Introducing Antoine Meflech, Macalester's New Arabic Professor

By Tressa Versteeg

He was born in Lebanon and moved to the United States in 1984. He is Antoine Mefleh, serving his first year as Macalester’s first Arabic Professor.The Mac Weekly: Why did you come to the U.S.?

I was studying in France for my Masters in economics; I met my future wife there. She’s from here and so I came here and I stayed. I came, I saw, I stayed.

What do you miss most about Lebanon?

My family, sometimes the weather, that feeling about it’s your country and the whole attachment to your country because I lived there for 23 or 24 years. Mostly, my family.

What is your favorite thing about living here?

My own family here with me. I have four kids, three girls and one boy. The girls are in college, the boy is in fourth grade. I belong to North East Minneapolis. Minneapolis grew on me. I definitely like the people around. It’s not a busy city. I don’t like busy and crazy cities. It’s my pace of living.

Where what were your jobs previous to Macalester?

I have been teaching in high school for nine years. I still am part time in a public school in Minneapolis. I have also been teaching Arabic and French to different organizations. [I have also worked in] accounting, personnel, and small organizations.

Did you always intend to be a teacher?

I always did it even though I didn’t intend to do it. I didn’t know English [when I came to the United States] so it was something to do other than manual jobs. I went back to school to learn what I have to do to teach. I think I was the first licensed Arabic teacher in the nation.

What are the differences between teaching college kids and high school kids?

The college kids are more self-motivated and work independently more. I would say the same about high school, but there’s an issue of students [being] all the way motivated and working independently.

What was the response to Arabic at Macalester?

The response was amazing. They opened the signup, it filled out right away. Thirty people were on the waiting list. They called me up and asked if I could take two classes. I had a class drop at Roosevelt, so now I’m teaching two classes and still have 13 on the waiting list. My classes are 21 and 18. It was an impressive response.

Do you speak any other languages fluently?

Not fluently, but I’ve studied Latin and Aramaic, which is an older language of Hebrew and Arabic.of course everyone has to speak a little Spanish. French is my second language. I’m verse in it.

Will you teach here in the future or is this temporary?

I would like Macalester to be a home for Arabic and a center for Arabic in the Twin Cities. The response is encouraging. The challenge is for the students to go through with the hurdles and the hump of the learning curve, especially learning languages. Arabic requires a long-term commitment of not just a semester or a year, but three years or more to achieve fluency. You need to have a community to practice. You have to continue and persevere.