(This was published in 2014 for Edarabia. I was asked by Jesse Maleficio, Content Manager for Grafdom to write an education blog. During this time, I worked with ESL speakers in the Bridge Program. I am continuing this series because I love reviewing it.I will continue with the series for awhile with this blog, so be patient.)

I began instructing the Arabic speakers and speakers of other languages at Saint Leo during the summer of 2012. The Bridge Program is an academic program for undergraduate international students and gives them the opportunity to adjust smoothly to the US university environment and develop academic and advanced English language skills. They were as enthusiastic to find me as I was to find them and so close to home! I had the MA in Linguistics and experience teaching in the Middle East. Some of my Master’s coursework focused on teaching English to Arabic speakers, so I was familiar with some of their language quirks.

One of my papers focused on some phonology traits to keep in mind when teaching Arabic students. These included:
1. There is no verb “to be” in Arabic in the present tense. Ex. “He teacher.”
2. Negatives are formed by putting a particle (laa or maa) before the verbs. Ex. “He not play football.”
3. Arabic sentences place the verb first, followed by the subject. This is seen more in writing than in speech. Ex. Decided the minister yesterday to visit the school.
4. There is no gerund or infinitive forms in Arabic. Ex. I prefer, I work, I play.
5. Plurals of nouns in Arabic are often formed by internal vowel changes. The addition of an –s suffix for the plural seems almost too easy for Arabic speakers and is often omitted. Ex. I have many book.

Reviewing these points which were from my linguistics portfolio from my masters helped me when checking papers and preparing to teach English for Academic Purposes including College Reading I, II and learning lab portfolio.
It turned out that the newly hired Bridge Program Director was at the University of South Florida during the time I took a graduate class in Second Language Acquisition with her. There were many Arabic speaking students in 2001. So, Saint Leo University had a need for an instructor who was familiar with the Arabic speakers and culture. There was an influx of students from Saudi Arabia. My first semester was busy and the Bridge Department was able to more effectively prepare the students to enter the English writing classes as the reading, writing, and grammar courses helped, as did a course about American culture.

I was impressed with some of the Arabic speakers desire to do well. Many were receiving a stipend from their government for the university, so there were many students wanting to redo, rewrite papers, etc. for extra credit. This semester, I am teaching English 122 and in one section I have 6 of the Saudi Bridge students who are taking my class. They were my Reading I, II, and Lab students. Yesterday, they came to class on time, sat quietly and listened attentively. They introduced themselves to the class. Several of them were with me also for Advanced Writing I. Prior to being placed in this class, they had to pass several composition classes, and learning laboratories, listening, lecture Note-Taking and Speaking with the Bridge Program. Their writing, reading, and speaking skills have improved immensely under the tutelage of the Bridge Program. When a student begins classes with you and stays as your student for 2 years, you begin to know their strengths and recognize their progress in academic and adapting to American life style. It is going to be a good semester. I anticipate actively encouraging those whose first language is not English to collaborate with native speakers. Whether it is by presenting a short fable or cultural tale as part of the presentation component, or helping us understand differences in cultural expectations, they are an asset to the University.

Mrs. Eve Dobbins has a BA in English Literature from SUNY Stony Brook. Her MA is in TESOL from the University of South Florida. She began her career as an ESOL tutor at Berlitz in New York. Ms. Dobbins is public school certified in multiple subjects and has taught all levels of public education. In addition to her experience in public education, she has taught ESOL strategies for elementary education teachers at the collegiate level. Ms. Dobbins also has teaching experience at multiple community colleges before accepting her current position at ST. Leo. Her experience does not stop at U.S schools, as she has also taught at different levels in South Korea, France, and most recently the United Arab Emirates. When not teaching, she enjoys baking cupcakes (she was the co- owner of Cupcake Cache LLC in Tampa), reading, and writing a children’s book about desserts of different countries.