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A Talk with Michael McMillan

Michael McMillan, the director of the American Language center in Rabat, recently came to talk to us in class. Michael first started out by asking us if any of us planned on working in the Arab World after graduation and what are our plans to do so. Before listening to his story I had imagined that a man like him who left the U.S to come live in Morocco probably had it all planned out from the beginning. However, as it turns out, it all just worked out coincidently for him to be in Morocco.

Michael told us he had been doing urban planning for his whole life until he decided he will follow the career path he has always wanted since he was a kid, to be an English teacher. And it made me wonder that someone has to be incredibly passionate about something if they would change their life’s path mid career. What was even more interesting is that Michael actually has no knowledge of Arabic or French in Morocco despite the fact that he has been there for over a decade. He just simply decided he will not put the effort although he wished that he would. That to me was very surprising because despite the fact that I stayed in Morocco for six weeks as opposed to the years he stayed, I found it very hard to get by in the country and it was thanks to our Moroccan Darija class that I was able to get by.

Arabic is the official language in Morocco. The ministry of education in Morocco has given primary important to teaching Arabic, the official language and mother tongue of most Moroccans. French comes second because France is the first economic partner and the previous colonizer of Morocco, this fact makes the political and economic Moroccan elite influenced by the French culture along generations.

So it was interesting to listen to Michael tell us about the Increase in ALC enrollment across Morocco and across the years. This made me wonder about the Increasing role of English in the world and what role should it play in Morocco. Throughout my stay in Morocco, I have noticed that Moroccans rarely ever do they speak English. It is either Arabic or French. Could English become Morocco’s first foreign language? And will Morocco dispose the most visible sign of a colonial legacy?

Michael told us about his efforts to make ALC a safe place for Moroccans. He tries his best to make the center respect Moroccan culture to protect the students and also to prevent being accused of imposing American values and encouraging imperialism. He explained that he views himself as a guest. If he wants to make big changes he will go back to his country and make changes. One story he narrated is about two teachers who ordered a coffee in Ramadan and drank it in the teacher’s lounge. Many Moroccans in the center were displeased and complained because they felt their values were being disrespected very publicly. These are the type of things Michael tries to avoid. He’d rather be safe and sorry. It was all about the safety of the students.


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