Speaking My Language
It’s no surprise that Camille Harrison, associate professor of modern languages, is passionate about the spoken word. And her love of language has led to some pleasant surprises.
Born in Morocco, I am the first of eight children, the daughter of illiterate parents – an Arab mom and a Berber dad. I grew up in a household where Arabic was spoken on a daily basis and Berber when my dad’s family visited.
Being a citizen of Morocco, a francophone country, my father insisted early on that I read and write in French, like the children of more educated families. This was born out of necessity. As the oldest child, I had responsibility for reading, writing, and translating for my parents as well as instructing my seven younger brothers and sisters. My mother also took a practical approach for me to learn Arabic and French as she would sew dresses for the neighbors who were willing to tutor me in either language.
At the age of 17, again encouraged by my parents, I began learning English. Soon after, I left Morocco to study, live, and work in France for the next 17 years.
Because of language, I met my husband in my second home, Montpellier, France. Our paths crossed after he posted an advertisement for a French tutor at the “boulangerie” in the small village where I lived. He was from Chicago, and we soon married and moved to the U.S.
At heart, I am a teacher. In my life I have grown to value the great diversity of culture and languages. More importantly, there is a common humanity, which is a shared belief here at Oakton. I do my best to instill this in my students, along with my love of the Arabic and French languages.
Professor of Modern Languages