We met with Kate Cotruvo, from California, USA, who has studied Arabic at the University of East Anglia as part of her undergraduate studies (BA Film from San Francisco State University). She is currently taking an MFA in Creative Producing at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. In an interview with Kate , we asked the following questions:
Tell us about yourself (name, origins, current degree/studies, academic background, university & graduation year, professions, etc.)
My name is Kate Cotruvo. I was born and raised in California and now live in London where I am in the second year of my MFA in Creative Producing at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I have a BA in Film from San Francisco State University, with one year of that degree spent at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. I had a long break in between my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees where I became very involved in directing and producing independent film and theatre in San Francisco.
How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?
It’s been 10 years since I completed my year of Arabic study at UEA. I can still read and write Modern Standard Arabic, but my conversation today is essentially limited to asking how you are and telling you I like movies.
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
In the early 2000’s in America, I noticed a harsh shift in attitudes towards Arabic language and culture from the media and from people around me. When I had the opportunity at UEA to join the Arabic course, I knew I had to take it. I thought if someone like me could learn a language that people wouldn’t generally expect me to learn, then I could assist in dispelling a lot of the ignorance back in my own community. (It was also extremely fun to visit Morocco and order my dinner in Arabic instead of English or French.)
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
Learning Arabic was an incredible experience. All the challenges were so exciting, from learning to read from right to left, to sounding very silly trying to make brand new sounds with my voice. It was difficult, but it was always joyful.
What careers are you planning to pursue (or have embarked on) using your Arabic language skills?
My current career goals stay mainly within the Arts, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to use my Arabic skills in the future. Today it is more important than ever to be multilingual in all industries. It is my intention in my career to simply be an advocate in the Arts for ensuring inclusivity of all cultures.
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
You don’t have to be an academic to join an Arabic course – you can simply just be a person like me who wants to make a connection with even more people on this planet. To be an excellent student of the language, you just need commitment and a bit of bravery. It’s easy to deem the language too difficult to learn and it’s very easy to be embarrassed when you are practising the brand new sounds – so just stay committed to the journey of learning and have the courage to make mistakes.