I spent the entire summer in Jordan working with American students, who were studying Arabic at the University of Jordan. It was a wonderful experience. I really fell in love with Jordan. Living there gave me many opportunities to meet and speak with real Jordanians, who were really living in Jordan. Living in a country is an excellent way to become familiar with current thought, life, and language.
The University of Jordan has a generic program for foreign students that is quite similar to that found at Damascus University. I was quite surprised to see that there were many similarities between the two. The classrooms looked similar, the language center looked similar, the staff was similarly busy running to and fro being most helpful - usually.
I met quite a few American and foreign students while I was there. It seemed to me, as I might have expected, that the private programs at the language center took precedence over the normal in-house courses. They seemed to receive more support and attention from the administration.
I learned a great deal about how foreign language programs are run in the Arab world. It is great that there are so many native Arabic speakers out there interested in teaching Arabic to us gringos. Unfortunately, I witnessed an unpleasant amount of paralyzing bureaucracy and careerism during my stay in Jordan in the program. I suppose this is a problem all over the world, but there is something about the region that increases this. I am not a psychologist so I will stop the speculation.
On a more positive note, I also witnessed some of the best Arabic teaching I have ever seen and some of the most generous teachers and administrators one could hope to encounter.
And wow, the food was sooooo great!
More details about my experience to come…