Dr. Eiman Mohammad Mustafawi

Associate Professor

of Theoretical Linguistics at QU

Much of the beauty in a culture or civilization is reflected in its language. Every word tells the story of individuals and ancestry, of the different cultures that have passed through a particular place. There are scholars and scientists who dedicate their efforts to studying and exploring the rich world of linguistics. Their ideas shed light on cultural elements that have long lain hidden in mystery. One such scholar in the region is Dr. Eiman Mustafawi, who through her work has added dimension to our understanding of linguistics, particularly the linguistic picture in Qatar and the different dialects and languages that exist here. So, who is Dr. Eiman Mustafawi?

Associate Professor of Theoretical Linguistics, specialized in Phonology, which I teach at Qatar University, in addition to Sociolinguistics and other relevant courses. I am interested in the Arabic language and its dialects, especially dialects of the Gulf region where I study them in relation to relevant theories in linguistics. I got my bachelor’s degree in the English language from Qatar University, and obtained my Ph.D. from Canada. As for my social life, I am a wife and mother of four children.  

Did you always aspire to obtain a Ph.D. in Linguistics?

 

In some periods of my life I envisioned getting a master’s degree, but I have never imagined that I would get a Ph.D. nor that I would go back and work in the same university I got my BA from. However, I always believed that I could contribute to the public space in a unique way.   

What attracted you to theoretical linguistics?

 

I specialized in the English language in my bachelor’s studies, and I often found myself leaning towards the linguistic courses offered by the major as I enjoyed them more than the literature courses. I like distinguishing between sounds in multiple languages, as well as between dialects and how changing some sounds in a particular language would result in a completely different dialect. In Qatar, we have a beautiful mixture of dialects and sometimes one would be able to identify a person’s tribe from the way he/she speaks.   

What kind of courses do you teach at the university?

 

I teach courses in the field of linguistics, where we do not teach specific languages or dialects, but instead theories in general. We then apply these theories to different languages, more specifically to the English language and the Arabic language.   I also teach a course in Gulf sociolinguistics at the Gulf Studies Center, which focuses on several aspects: the role of language in the society, the relationship of language to identity, the status of the English language and its relationship to the Arabic language, and how the media interacts with the Arabic language. The course also touches upon the linguistic diversity in Gulf communities and language policies in education, in addition to studying examples from some of the lesser known Arabic dialects.

I teach courses in the field of linguistics, where we do not teach specific languages or dialects, but instead theories in general. We then apply these theories to different languages, more specifically to the English language and the Arabic language.   I also teach a course in Gulf sociolinguistics at the Gulf Studies Center, which focuses on several aspects: the role of language in the society, the relationship of language to identity, the status of the English language and its relationship to the Arabic language, and how the media interacts with the Arabic language. The course also touches upon the linguistic diversity in Gulf communities and language policies in education, in addition to studying examples from some of the lesser known Arabic dialects.  

Have you encountered any obstacles in your professional or academic career?

 

I started my academic journey in Canada after taking a few years of break from academia and professional life, and I felt really scared when I returned to studying. After obtaining the results of the first exam, I regained my confidence and became the top of my class. More importantly, the university environment there encouraged hardworking and trustworthy student.   After graduation, I joined Qatar University and returned to the Department of English -the same department where I graduated from years ago. I began teaching the courses that fall within my discipline, until I became the dean of the college.  

How was your experience working as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University?

 

It was a very enriching experience. Nine months after my return from Canada, I was appointed as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs. At the time, and the administrative work at the university was new to me. Initially, during meetings I did not speak much, rather I enjoyed listening to those around me to learn and gain experience. I would often apply what I have gained from others to my work, and praise be to Allah I learned quickly. Two years later, I became Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and then I became Dean of the College.   The position of Dean is far from easy, as it comes with big responsibilities especially in our college. It has been -and still is- the largest college in the university and in Qatar in terms of the number of students, instructors, and majors. This means that the responsibility of dean is great but equally exciting at the same time. Every day you encounter new things and you have the opportunity to make a difference in the college, especially if you have many ideas. However, due to the sensitivity of the field of education, it is necessary to study all the change plans extensively before starting to implement them, as many of these changes affect large numbers of students in many aspects. Therefore, this position is truly rewarding, but with great responsibility.   After this stage, I returned to the basic academic tasks of teaching and research.  

Is there a memorable moment in your career that influenced you?

 

I was impressed greatly by Dr. Sheikha Al-Misnad. She was the previous president of the university, and she was like a mentor to me. I would often go to her to seek her insights on some matters, and consult with her on some of the challenges I faced. She was not the type that would impose her opinion.  She would propose some ideas and give me the freedom of choice. This kind of freedom gives the person the responsibility to choose and to bear the consequences.   At the beginning of my academic career, I participated in a lot of committees, they were mainly male-dominated, and at the time their behavior towards me did not go unnoticed. The way they expressed themselves underestimated my opinions, by virtue of being a woman and younger than most of them. It was a difficult stage, but I overcame it by doing more research and extensive reading before the meetings of these committees. This allowed me to participate in the discussion with more relevant content, and in this way the rest of the members listened to what I had to say, and my participations gained their respect.  

What is your advice for women in Qatar?

 Qatari girls have achieved a lot and excelled in multiple fields. My advice to them: first be patient, as we cannot fulfill all our wishes overnight, but we will achieve them through hard work and continuous planning. Second: We must be realistic, know our capabilities and strengths, then enhance and build on them. Third: Reflect on your mistakes for the future, as a way of taking advantage of moments of failure. Finally: Integrity is very important. We cannot say that “the end justifies the means” to seek a specific goal regardless of what we do to those around us. On the contrary,  successful persons raise the people around them as they move forward. In order for any leader to achieve success, they must gain the trust of their team, work with them in good and bad times and lead them all to achieve the goals of the institution.

 

  • Interview written by Fatima AL Naimi.
  • Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.
EN
Scroll to Top