On UN Arabic Language Day, top CMU-Q team reflects on growth of Arabic debate
As the world commemorates UN Arabic Language Day, a team of four senior students from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, reflected on the growth of Arabic debate.
Rahaf Abutarbush, Ammar Karkour and Abdullah Shaar are all seasoned Arabic debaters in their final year of studies at CMU-Q. Together, they have competed in several international competitions, winning the Qatar national championship earlier this year. Along with new team member Waad AlKhenji, they recently travelled to Chicago for the US Universities Arabic Debating Competition, as part of a QatarDebate contingent. QatarDebate is a member of Qatar Foundation.
Abutarbush said: “For the first time, we consistently debated teams whose first language was not Arabic. That was a challenge because they were very precise with the language. We could not rely on assumptions that native Arabic speakers might make.”
For the CMU-Q team, the tournament in Chicago was important practice for the international showdown that will take place in Qatar in 2022. The team was the top scorer after the preliminary rounds.
“This was a qualifying event for the international competition, and we have already qualified to represent Qatar. It was a great experience to debate some very good American teams,” said Shaar.
The 6th International Universities Debating Championship will take place in March. The tournament is hosted by QatarDebate and will include the top Arabic university debaters from around the world.
When the team participated in the 5th International Universities Debating Championship in January 2019, they were the first Arabic debate team from Education City. Karkour noted how things have changed in just a few years: “We participated in that tournament because we debated together in high school and we really enjoyed it. Now we see Arabic debate teams from other EC universities. The progress has been really good.”
The team noted that the QatarDebate trip to Chicago was about more than debating. “This is the Year of Culture between the US and Qatar,” said AlKhenji. “Arabic debating is a way of sharing our culture.”
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar will be at the international championships in March , where students from around the world will debate, discuss and exchange ideas in Arabic about the most pressing societal and global challenges.