Roula Maalouf, a native of Lebanon, has been teaching Arabic at Thornton Academy in Saco since 2011 and is proud that the school is first educational facility to offer an Arabic class in the state of Maine.
Thornton Academy is no stranger to offering a wide variety of foreign language programs. It offers students instruction not only in Arabic, but also Chinese, Latin, Homeric Greek, French, German, and Spanish.
Arabic is very different from languages based on the Latin alphabet, Maalouf said.
According to Maalouf, Arabic is written and read from right to left. Its style is cursive style, and it is unique in its calligraphy.
At first, "the class seems impossible, but it's manageable," said Nick McClellan, a junior at Thornton Academy.
McClellan said he's taking the class this year because he wants to speak to his friends from the Middle East.
Maalouf said the students who decide to take Arabic are motivated students who are not only passionate about learning new languages, but also want to familiarize themselves with new cultures.
Although learning the Arabic alphabet and its writing style takes time to master, she finds that motivated students soon grasp it.
To help her students with their studies, Maalouf alters her classes to make them fun and interesting. She does this to keep her students from becoming bored and to bolster their passion for learning.
"The way Arabic sentences are structured is pretty similar to that of other languages, there are no filler words," said Connor Winn, a senior at Thornton Academy.
Winn said that filler words are implied in Arabic, rather than spoken.
Maalouf, who speaks fluent Arabic, English, and French, agrees that Arabic is similar to other languages.
"Arabic has a lot of commonalities with other languages like Spanish, Hebrew, and Hindi," she said.
For example, कुरसी, pronounced kursii is chair in Hindi. In Arabic the word for chair is كرسي, also pronounced kursii.
Maalouf said that she teaches Arabic to expose the students to the fifth most spoken language in the world.
"By learning this language, it opens up many career opportunities." Maalouf said, "Learning Arabic can be very beneficial for students who are looking forward to government employment."
One such student is Winn.
"I'm taking Arabic because I want to be a translator for the Navy one day. I'm hoping that my credits in this Arabic class will help me get into the Naval Academy," he said.
Winn said that learning Arabic is very useful in today's global climate.
For most students, Arabic is not the only language they have taken at the high school.
"I love languages," Winn said.
Arabic is Winn's third language class at the high school. He also studies French and German.
"They're all great language programs," Winn said.
Though learning Arabic may seem off-putting to some, because of its difficulty. To others, like the motivated students at Thornton Academy and their teacher Maalouf, it seems to be a great opportunity to increase knowledge, as well as to gain an edge in today's constantly changing world.