Success Stories: Dena Takruri

Professional Application

“In my capacity as the producer of Al Jazeera Arabic’s ‘Min Washington’ show, I use Arabic regularly to communicate with guests, create content for the show, speak to my colleagues in our Doha headquarters and my Arab colleagues here in the Washington bureau, carry out the live broadcast from the control room, and more.”

Dena, a Palestinian American, was born and raised in San Francisco. Arabic was her first language, but she quickly abandoned it for English once she entered school. Although Arabic was consistently spoken in her home by her Parents and reinforced during summer visits to Palestine, Dena lacked the fluency she desired and that would have assisted her personally and professionally.

Dena’s higher education and Arabic studies gave her numerous personal and professional opportunities; personally she is able to communicate with Arabs who speak different dialects by resorting to Modern Standard Arabic, which is common to all. Dena, through strengthening her vocabulary, has been able to communicate with a vast array of people whom she has encountered in her travels across the Arab world.

Professionally, doors have opened from small translation gigs to larger career opportunities. Dena is the producer of Al Jazeera Arabic’s “Min Washington” show, which is a weekly live current affairs talk show on U.S. politics and culture and their impact on the Arab world. Dena uses Arabic regularly to communicate with guests, create content for the show, speak to her colleagues in Doha, carry out the live broadcast from the control room, and more. Dena was hired for her job with Al Jazeera shortly after finishing graduate school and has been working on the show for over three years.

Course of Study

“Watching the news in Arabic was akin to listening to a foreign language when I was younger. While Studying Arabic, the intricacies of grammar and all the rules involved were sometimes challenging to memorize, but overall the learning process was smooth.”

Dena studied Arabic for two years during her undergraduate coursework at UC Berkeley. A more intensive and comprehensive study of Arabic took place during her MA at Georgetown University in the Masters of Arabic Studies program in the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Dena admits that language learning has always been one of her fortes in life. Despite her advantages in growing up exposed to the Levantine dialect of Arabic, Dena admits that there are also many disadvantages to missing out on being taught Modern Standard Arabic at a young age through her schooling.
Dena was awarded the FLAS fellowship to study Arabic during her second year of her MA program. The fellowship allowed Dena to focus more on her coursework and worry less about paying rent and other expenses.

Advice to Prospective and Current Arabic Students

“It’s so rewarding to be able to communicate with someone and forge a connection with them solely because you speak their language. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and believe that knowing a new language will enhance your life in countless ways.”

Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible; listen to and watch the news in Arabic, read literature, poetry, and listen to songs that originated from poetry. Build a relationship with classmates with whom you can study and practice.

Don’t let the “strategic” factor be your prime motivation for studying a language; the study of a people’s language, history, and culture should not become the means to an opportunistic end. Study out of passion and curiosity. Practice as much as possible and speak with natives.