Jacob is from Malaga, New Jersey and participated in the 2012 Arabic summer program in Morocco.

Jacob is using his language skills to help the next generation learn Arabic.

After returning from the NSLI-Y Arabic program, Jacob carried on his Arabic studies at high school during his senior year. He was so determined to continue studying that he had to drop his lunch period to fit Arabic into his tight schedule! It was during this time that his knack for Arabic linguistics began to take hold and the language became, “something I could really do, be passionate about, and enjoy.”

Building on this, Jacob made a concerted effort to apply to universities with a strong Arabic language program.

He decided on the University of Maryland’s Arabic Flagship program. There he received a crash course in ‘language bootcamp’ during a pre-Freshmen summer intensive program that taught a year’s worth of Arabic in just 9 weeks. This is where he “broke past the learning curve”. Starting in the fall, Jacob was already enrolled in 300 level classes, the only freshman to do so.

Jacob majored in Arabic Studies where his classes included contextual analysis, looking at source materials and identifying cultural ideologies, and Media and Arabic, where he dissected Egyptian cinema and mastered the tricky Masry (Egyptian) dialect.

image of jacob standing with a peer in a suit

After graduation, Jacob was unsure of his path forward with the Arabic language. By chance, his high school’s Arabic teacher had retired the year prior and the school was in need of a new teacher. There was a good chance they would close the program due to the scarcity of Arabic teachers in the area.

Jacob “decided to give it a go” and try his luck as a high school teacher. He describes his first year teaching as a ‘huge learning curve’. The school demographic, an all boys school, added an interesting dynamic, which Jacob explains, “boys are competitive and will get on each other if they make mistakes. I had to grow into the teaching role, learn to be confident and firm, but make sure students feel comfortable where they are at.”

Jacob surprised himself with how teaching lead him to re-learn the language and analyze it in a completely new light. “I had to look at the grammar from a whole new perspective and find out why things made sense for someone who is learning it as a completely new concept.”

Now that Jacob has two years of teaching under his belt, he has some advice for fellow NSLI-Y alums considering following a career in teaching a foreign language: “keep the passion you have for the language alive. Passion is how you sell the language to your students, even the ones that may not be as enthusiastic. Also, think about how you can convey the language to students of all learning backgrounds and levels.”

As Jacob rounds the corner into his third year of teaching, he is encouraging the next generation of Arabic learners. Thus far, two of his students have gone on NSLI-Y programs.