Posts Tagged ‘The peace corps volunteers in jordan’

Peace Corps Volunteers in Jordan: Do they have the time to learn Arabic? ***

*** Warning: This post might contain “unintentionally offending” information. 
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08.09.2009 ***

*** [Correction: This post was titled, “Peace Corps Volunteers in Jordan: Are they obliged to learn Arabic?”. After arriving at information Moabite didn’t knew or think of, Moabite quickly came up with this new, considering and rationale title. But why?


Peace Corps volunteers receives very low salaries. Moabite couldn’t believe it in the beginning! It is because, as one volunteer said, “this is what it means to volunteer”. Apparently, another thing, an invisible one, that volunteers have to sacrifice for; time. They don’t have any time to spare. They are always busy.

Imagine yourself, not only single and living away from your parents, but also, having to teach in schools in foreign countries. Moreover, when you go back to  your rented house, you have to prepare for the next day, prepare reports to your leaders, do the house chores, and buy house needs. Psychologically speaking, homesickness, loneliness, maybe insecurity… etc. Do you thing that you can tolerate being asked to study and read books? How can you save time to study? Even if you had spare time, wouldn’t you like to enjoy yourself?]

During the English Village activity in Mu’tah University, I had the honor of being taught by four American volunteers. They taught us English for absolutely nothing. I learnt many new words, idioms, customs, and songs.

The English lessons of the volunteers can be compared to those you get in the British Council in Amman. Last year, I paid more than 190 JD for a forty-hour course in this famous English Teaching Center. Personally, I believe that the kind of lessons I got in the English village is much interesting, joyful, and informative than those in the British Council. Above all, they are free!

Peace Corps, as I understood, is a governmental American Organization. It is funded by the American government. Peace Corps works in many countries around the world. In the Middle East, The Peace Corps only works in Jordan. Lucky we!

You can read more about Peace Corps mission described by one of its volunteers in Smakieh, Karak, Jordan; Chris.

The following is Microsoft Encarta’s explanation of The Peace Corps:

Peace Corps, United States agency created to promote world peace and friendship… The volunteers help communities in developing countries improve their social and economic conditions. Each volunteer commits to serve for a term of slightly more than two years… Volunteers serve in more than 100 countries.

The September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 increased awareness of the poor image of Americans in some foreign countries. In response President George W. Bush pledged to increase funding for the Peace Corps, and the organization embarked on an expansion program.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

When a volunteer goes back to the USA, he\ she will probably be teaching his\ her fellow Americans about the place he visited. Wouldn’t they? So, will the volunteer be required to teach the language of the visited country to those interested? Will this organization require its volunteers to become some kind of Arabic teachers? Or, does the volunteer’s mission immediately ends when he leaves back?

So, is learning Arabic a part of the volunteers’ mission? In other words, is the volunteer both learning about the people and their language? Is he only learning about their political points of views, customs, traditions, religions? Or is he learning their language as well? In the beginning, I thought so. Now, I think I was wrong. Learning Arabic isn’t obligatory. It seems that it is optional.

In other words, is learning Arabic a primary goal of Peace Corps volunteers in Jordan? Now I will quote from the above wrongly expressed paragraph, “Now, I think I was wrong. Learning Arabic isn’t obligatory. It seems that it is optional.”

Why? I don’t know how to say it, but I didn’t notice that my teachers are learning care to learn anything about Arabic language. For example, when a student asks for the meaning of a word, the teacher gave the translation in English. The volunteer wouldn’t ask the student if he knew the meaning in Arabic. If they knew the Arabic translation of the word, wouldn’t they have said it? Could it be a coincidence that they knew not the translation of any word? They just do the English translation and continue the lesson.

[Which teaching method is better: To spoon-feed the student the information or to guide them to arrive to the information alone?
Although students will have more hardship in the second method, but probably, information learnt this way is longer remembered. After all, a proverb says, “Easy come, easy go!”.

Back in School, the many English teachers who taught me used the first method. Whenever encountering a new English word, my teachers immediately gave us the Arabic Translation of the word. But, wouldn’t students remember the meaning longer is the teacher, for example, put the new word in a sentence? Explained what the word meant in English? Or most simply, gave a synonym of the word? Certainly yes. I don’t know why they didn’t do it. Could it be that it is because school students are not mature enough to arrive at information by themselves?

It is as if one of the volunteers is saying, “The last thing you should do is give the Arabic translation!” Another volunteer might add, “Best thing is to let the student arrive at the meaning!” Can’t disagree! All respect!

Sorrowfully enough, I am ashamed of not having made the above analysis. I didn’t know that, quote, “the teacher gives the translation in English” was intentional. The volunteers wanted us to arrive at the meaning by ourselves! But, why didn’t my English teachers use the same method? I know one certain thing, if they used this same method of explaining the meaning of new words, I wouldn’t have made the above wrong, and hopefully, not offending conclusion. ]

Moreover, the teachers never asked us what the Arabic translation of a certain word was. Even for the sake of Curiosity!

[ Would you love a teacher who digress in their lesson? i don’t!]

Last but not least, in once occasion, a volunteer who had been in Jordan for 2 years, wanted to write an Arabic word on the board. This word starts with the letter (ع). To my amazement, the volunteer didn’t know how to write this letter. In still another occasion, a volunteer wanted to write the Arabic translation of Peace Corps (فرق السلام). The volunteer wrote, (فرق للاسلام). Which translated into English means, “Corps for Islam”. This volunteer has been in Jordan for 2 years. Still, the volunteer doesn’t know how to spell the name of their organization in Arabic!

If you were in the place of one of the volunteers, would you care to have the time to learn Arabic? Personally, if I visited a new country, I would love to learn the language. Why not? It is much easier to learn a language in the place where it is spoken.

But what about the Peace Corps volunteer in Smakieh? is Chris interested in learning Arabic? He says that he knows how to speak 5 languages. Amazing! Could learning a sixth language be hard for such a person? “I will call you on the 20th!” Chris told a student of the English village in Mu’tah University. Does this mean that he is going to learn Arabic?

N.B. 09.09.2009 12:10 AM 
Honestly, I have been editing this post for more than two and a half hours. I am sorry for how inconsiderate and illogical I was when I wrote about something without getting more information about it.
I made some wrong conclusions. I admit it!

Lessons learnt:

1. Don’t make generalization!

2. Research a subject you want to write about!

3. How you were taught in school, or how you learnt to treat others, how you learnt to eat, drink, or act isn’t necessarily perfect!
This is seen in my seeing the teaching method of my English teachers back in school as being a standard to compare other methods of teaching to! This is why I judged the teaching method of the American volunteers as an indication of their … Arabic! You choose the words!

What is the plural form of Corps? Is it Corps’?

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