Article By: Clark Leonard

Two University of North Georgia (UNG) teams totaling seven students competed in the U.S. Universities Arabic Debating Championship hosted Nov. 12-14 by QatarDebate at the University of Chicago.

The UNG team of Madeline Grasso, Quinn Griffith, Grey Nebel and Niki Walk won half of its four debates, earning victories against the Islamic University of Minnesota and the University of Colorado Denver. UNG’s group of Katherin Lopez, Megan DeLaigle and Casey Wagoner earned one win in its four debates, defeating Morgan State University.

Both were part of the 40 teams from 34 universities, most of which had native and heritage speakers of Arabic. The Qatar Foundation fully funded the students’ expenses for the competition.

UNG also competed against Duke University, Indiana University, Texas A&M University at Qatar, University of Michigan, and Western Kentucky University.

“We were able to hold our own in a language that we only started studying a year or two ago,” Grasso, a junior from Cumming, Georgia, pursuing a degree in modern languages with a concentration in Arabic language and literature, said. “It was encouraging to know that our Arabic was better than we thought it was. We also learned that we have a lot of room to grow.”

DeLaigle, a senior from Columbus, Georgia, pursuing a degree in modern languages with a concentration in Arabic language and literature, said not speaking English at the event helped the students grow their language skills.

“It was totally different than anything I’ve ever done. It was a really good learning experience because we don’t have a lot of native speakers in Dahlonega,” she said. “There, we were immediately immersed with native speakers. It helped my listening, speaking and confidence with Arabic.”

Dr. Juman Al Bukhari, associate professor of Arabic, discovered the competition opportunity, secured the funding for the students through the Qatar Foundation, and served as the teams’ faculty adviser.