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The Best Way to Learn a Language

Joe Dowdalls 2In Father Wafik Nasry’s intermediate Arabic language course, students are taught grammar only. Senior Joe Dowdalls felt that gave him an advantage at an intensive language institute that he attended last summer in Tangier, Morocco.

“My professors were very impressed with my grammatical understanding of the Arabic language,” Dowdalls said. “A person who has a classical sense of the language will be understood by any educated or religious person in any Arabic country.”

As a recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship, Dowdalls spent nine weeks studying Arabic at the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. He attended class five days a week for four hours each day, and usually had five to seven hours of homework. Also, Dowdalls was paired with a native Arabic speaker to practice his conversational skills and to ask questions regarding the language and culture. One of the most important rules that he was required to follow was to speak only Arabic for the duration of the program.

“It was very challenging and frustrating to not speak English during the first two weeks, but it forced me to learn the language much quicker,” Dowdalls said.

Dowdalls participated in several trips immersing him into Arabic culture, including visits to museums, concerts and plays. He stressed that when learning a language it is crucially important to understand culture as well.

After graduation, Dowdalls hopes to pursue a career in national security. “This experience and the relationships I established will definitely open doors for me in the future,” Dowdalls said.

The CLS program is sponsored by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Center. Dowdalls was one of 30 recipients from universities including Georgetown, Brown and Yale chosen to study at the program in Tangier.

“I feel lucky to have participated in a program of this magnitude, and I hope to put my experience to good use,” Dowdalls said. "Also, I attribute all of my success with the program to Father Nasry, who has been a great mentor and friend."

Photo: (from left to right) Joe Dowdalls and Father Wafik Nasry