HEB students head to Qatar to hone skills in Arabic

03/09/2014 5:30 PM

03/10/2014 8:53 AM

By the time spring break ends, 15-year-old Yassir Abduljalil will have Qatar stamped on his passport.

The ninth-grader from Central Junior High School in Euless is one of 10 students in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district spending spring break in the Persian Gulf region to learn more Arabic.

“It will be an amazing experience,” Abduljalil said.

On Friday, Abduljalil traveled with fellow H-E-B students to Doha, Qatar. Ten students in grades 8-10 were selected to participate in the rigorous cultural exchange program by Qatar Foundation International. The nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., promotes international collaborations through education.

The trip, paid for by the foundation, is part of the H-E-B school district’s continuous efforts to promote Arabic language learning opportunities as part of its International Business Initiative, which also offers instruction in Hindi and Mandarin.

The students will return March 16 with better language skills, said Tamara Haddad, Arabic instructor at H-E-B schools.

“This is a very intensive program,” she said.

Students in Euless communicated with students in Qatar via Skype before they left.

Abduljalil said part of the work will include being able to share five stories in Arabic.

“We have to talk about our communities in these stories,” he said.

Bhavani Parpia, coordinator of the district’s International Business Initiative, said 55 students, all in grades 8-10, are participating in Arabic language learning.

In August, the district will open a new campus that will take the World Languages program to elementary students. The World Languages Schools of Choice program at Viridian Elementary will expose students in first through third grades to history, art and music incorporating Hindi, Arabic and Mandarin. Starting in fourth grade, students can pick a language to learn.

Partnerships are beginning with two schools in Morocco that will serve as sister schools. Superintendent Steve Chapman said the district has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Abadila Najah, a private school in Agadair, Morocco, and plans to sign one with Alamadina School in Casablanca.

The district already has sister school partnerships in China and India.

“Sister schools provide a way for our students to travel to another country, use their language, attend school, stay with host families, and build greater understanding and appreciation for different cultures,” Chapman said.

The district’s language programs are designed to help prepare H-E-B students for top universities and the international workplace, Chapman said.

“I think language is the best doorway to improving understanding between people,” Parpia said, adding that acquiring more than one language helps people build more friendships and fosters greater global understanding.

Language classes also help students become better overall learners, she said.

“That will naturally lead you to being more marketable because you are going to be more successful academically,” Parpia said.

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