Western will offer Russian and Arabic languages

Steven Barnum , Assistant News Editor

Western Illinois University is now offering the Russian and Arabic languages for the first time.

With the help of the Fulbright Scholars, students on the Macomb campus now have two new opportunities on their path to becoming multilingual. The Fulbright Exchange Program sent Morocco native Naoufal Elftah and Russia native Sergei Morov to teach the courses. The partnership is possible thanks to Executive Director of the School of Global Education and Outreach Jeff Hancks, and Foreign Languages and Literatures Chair Luciano Picanco. Hancks and Picanco submitted the application to allow Elftah and Morov to reside on campus while teaching.

Per the official website, the Fulbright Program is an educational exchange program that is now offered in more than 50 countries. Funded by the United States government, the program is designed to decrease language barriers in communication among different cultures around the world.

Evidence shows that the program is more necessary now than ever. Data from Quartz indicates a significant decline in foreign language enrollment from college students all across the U.S. Between the years 2009 and 2016, Korean was the only language that didn’t experience a loss in overall enrollment. The study suggests that because the economy is becoming increasingly global, learning multiple languages could yield more job opportunities.

The additions will double the options in Western’s foreign language department, which had previously only offered Spanish and French. The language choices seem to make sense. According to fluentin3months.com, Arabic is the fifth most common language spoken in the world, while Russian ranks seventh on the list. Elftah hopes to teach via the Fulbright organization for the long haul, but first, he needs to get acclimated with the Macomb community.

“I was a bit worried in the beginning, especially that I have never been here and it sounds huge for me to be in such an immense land, wondering where to go and what to do,” Elftah said. “I have already started my politics and foreign languages classes and I started teaching my class as well, which I enjoy the most.”

Though he plans to return to Tambov State University in Russia in the near future, Morov is excited about the opportunities on the Macomb campus.

“There are a lot of activities, events and meetings on campus and I’m glad to participate in those,” Morov said. “I enjoy the University life in general, as it’s not just about teaching and studying, but also about meeting new people, sharing opinions and ideas.”

Jeff Hancks believes that Western’s language expansion will prove to be popular with students.

“We are very exited that we are able to offer first year Arabic and first year Russian language courses at WIU,” Hancks said. “The School of Global Education and Outreach is keenly interested in internationalizing our campus and community. By offering instruction in these two critically important languages and bringing overseas talent to Macomb to teach them, we are doing just that.”

Hancks would like the new languages to be offered for years to come, even though the courses are available for this semester and the spring 2019 semester.

“We are hopeful this is the beginning of a continuing productive relationship with the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant Program.” Hancks said.