Dana BaniHammad: "Whenever I can, I like to speak Arabic with others"

Photo by Jen Siska; Banner design by Neil Freese.

October 23, 2023

Tell me about yourself and what languages you speak.
I am a double major in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and Political Science and I speak Arabic, English and a little bit of Turkish. I took Turkish at Berkeley.

What made you decide to study a language at Berkeley?
I think multilingualism opens doors for so many opportunities. For example, I worked on research over the summer and I was able to translate sources that were in Arabic to English. I'm studying political science and so a lot of the sources in Arabic are very different from the sources in English. Considering so many sources in political science are by Western sources, I think it's beneficial and necessary to translate Arabic sources for access and common understanding.

What languages did you grow up speaking?
I grew up speaking Arabic. My parents are from Bahrain, which is in the Middle East. I grew up speaking Arabic and I learned Arabic and English throughout primary, middle, and high school. In high school they really pushed us to embrace and be proud of speaking Arabic. So whenever I can, I like to speak with others. If I hear someone on the street speaking Arabic I'm like (makes waving gesture), Oh my god! I love it.

What advice do you have for students who want to study another language at Berkeley?
I would say do it. Take it easy on yourself. Yes, it's hard sometimes, but you have to push through because the outcome and the reward at the end is so much bigger than the struggles. Just have patience, and you're gonna get there. It'll feel amazing.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I hope to work in a non-governmental organization or for the United Nations because I speak Arabic. I'd like to help folks that are navigating the legal system who do not speak English very well. I'm very interested in law, so I want to go into law and I feel like knowing different languages is going to be really useful.