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Concordia Language Villages: Ohio language students benefit from Arabic Camp

Nine students from Cincinnati, Ohio, pose for a picture before their lunch Wednesday at the Concordia Language Villages Arabic Camp. The students fundraised through the 2010-1022 school years to fund their week at Concordia. Pioneer Photo/Delaney Daly

Imagine becoming immersed entirely in an Arabic culture. Learning to adjust to a different language, different food and a different way of thinking can be a challenging process for most people.

This, however, was the dream of nine youths from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Since December 2010, nine kids from grades seven-11 worked diligently to raise enough money to attend language camps at Concordia Language Villages.

The group represents two Cincinnati public schools. Three prospective seniors hail from Clark Montessori, while the six others go to the Academy of World Languages.

Established more than 25 years ago, the Academy of World Languages offers extensive diversity in different cultures, providing students with the choice to learn Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. English as a second language is also taught.

Half of the school's population is international students, representing 42 countries and 38 languages.

"We want to continue the bridge to foreign language and foreign understanding," said Jacquelyn Rowedder, the principal of Academy of World Languages.

Indeed Rowedder began working towards a language immersion program for her students after her school received the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) Grant five years ago.

This school year, the continuation of language immersion became a reality for Cincinnati students.

Rowedder worked this year with Marie Kobayashi, curriculum manager of the Cincinnati Public School District, to connect with Concordia about a one-week immersion for Cincinnati students.

"Everybody talks about Concordia," said Rowedder, "They were very helpful with us."

Although they received school and district grants, the nine students raised their own money to attend the Arabic Language Village, Al-Waha.

Rowedder said that right away she had commitment from parents and kids to pursue the week-long course at Concordia.

Despite the car washes, raffle prizes, fundraisers, and bake sales that the students worked ithroughout the last school year, they were impressed with Al-Waha.

"We met new people, and we get along well," said Amira, assuming her new Arabic name. "Whether you want to learn or not, you learn. But it's worth it."

Entering the nin9th grade, Amira had just graduated from AWL.

Aliya, an eighth grader, enjoyed the different climate of Minnesota and her continued instruction in Arabic.

"I plan on coming back next year," she said.

Kareem, also an eighth grader, agreed.

"I want to come back," he said, "I love this place."

For some, Al-Waha spurred an interest in pursuing the Arabic language and culture in a career.

Recently back from a trip to Morocco, Amal, a senior at Clark Montessori, said she wants to learn more Arabic so she can go back to Morocco next year with more knowledge of the language.

"I want to pursue international business and language," said Ali, who is also a senior at Clark Montessori.

Ali believes that instruction in Arabic will help him gain a better understanding of the global market.

The nine students enjoy the camp aspect of language immersion: songs, sports, counselors and other activities.

"This is a huge step for us," said Rowedder, "We will be continuing this next year."

Cincinnati is no stranger to foreign language.

"We offer Spanish dual immersion programs to students as well," said Kobayashi. 'The city has a long tradition of teaching foreign languages."