Emma Trentman, associate professor of Arabic at The University of New Mexico, was announced recently as a winner of a grant from the Qatar Foundation International (QFI).

Trentman’s research focuses on Arabic language learning in study abroad, virtual exchange, and classroom contexts. Over the last decade she published 15 peer-reviewed journal articles or book chapters in this area.

She is one of four winners of a QFI grant supporting research on Arabic education. QFI promotes the teaching of Arabic in a communicative way, one that supports the various modes of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, presentational, and intercultural).

The research this grant supports creates a research-practice cycle to describe, analyze, and develop academic materials for multilingual and multidialectal approaches in the Arabic language classroom. Multilingual and multidialectal approaches emphasize drawing from students’ full linguistic repertoires to expand them to include varieties of Arabic.

While multilingual and multidialectal approaches are appealing from a theoretical perspective, they are often challenging for teachers and students to implement in the classroom. This study addresses this obstacle by creating a research-practice cycle where research on the challenges and successes of multilingual and multidialectal approaches informs the development of pedagogical materials, and teachers’ and students’ experiences with the implementation of the materials influences and refines the research questions in subsequent years of the study.

The study will conduct a longitudinal, qualitative study of Arabic classes at The University of New Mexico and at a local high school. The University cohorts are expected to include 1-2 students who studied Arabic at the high school level, which will help examine the ‘speedbump’ between secondary school and university. Trentman will be assisted in this research by her mentor Heather Sweetser, senior lecturer of Arabic at UNM.

This study is a unique cross-section that looks at both thresholds of teaching and allows the researcher to look at the learner and their progression across secondary school and in a university setting. By working in a university setting with a school partner, it provides a lab-like environment for the research where materials can be tested real-time.

Other winners of the QFI grant represented Michigan State University, the University of Leeds, and Georgetown University.