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Students from WKU Arabic Program to represent U.S. in international debate event

Four students from the WKU Arabic Program will represent the United States at an international debate competition next spring in Qatar.

WKU students (from left) Mollie Todd, Savannah Gillam, Jordan Miller and Alexandria Knipp will compete at the International Universities Arabic Debating Championship in April in Qatar. The students are preparing for the event under the guidance of Arabic instructor Lhousseine Guerwane (back row). (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

WKU students (from left) Mollie Todd, Savannah Gillam, Jordan Miller and Alexandria Knipp will compete at the International Universities Arabic Debating Championship in April in Qatar. The students are preparing for the event under the guidance of Arabic instructor Lhousseine Guerwane (back row). (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Savannah Gillam of Bowling Green, Alexandria Knipp of Olive Hill, Jordan Miller of Villa Hills and Mollie Todd of Flemingsburg will compete at the International Universities Arabic Debating Championship.

The annual event, which begins April 6, is hosted by the QatarDebate Centre and through the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which are both sponsored by the Qatari government.

The students from the WKU Department of Modern Languages will compete against teams made up of other native and non-native Arabic speakers from around the world in the weeklong competition.

The WKU students, all undergraduates majoring in Arabic, have already begun preparing for the event with the guidance of Arabic instructor Lhousseine Guerwane.

Guerwane said participation in this event is “a great opportunity for WKU and our whole country.”

During the event in Qatar, students will debate a variety of topics in Modern Standard Arabic. Prior to the competition, teams do not know what they will be debating about, requiring a deep understanding of Arabic. Universities spanning all continents are eligible to apply, including those from Arabic-speaking nations, meaning that non-native speakers are likely to compete against native speakers.

Guerwane applied to participate in this event in August, shortly before the beginning of the fall semester. Following this initial application, a representative from QatarDebate reached out to have a phone interview. Next spring, Guerwane will travel to Qatar to train as a debate coach. Guerwane describes debate as “a great way to learn a language” as it requires articulation and communication skills.

The students will be taking advanced Arabic courses in addition to participating in Arabish Club and debate practices. Arabish club is a language exchange club between students studying Arabic through the WKU Department of Modern Languages and native Arabic-speaking students studying English through English as a Second Language International (ESLi) at WKU.

During the fall semester, students have had debate practice twice a week but are anticipating meeting four times a week starting at the beginning of the spring 2017 semester. Guerwane described all of the students participating as “very smart and very committed.”

The event will be broadcast live in Qatar on Qatari documentary television channels as well as on Al Jazeera.

Guerwane expects the WKU team to do well at the event. “We have awesome students,” he said.

Contact: Modern Languages, (270) 745-2401

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