A special زفـــــاف (wedding ceremony) took place in the US last week.
At Marie G. Davis Military and Global Leadership Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, an 8th grader student wore white and carried a bouquet of purple flowers. Her “groom”, wore a black vest and sneakers.
However, this was no actual ceremony, but rather a reenactment of a traditional Arabic wedding, which concluded the school’s four-day summer Arabic camp!
According to the “Charlotte Observer”, “Marie G. Davis, a magnet school for grades K-12, has offered Arabic classes for three years, making it the first public school in North Carolina to do so. This was the school’s first summer camp and about 45 elementary and middle school students participated. The camp was intended to give students a weeklong immersion into Arabic culture and language.”
The students said they found the week “fun and interesting”, adding that they all hoped to speak fluent Arabic very soon.
أُردنــــــــي (A Jordanian) who moved to the U.S. 30 years ago, the Arabic teacher at the school said they chose to end the program with a wedding ceremony to “break stereotypes surrounding Middle Eastern weddings – that not all cultures require arranged marriages.”
“We wanted to show that marriage is about the women’s freedom to choose,” he said. “We wanted to clarify that you aren’t forcing them.”
“The kids here are really smart, very inquisitive, very curious”, he said.
A rising 6th grader who played a flower girl in the wedding, said she has learned a lot this week – “from information about Cairo, Egypt to new Arabic words.”
Her favorite word? برتقــــــــال (orange), she said.
She said she hopes to continue learning Arabic to become a translator.
All elementary school students are required to take Arabic once a week, with the idea in mind that by the time they graduate they will be fluent.
“Everything about it seems unique,” Castillo added.
The program was funded by a $600,000 federal Foreign Language Assistance Program grant. The grant expires June 30 but will not be renewed because المنحــــــة (the grant) was eliminated.
But Assistant Principal Ann Laszweski said the loss of the grant won’t jeopardize the program, and the school is already looking for new grants. Next year, the school will expand the program to offer North Carolina’s first Middle Eastern history curriculum.
Ashley Williams, a teacher at Marie G. Davis and mother of بنتيـــــن (two daughters) who take Arabic, said she supports the program. “Its a unique opportunity,” she said. “My daughter) wouldn’t have learned this anywhere else.”