Film Study, Community-based Learning, and K?s?wiy?n bil? ?ud?d

By Michael Ernst
Submitted to Session P4840 (Community Based Learning (CBL), An Instructional Methodology for Attaining Professional Proficiency in Arabic: The CASA Experience, 2017 Annual Meeting
Over the past fifty years, the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad (CASA) has proven to be a model of nuanced Arabic language pedagogy that has equipped generations of American students with the tools required to be both successful researchers and talented Arabic speakers. CASA’s year-long intensive immersion program is one of the few remaining opportunities for students to study Arabic abroad for an extended period of time with financial support. Beyond the limitations of a conventional classroom-based approach to learning, CASA’s numerous extracurricular components—such as weekly Culture Program excursions—and the community-based learning initiative “K?s?wiy?n bil? ?ud?d” provide students with unique opportunities to activate their knowledge of Arabic in real time through direct engagement with journalists, writers, historians, cultural figures, and even politicians. In this presentation, I will discuss my own experience as a 2015-2016 Center for Arabic Study Abroad Fellow at the American University in Cairo. First I will focus my comments on the cultural excursions organized for students in the program, highlighting how a meeting we had with a local newspaper’s editorial staff prepared me to undertake an independent project in the spring semester. Second, I will discuss the project I undertook for the spring semester course “K?s?wiy?n bil? ?ud?d,” entitled “al-Gharib fi as-Sinima” (The Strange in Cinema), which is an online platform designed to allow Arabic students to simultaneously gain cultural knowledge and linguistic proficiency through the study of lesser-known Egyptian films. In conclusion, I will discuss how CASA’s attention to my own motivations as a student of Arabic, especially through the K?s?wiy?n bil? ?ud?d spring semester elective, have prepared me for my future career in academia. Whether it was while undertaking my first archival research project at Dar al-Kutub for a class on Modern Arabic literature or visiting with filmmakers to track down screenplays I needed for my blog, CASA has prepared me unlike any other program to carry out my current research on the history of Cold War cultural imperialism and its effect on the development of national cinemas in Egypt and Syria.