Living Language with Muhamed Al-Khalil

Muhamed Osman Al-Khalil, Director of Arabic Studies, Professor of Practice of Arabic Language, NYUAD

NYUAD Director of Arabic Studies Muhamed Osman Al-Khalil is doing so much more than just teaching a few foreign language courses; he is helping both students and scholars navigate their long-term pursuit of both the Arabic language and culture. "The student of Arabic is a dedicated one who understands that studying this language is a lifelong vocation. You cannot just take a couple of courses or read a few books. Passion is essential," he eagerly points out. Indeed, it is Al-Khalil's own passion for language that has led him to engage in a multitude of active projects that continue to instill this value in others.

After excelling in English language and literature at Damascus University in Syria, Al-Khalil was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to the United States, through which he gained a master's degree while focusing on methodologies of teaching. It was during this time that something clicked. "Studying the way that English was being taught made the deficiencies in the way Arabic was being taught clear to me. English is a well-serviced language, and though Arabic is a great language with a great heritage, it was faring poorly." After obtaining a PhD in modern Arabic literature from the University of Arizona, Al-Khalil taught throughout the UAE in addition to running a study-abroad program in Jordan.

Now at NYUAD, Al-Khalil is teaching several language courses while also working on half a dozen other projects that help nurture passion and understanding for Arabic language and culture. In addition to serving as a consultant for The Marhaba! Project, a groundbreaking high school Arabic curriculum under development at Boston Public Schools with the help of an American federal grant, Al-Khalil also writes for a number of news magazines and media outlets about the Arabic language. His latest piece is featured in the spring edition of Shawati' Magazine, a bilingual Abu Dhabi-based publication.

Al-Khalil is also expanding his dissertation on Nizar Qabbani, one of the most well-known contemporary Arab poets, into a comprehensive biography. An anthology of the depictions of America in contemporary Arabic literature is in the works, too. And as the NYUAD student body expands, so will another long-term project of Khalil's — an Arabic corpus that he describes as "an up-to-date dictionary covering dialects both standard and vernacular" that will be compiled with the help of select students.

"Although Arabic is incredibly rich and wide in scope, the language presents some daunting obstacles and challenges," Al-Khalil admits. He works to lessen these obstacles each day — teaching both elementary and intermediate Arabic courses, nurturing advanced students in customized study, and leading courses for interested NYUAD staff members. In the future, Al-Khalil hopes to expand the curriculum to include more dialects and advanced courses.

It is with these obstacles in mind that he continues his extensive work both inside and outside the classroom. Fortunately, Al-Khalil has already found some excellent peers and students to help him. "The Arabic instructors and the students I teach have that essential passion."