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This past summer, two SLLC juniors, Kevin Butts and Rachel Mayer, received competitive scholarships to complete intensive Arabic study with the Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS).
Funded and organized by the United States Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, CLS provides fully funded summer intensive language programs in thirteen foreign languages deemed critical to US interest and American global awareness. The program aims to increase American cultural and linguistic competencies by providing scholarships to American undergraduate and graduate students of critical, foreign languages such as Arabic, Urdu, and Chinese.
Both double majors, Butts (Arabic and Spanish) and Mayer (Arabic and Government and Politics) not only share a love of Arabic, but also proudly share stories of their first experiences living in the Arab world.  Butts studied at the American Center for Maghreb Studies in Tunisia and Mayer studied at the Qasid Institute in Jordan, where both students received full funding and stipends. In a dynamic and authentic language-learning environment, these two CLS summer institutes allowed Butts and Mayer to apply and improve the language skills they had gained in their two years of study at the University of Maryland’s Department of Arabic and Arabic Flagship Program.
Juggling intensive Arabic coursework in addition to a handful of daily homework assignments, Butts and Mayer quickly expanded their Arabic proficiency levels in Modern Standard Arabic and the spoken Arabic dialect of their respective regions. In order to maximize an immersive language study environment, Butts lived with a host family in Sidi Bousaid, a suburban town on the Mediterranean coast of Tunisia. While Mayer lived in a student dormitory rather than with a host-family, all Jordan-CLS participants followed a strict Arabic language pledge outside of the classroom to ensure continuous immersion in the target language.
Despite the intensive language instruction at the CLS Arabic institutes abroad, which constitute approximately one year of college-level advanced Arabic language coursework, Butts and Mayer found time to explore their host cities and countries. In individual and group excursions, Butts explains the challenges of becoming “linguistically trapped” while speaking with native Arabic speakers; however, he stresses, “Some of the best times were when I struck up a conversation that led to a two hour chat” while on the streets of Sidi Bousaid. Through cultural and linguistic immersion Butts and Mayer nurtured their cross-cultural communication skills in Arabic, a language that feels much less foreign to them after their first encounters with the Arabic-speaking world.
For students interested in the CLS Program for Summer 2012, applications are currently available on the CLS Web site. The deadline to apply is November 15.   
Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012