Arabic and Chinese, Critical Languages Taught at A&M-Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Hindi. Japanese. Farsi. Swahili. These are just a few examples of a critical language – a language that is less commonly taught yet has a high demand for proficient speakers. In today’s exceedingly competitive job market, knowing a critical language is a valued skill.

Thanks to a new partnership with the Fulbright Foreign Student Program and a renewed partnership with the Alliance for Language Learning and Educational Exchange (ALLEX) Foundation, the Island University is currently hosting two international instructors to teach critical language courses in Arabic and Chinese. The partnership allows Islander students to gain exposure to two important and sometimes misunderstood cultures while the instructors receive professional career development and an immersive United States experience.

Arabic is taught by Dania Al-ashhab, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant. A Jordan native with a bachelor’s degree in English Language and literature from the University of Jordan, Al-ashhab came to the U.S. to build a bridge between the East and West and prove that no matter where you are from, we are all brothers and sisters in humanity. 

“I tell my students that I’m not just teaching them the language, they have to really live the language,” said Al-ashhab. “Learning a new language opens many doors for you and it makes you a more open-minded person. It creates a connection and changes stereotypes.”

In Arabic class, students perform a variety of activities like practice pronunciation, identify vocabulary words, and apply what they learned in meaningful interactions. They also practice cultural norms and phrases. For example, when a student enters the classroom, they are taught to greet the class, and before they exit the room, they say “ma’a salama,” which means peace be with you.

One Islander taking Arabic is Dr. Charles Etheridge, professor of English and a life-long student.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about Arabic cultures and Islam, so to meet somebody who talks about her family, the food, and the traditions creates a positive image,” shared Etheridge. “I want to thank Professor Dania. She looks at you as if she’s absolutely sure you can do it and encourages you to push yourself.”

Islander students learn about Chinese language and culture from Hsin-Ni Li, an ALLEX Foundation Scholar and language instructor. Li is a native of Taiwan with a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language and literature from Soochow University, and a minor in English language and literature.

“Our society is more globalized and more international, so wherever you go, you will meet people from all over the world,” said Li. “When you teach American students a different language, you also teach them respect for culture, and with that respect, it is easier to bind people together.”

Li, who is also studying to receive a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from the Island University, explains how American students differ from students in her native country.

“Students here are more interactive with their professors and that creates an atmosphere of critical, high-order thinking, and I like that,” said Li.

In Chinese class, students begin the lesson by greeting “Lǐ Lǎoshī,” which means “teacher,” and then take part in vocabulary drills, dialogue role plays, and written assignments or exams. Arts and crafts also teach the students Chinese lore or calligraphy practice.

“I took Spanish all throughout high school and a little bit at college, so it’s cool to see that non-traditional languages are offered at our University,” shared Arthur Lung, a senior majoring in media production. “I hope to work on documentaries, particularly in west China, so learning Chinese will help me achieve that dream.”

Other languages offered at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi include French, German, and Spanish.