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Students Can Study Arabic This Summer at Montgomery County Campus

Arabic, a language spoken by approximately 300 million people worldwide, is an increasingly popular language to study. This summer, high school and undergraduate students can take beginning Arabic courses at Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County Campus.

The courses are offered through the university’s Summer Programs.

Photo of Khalil Tahrawi “Arabs have contributed to human civilization throughout history in areas of such as navigation, mathematics, architecture, astrology and literature,” said Khalil Tahrawi, the Arabic lecturer who will teach the course. “Learning Arabic and its culture will help in building bridges of good communication between the Arabs and the Americans based on mutual respect to avoid confrontations.”

Learning Arabic, he said, also will increase students’ opportunities to secure jobs with the government or in the private sector, especially with companies that have business in the Middle East.

In 1998, approximately 5,500 students studied Arabic in college, according to the Modern Language Association. In 2009 – the most recent year for which data are available – more than 35,000 students studied Arabic. Also according to the Modern Language Association Fall 2009 survey, Arabic was the eighth most-studied foreign language, up from tenth in 2006. Among foreign languages studied at U.S. colleges and universities, Arabic saw the largest percentage in enrollment growth, 46 percent, since the 2006 survey.

Part of the reason for the uptick can be attributed to the 2001 terrorist attacks and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller’s call for American citizens proficient in Arabic to consider working for the agency. The U.S. State Department classifies Arabic among the 13 “critical languages.”

The terrorist attacks had “a great effect on foreign language teaching where the government encouraged all the educational institutes to expand their teaching in these languages,” Tahrawi said. “There is an extreme shortage of people who speak Arabic, particularly in the FBI and the Homeland Security establishments.”

Tahrawi said he has seen enrollment in Arabic courses at Johns Hopkins increase 90 percent since he started teaching at the university in 2004.

The Montgomery County Campus this summer will offer Arabic I and Arabic II. Arabic I will be from June 9 through July 3. Arabic II will be from July 7 through Aug. 1. Each course is three credits.

In Arabic I, students will learn the basics of speaking, listening, reading and writing Modern Standard Arabic. They will be introduced to the basic grammatical structures and a basic vocabulary.

Arabic II will build on what students learned in Arabic I.

By the end of the course, students “will be able to know more about the Arabs and their culture, and they will also increase awareness of the Islamic culture, which is reflected in the Arabic culture,” Tahrawi said.