New Language Courses, Programs Bring Many Voices to George Mason

Posted: December 16, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

George Mason will say “shalom” to a new course this spring, welcoming an introductory course in biblical Hebrew to the Modern and Classical Languages Department. This course is one of many foreign language courses added in the past few years to enrich the department and bring new voices and cultures to campus.

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew will be offered as an elective to complement the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies with Judaic and biblical studies. The class will consist of an introduction to the alphabet and the language to get students accustomed to what they would find in an original Hebrew text. The course is similar to Introduction to Classical Greek, which is also new and emphasizes basic structure, vocabulary, cultural properties, and influence on modern thought.

Jeff Chamberlain, chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, says that student interest in a variety of foreign languages has caused the department to expand in recent years. Last fall, courses in Arabic were added and were so popular that a third section had to be opened to accommodate all the students. Recently, the department also began offering Italian and Japanese, and this fall it added a new minor in Chinese. The department also offers majors and minors in French, Spanish, and Russian Studies, and minors in German, Latin, and Classical Studies.

Arabic teacher Carmen Cross believes that the popularity of the Arabic courses on campus may have something to do with current events. “Some of my students are majors in government who think it would be a good addition to their major,” she says. “The events of September 11 and other current events may have something to do with that.”

The language courses are often geared toward the interests of the students. A course, Japanese for the Business World, focuses on applications in business environments as well as culture and etiquette. In the spring, a course in Chinese cinema focuses on contemporary films depicting Chinese culture, shown with English subtitles.

Chamberlain says that the numbers in most of the foreign language courses have been steady. “That’s good news. We get a mixture of students who want to learn for a variety of reasons, and we’re hoping that will continue,” he says.

Write to at