Mason Expands Arabic Language Program

Posted: March 31, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

After three years of high enrollment and increased interest, George Mason’s Arabic language program has been expanded to include summer courses for the first time. The Department of Modern and Classical Languages will offer Elementary Arabic I and Elementary Arabic II during “A” and “C” summer 2005 sessions.

The decision to begin offering Arabic language courses during the summer sessions was influenced primarily by the strong interest of the George Mason community, though the department expects that nondegree students from the surrounding Washington, D.C., area and beyond will also participate.

“Given our proximity to federal offices and agencies and the presence of the Arab communities in our region, I’m sure George Mason’s location helps [enrollment],” says Jeffrey Chamberlain, department chair, who also believes the university’s program will fit in well with the region’s already existing summer Arabic programs.

“The fact that Georgetown University’s Arabic and Persian Institute and George Washington University also offer Arabic summer programs confirms the need and interest in this field of study. We would like to offer the same opportunity to George Mason students and to the Northern Virginia community,” he says.

The Arabic program, which began operations in fall 2002, offers language training through the second-year intermediate level. This semester, a special topics course on modern Arabic literature in translation was offered for the first time. According to Chamberlain, Modern and Classical Languages is developing courses for third-year level Arabic language training, which he hopes to have in place for the next academic year, depending on level of demand, the summer budget, and scheduling and enrollment needs of other languages the department offers. In addition, the department would eventually like to offer a minor in Arabic to complement George Mason’s minor in Islamic studies, as well as the major in global affairs.

“Apart from the need for greater understanding between the West and the Arab world in these times, the study of Arabic also enables students to gain access to the important cultural and intellectual contributions to world history that the Arab world has made,” says Sumaiya Hamdani, associate professor in the Department of History and Art History and the director of the Islamic Studies Minor. “Arabic training also allows for better understanding of the religious literature of Islam, which even non-Arab Muslims often produced in Arabic.” Arabic is the primary language of more than 220 million people and the religious language of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.

The expansion of the program thus far was enhanced by a Title VI-A grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which the Global Affairs Program was awarded to enhance the Central Asia curriculum. As part of this grant, George Mason was able to hire Sana Hilmi, who is currently a full-time instructor in Arabic language.

For information on the Arabic language program at George Mason, visit the web site. For the summer 2005 schedule of classes, visit PatriotWeb.

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