By Yahya Bouhafa
Fez–The American language center in Fes is becoming one of the most well-known educational sites in the city.
It is not just because of its diverse array of language learning services, which it provides to both Moroccan and foreign students, but also for the different cultural and social activities it organizes.
The number of the Fez population who are benefiting from the English language courses given by the American Language Center is growing each year. This year, the number of students taking English courses reached 3000 students. The students prefer studying English in the American Language center despite the existence of different other language centers in the same city for different reasons. One reason, as Reda Aldrissi, a university student in the English department states, is the organized way in which courses can be taken.
The ALC provides a regular study system that takes into consideration crucial elements like the student’s previous English level and the language skills that certain students should develop in relation to his/her own English level. Also, it employs the latest techniques and books in relation to teaching and developing the English language. For Reda being a student in the American Language Center is a wonderful experience that is based on a combination of knowledge and fun.
The American Language center in Fez in known for the wonderful staff it has. The teachers in the center are a mixture between Moroccan professors who master the English language, and teachers from other different nationalities mainly British and American ones.
Kole Bowman is a recently hired Professor at the American Language Center. For him, teaching in the ALC is the best opportunity to work with different students from different places, and on different projects. He likes the fact that the ALC combines teaching Moroccan and foreign students, and how it supports language and cultural exchange between them.
He also appreciates the different resources that the center provides like the library, and the language lab, and the big English bookshop that is the first and only English bookshop in the city. For Kole, the experience of being a teacher in the ALC is just a wonderful experience especially in the city of Fez, which he appreciates most.
In fact, in the last decade, the American Language Center has also become a famous destination for foreign students who want to learn Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, or even both. As Mr David Amster, the director of the center describes it, it is becoming like a small college that many students are heading to it in order to learn Arabic.
Last year it reached 600 foreign students from all over the world. Also, the American Language Institute in Fes is gaining a good reputation for the different partnerships it is making with many different universities around the world like the University of Denmark and the University of Leeds.. The center reached this year more than 16 partnership programs. Besides teaching Standard and Moroccan Arabic, the institute is providing different courses like the history of Morocco, gender issues, and contemporary Moroccan literature.
The ALC/ALIF is providing a good learning experience that combines learning the Arabic language and experiencing the rich Moroccan culture that is for most students the best learning combination they can have. Ethan Meffold is a student from the United States of America who is learning Moroccan Arabic to help his Phd research project in Morocco. He describes how he really appreciates the Arabic Darija and Moroccan cultural courses. He also valued the different activities that represent the Moroccan culture through different seminars given by different professors and experts in the field.
Beside teaching languages, the American Language Center in Fes is becoming popular for the different cultural, educational, and even social activities it provides. First of all it is becoming very popular among university students and Fassi youth in general for the clubs it organizes. First the movie club, the idea of this club is to enrich the students’ vocabulary and their language capacity through the insightful discussion and language practice that are related to the movies shown each week.
Also, the ALC organizes a book club. This book club is organized each week and it is meant to encourage reading among Moroccan youth as well as developing their language and literary awareness. Also, the ALC organizes many cultural activities. It organizes many trips and excursions to different parts of Morocco. For example, the trip to Merzouga and surrounding cities is becoming a tradition related to the ALIF. Also, the different lessons it provides, like Moroccan cooking lessons, is very useful to introduce foreign students to the Moroccan cuisine, as well as Arabic calligraphy lessons.
The ALC of Fez gives a prior interest to social and community service. The ALC’s “Community Service Club” is the best example how this center contributes to social work. The club organizes many activities that encourage Moroccan and foreign students to be part in social work.
This club organizes many activities to support women and homeless people shelters in the city by conducting regular visits, tutoring children in the center’s languages and different subjects, as well as spreading the spirit of social work among youth. Besides its contribution in social work through its “community service club”, the ALC also supports many students and public sector teachers to develop their English language skills.
The ALC gives many scholarships to take available courses in the center for free, with the condition of academic excellence and social need. It also gives a special course for public sector teachers to develop their language skills.
The American language center in Fez was best described by Mr David Amster when he answered a question about his idea of a successful language center:
“It is a center that welcomes everyone, that is not based only on teaching a certain language. It is a center that organizes many activities and provides many services that would make the student benefit the maximum from the learning journey here.”
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