NYU Abu Dhabi’s alumni and students celebrate World Arabic Language Day - GulfToday

NYU Abu Dhabi’s alumni and students celebrate World Arabic Language Day


New York University Abu Dhabi Campus.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

In celebration of World Arabic Language Day on Dec.18, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has connected with ten current and former students who now speak Arabic as a result of learning the language during their time at the University.

Over the past decade, NYUAD has been igniting students’ passion for the fifth most spoken language in the world, and the official language of 22 countries worldwide.


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Victoria Anatolyevna Blinova: Originally from Russia, NYUAD alumna Class of 2017 Victoria Blinova majored in Social Research and Public Policy, with a minor in Arabic. She decided to learn Arabic when she moved to Abu Dhabi, during her freshman year. Blinova chose to learn the Shami dialect because she had many friends from that region. Blinova said that Arabic helped her significantly in job applications.

Gabrielle (Gabi) Branche: From Trinidad and Tobago, NYUAD Class of 2021 student Gabrielle (Gabi) Branche is majoring in Interactive Media with a minor in Dance.

As she began studying Arabic during her freshman year she fell in love with the language. Branche says: "It’s such a beautiful, poetic language and I feel honoured to be able to speak it, even if just a little bit.”

Emma Chiu: Class of 2020 alumna Emma Chiu majored in philosophy, with a minor in Arabic. She started her Arabic learning journey during her freshman year as she was determined to connect to the Arab culture. Ethnically Taiwanese, but raised in Panama, Chiu says that she was unaware of the richness and diversity of Arabic until she began learning the language.

Emma Chiu

While Chiu studied the Shami and the Gulf dialects, she focused on Shami as it was easier to understand and became further attached to the dialect after spending two months in Palestine. She said: "It's a beautiful dialect to learn and is intelligible to most of the Arab world.”

Based between Paraguay and Taiwan, Chiu teaches Arabic to third grade children every week as it enables her to continue to practise the language and she enjoys the challenge of teaching young children.

Joseph Chu: Chinese-Australian NYUAD Class of 2017 alumnus Joseph Chu majored in Political Science with a minor in Arabic. He is currently a graduate student of law at the University of Adelaide, where he is based.

Chu decided to learn Arabic as soon as he was accepted by NYUAD.

He has studied Emirati, Shami and Egyptian dialects. His language skills came in handy while travelling in the Middle East with groups in which he was the only Arabic speaker, and he now uses Arabic to help new immigrants in Australia. Even though opportunities to use Arabic daily are rare, Joseph has now become part of Adelaide’s Arab community. They have been amazed that a young man of Asian origin in Australia was able to speak their dialect.

Killian Marie Dumont: NYUAD Class of 2021 student Killian Dumont from the US is majoring in Social Research and Public Policy, and is currently studying remotely from Louisiana. She started learning Arabic the summer after her junior year of high school through a programme that gave her an opportunity to travel to Jordan. At that time, she thought it was an interesting experience in a region of the world she knew nothing about, so she decided to dive in. She has learned Moroccan, Egyptian, and Shami dialects so far and hopes to learn more in the future. She chose to start with the Moroccan dialect while spending a gap year in Morocco after high school, where she lived with a Moroccan family and studied Arabic. Dumont said, "It's definitely the most different dialect, but also a lot of fun!”

Nabil Haskanbancha: NYUAD Class of 2021 student Nabil Haskanbancha, from Thailand, has studied Arabic since his first year at NYUAD and had a strong affinity for Arab culture before he arrived at the University. Majoring in Social Research and Public Policy, and minoring in Arabic, Haskanbancha is planning to live and work in the UAE after graduation. He is highly motivated to master Arabic as he believes it will be incredibly useful in his professional career.

Nabil Haskanbancha

He has studied Shami, Emirati, and Egyptian dialects to help foster a stronger connection with friends from different Arab countries. He uses Arabic daily to read the news and chat with friends.

Katharina Klaunig: NYUAD Class of 2021 student Katharina Klaunig, majoring in Social Research and Public Policy, started learning Arabic in the summer of 2016 through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), which is a US State department-sponsored programme. She chose to learn Arabic prior to coming to NYUAD because she was interested in the Middle East and in potentially working with migrants from Arabic speaking countries.

German-American Klaunig is studying the Emirati dialect because she wants to be able to speak with and understand the people of the Gulf region and explore popular culture in the UAE. She has used Arabic while completing volunteer work in Abu Dhabi and New York.

Tereza Petrovicova: From the Czech Republic, Tereza Petrovicova graduated in 2020 with a major in Economics and a minor in Arabic. She is based in Abu Dhabi, working as a research assistant in the Social Science Experimental Lab at NYUAD.

Tereza Petrovicova

She first learned the Emirati dialect because she wanted to interact more with the UAE culture and had heard great reviews about the immersive Emirati dialect course taught over the University’s January Term (J-Term), in Al Ain. During her last semester at NYUAD, Petrovicova learned the Egyptian dialect through Egyptian media, songs, movies, and TV shows.

Her favourite expression is ‘InshaAllah’ because its use is a common and versatile word. It means ‘God willing’ and comes with multiple connotations. While Inshallah is meant to be used when you really want something to happen, it has a much more liberal usage such as ‘Yes, I will do it if I have time’ or even ‘I will probably not get to it.’

Jakob Plaschke: NYUAD Class of 2020 alumnus Jakob Plaschke knew that he wanted to study Arabic before he came to the University in 2016, because he wished to pursue a career in journalism based in the region. He started learning the local Emirati dialect as a way of showing his respect to the people of his adopted home and because it enabled him to become more involved in the city and the country.

Originally from Denmark and currently based in Tunis, Plaschke also studied the Tunisian and Syrian dialects. He uses Arabic daily, from getting his morning coffee to shopping for groceries in the city of Tunis. He takes advanced Arabic classes at Georgetown University, where he is pursuing his MA in Arab Studies, meeting with his class four times a week on Zoom.

Henry Roberts: Henry Roberts, Class of 2021, is from Australia and is majoring in Physics with a minor in Arabic. Roberts is also a research assistant in the Astroparticle Physics Lab and in the Dhakira Centre for Heritage Studies. He has travelled across the UAE, volunteered in the Levant, interned in a local Australian-Emirati company, and helped teach Arabic to visiting students.

Henry Roberts

Roberts is studying the Emirati and Shami dialects. He chose Emirati because he wanted to be able to engage with the culture and the course consisted of a three week homestay with an Emirati family in Al Ain. The desire to learn the Shami dialect came about after becoming a huge fan of the Professor who teaches the course.

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