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Ludmila Zamah

“I like being a part of the students’ growth and journey in their academics and coming into their own as young adults.”

Ludmila Zamah speaks three languages — English, French, and Arabic — and can read Hebrew.

Arabic is the last of the languages she learned to speak.

“I tell my students If I can do it, you can too,” Ludmila says. “I am Canadian and American and started studying French in grade four in Toronto, and then my family moved to Kansas City when I was young. So, I studied French all the way through high school, and then when I got to the University of Pennsylvania, I said, ‘I love French, but I want to branch out.’ I started taking Arabic when I was a freshman in college. That opened this North African world to me in a way of knowing French and Arabic.”

She would end up studying abroad in France and connecting with North Africans who lived there. She also studied in Egypt after college at The Center for Arabic Study Abroad, a graduate program. Her graduate degree is from Penn, in religious studies with a focus on Islam and a minor in Judaism.

Ludmila teaches one French course, but her area of focus is Arabic, the No. 5 world language in number of speakers. Arabic is the official language in 25 countries and is spoken in many other locales.

“I think learning and functioning in a different language is a kind of mental gymnastics that you have to master, and it allows you to connect with people from cultures that often are different than your own,” Ludmila says. “And if you have heritage that is based in one of our world languages at Loomis, then you get to have that connection with your past as well. Whether [or not] our students continue with the language they choose at Loomis — because there are a wealth of languages out there — I hope they gain the skills of how to learn a language, develop a love for languages, and making connections with people and an appreciation for world cultures.”

Ludmila also says that learning world languages can make it easy to travel or work abroad, opening new opportunities. She is a case in point.

The Arabic program started at Loomis in 2010, and Ludmila has been on the Island since 2013. She and her family live on campus.

“I like being a part of the students’ growth and journey in their academics and coming into their own as young adults,” Ludmila says. “I live in Kravis [Hall], which historically has been an underclassman boys dorm, and you see them physically grow. Sometimes, we go away for spring break and they are like three inches taller when you see them again. As a dorm ‘parent,’ I also am part of their growth as a community member and helping them make healthy choices regarding sleep, play, work, all these things. And in the classroom, I would say it’s extremely rewarding to take someone who does not know any Arabic at all and see them start conversing freely with me around campus and with each other.”

Because she lives on campus, when the students come back from break and before classes start, she sometimes will invite her students to make Moroccan tea or a dessert together “so they get hands-on experience of using language through making something.”

And if that sounds like fun, that is what it is supposed to be. Having an enjoyable time while learning is essential to how Ludmila teaches. “Students enjoy learning if they are having fun with it, and they feel motivated to learn if they have some connection with what they are learning,” she says.

In the classroom students speak to one another in Arabic.

“They might, for homework, take a first look at some new vocabulary or new structure in the language, but when we get to class, we want to practice it,” Ludmila says. “And it’s OK to make mistakes. I sometimes still make mistakes when I am conjugating verbs, but that is all part of the process. Inherent in any language classroom is interacting with one another and getting to know each other. It is sort of built into what we do … and every day we are getting to know each other better, which is why when our students stick together three or four years, they really get to know each other. It is great to see those friendships grow.”

Remember “show and tell” when you were a kid? Ludmila often has her students bring in something that has to do with the Arabic world as a way to start a class. Turns out, you’re never too old for that learning device.

Here’s another thing you’re never too old for:

“I’m always learning from my students,” Ludmila says, “which is part of my love of teaching.”


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