills Elementary School teacher Diana Ackerman, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia from 1994 to 1996.

Ackerman said the cancellation of Abadeer's courses is a loss.

"I actually wanted to take it myself, but I didn't have the time," she said.

The course would have given students good insight into Arab culture and shown a different side than what is portrayed in the news, she said.

Learning the language is key to learning about people, Ackerman said. "I think that people don't have a lot of knowledge about Arabic culture. ... And if people aren't exposed to the culture, they're not going to be interested in it."
More about Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Tunisia

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tunisia; Special Interests - Islamic Studies



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