Aidan is an alum of the 2011 Arabic Summer and the 2012-2013 Arabic Academic year programs in Morocco. Aidan has a Bachelor's degree in linguistics and a Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Currently, he is an Assistant Instructional Professor of Arabic at the University of Chicago.
Photo credit: Abel Arciniega
Aidan was drawn to the Arabic language before NSLI-Y. As a long-time language lover, he dabbled with Arabic on Rosetta Stone and began to comprehend the global importance of the language. Viewing Arabic as a fun challenge to tackle, he applied for NSLI-Y and received the scholarship twice. Arabic began to morph from a fun challenge to something that was truly a passion. Upon his return from Morocco, Aidan studied linguistics at Yale University before receiving a Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago and a Master’s degree in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language from Middlebury. Currently, Aidan serves as an Assistant Instructional Professor of Arabic at the University of Chicago and does occasional translation work.
Aidan has many fond memories from his NSLI-Y experience. From late-night conversations with his host family while doing the dishes together, to hiking the Atlas Mountains with his cohort and their host siblings, Aidan consistently enjoyed experiences where he was able to hear others’ perspectives and learn and grow collaboratively. More than ten years after completing his programs, Aidan is still in touch with his host family and cohort members and is grateful for the long-lasting relationships.
Aidan credits his NSLI-Y experience with inspiring him to become an Arabic teacher. He noted how the experience of leaving his home and becoming part of a new community and family in Morocco helped him understand the importance of cross-cultural communication and engagement. Aidan was inspired to pursue a career helping others learn to communicate with people from different backgrounds. Aidan also enjoys his work with Arabic translation, especially the craftsmanship needed and the ways he gets to engage closely with Arabic culture and literary tradition through translation. He has published translations of several different genres, and his translation of “The Defeat" by Zakaria Tamer, was shortlisted for the 2020 ArabLit Story Prize.
As a professor, Aidan often encounters students who are struggling to stay motivated when studying their target languages. He recommends that students engage with the language in ways that they are interested in for the content, people, or activity involved, and not just as a language learning exercise. One way that he practices this principle and keeps his own Arabic skills fresh is by watching cooking videos in Arabic on YouTube. He notes that this has helped him learn vocabulary that he might not have otherwise encountered and expand his cooking repertoire as well! He also urges students to seek out people and organizations who will help them encounter their target language and culture, even if they are not exclusively interacting in that target language. He is a member of the Middle East Music Ensemble at the University of Chicago and has done volunteer work with refugee aid organizations. Activities like these help the target language become something more than words in a textbook.