The Summer Institute for Languages of the Muslim World 2015

By Allison McIlvain

The 2015 Summer Institute for Languages of the Muslim World (SILMW) is an intensive language institute at the University that allows participants to experience and learn about the culture and languages of the Muslim World.

Arabic, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Uzbek and Wolof are the languages that are offered at this year’s institute. The U.S. Government has declared many of the languages offered at SILMW as Critical Languages.

Dr. Eman Saabah, director of SILMW, said, “some of the languages have been offered since the institute was established and some of them depend on enrollment and demand of the students.”

Lydia Catedral, the graduate assistant for SILMW and an Uzbek language instructor for the institute, said, “I got involved with the institute when I asked if there was a possibility to teach an Uzbek class. I had some students interested in learning Uzbek and the program agreed to start an Uzbek class as a result.”

The annual eight-week institute is divided into two four-week semesters and allows students to earn up to 10 credits from the University.

“It is a continuation of what we offer during the academic year, but it is framed like an institute,” said Saabah.

The institute is open to students of the University, as well as students from other universities and high schools. This is the seventh year that the institute has been offered.

Saabah said, “most of the students enroll in the summer with zero experience.”

SILMW offers not only instruction, but cultural activities and language practice opportunities. Watching and putting on performances, conversation tables, cooking classes and movie nights are just some of the activities offered.

“The thing I really appreciate about the institute is the holistic approach to language learning, the attempt to teach culture through activities that engage students through the use of different mediums such as cooking classes, movie nights, conversation tables, and for the first time this year: a field trip to cultural centers in Chicago,” said Catedral.

The SILMW website says, “Our goal is to provide students with the opportunity to learn the diverse languages of the Muslim World to set them apart in the international work force.”

“It is great from a professor’s point of view. When you are interacting with a student for that many hours he or she becomes more than a student. You become much more involved in the learning process,” said Saabah.

Saabah said, “It is a very excellent opportunity for students who do not study abroad. It is the closest to a study abroad opportunity that you can get on campus.”