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Larbi Oukada

Dr. Larbi Oukada brought an international touch—and even a touch of glamour—when he joined the Lab School French faculty in 1981. He came from Casablanca, Morocco, and, at age twenty-two, had competed for Morocco in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City—running the steeplechase.

In 1967, a chance meeting at the European trials had led to a track scholarship at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, a leading school in track and field.

“One of the virtues of the United States is that you don’t feel like a foreigner,” Oukada told a 2013 interviewer of his arrival in the U.S. knowing “next to no English.”

In the 1970s he remained in the United States and turned to the field of linguistics. He earned his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 1977, his dissertation titled Louisiana French: A Linguistic Study with a Descriptive Analysis of the LaFourche Dialect. He enlarged this work into the 1979 published volume, Louisiana French: An Annotated Linguistic Bibliography.

During his three years teaching French at the Lab School, Dr. Oukada was chosen to be a part of the program to expand foreign language study to the elementary grades. “He very successfully taught French to my first grade class during the 1982-1983 school year,” recalls Dr. Judy Finkelstein. “The children responded with enthusiasm to learning the Chicken Dance (pictured below); to singing songs; and to learning the French words for colors and numbers, and phrases of greeting and request. Some of these students went on to study French throughout their Lab School careers, continuing into college and beyond.”

During those years, Dr. Oukada gave a talk for UNI’s TEFL/Linguistics Club with the provocative title “A Noun is Not the Name of a Person, Place, and Thing.” In 1982, his article titled “On On” regarding what he called “the rather interesting yet relatively neglected pronoun ‘on’,” appeared in The French Review.

Dr. Oukada also began his collaboration with Dr. Michael Oates, from the UNI Department of Foreign Languages, and others on a text for a first-year French program titled Entre Amis (Between Friends). In 2015, the volume was in its sixth edition and had been adopted by more than 350 colleges and universities.

In 1984, the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Indiana University/Purdue University in Indianapolis hired Dr. Oukada away to begin his long career in college teaching. After many years there, he rounded out his academic days as Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Georgia College and State University at Milledgeville. He focused across his years on French phonology, on methods of teaching second languages, and on curricular responsiveness to restraints.

Building on the success of Entre Amis, Dr. Oukada became the lead author of an intermediate-and-adult-level work titled Controversies. Here readers are encouraged to read, discuss, and write about contemporary and controversial topics such as globalization, immigration, gender equality, social networks, and the global status of the French language. The volume is now in its fourth edition.


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