Modern Languages and Comparative Literature's own Dr. Sassan Tabatabai has published an...
Why Study Arabic?
A Critical Language. Arabic speakers are in great demand. The U.S. State Department has named Arabic a “critical language,” creating scholarships for language study in the U.S. and overseas. Practical and curious about the world, BU students feel that knowing Arabic will give them a career edge in such fields as diplomacy, intelligence, business, engineering, international development, and academia.
A Solid Program. The Arabic program at BU covers four-plus years of modern standard Arabic. The program is structured to get you speaking in Arabic as quickly as possible (this is called the communicative method); by the end of the first year, classes are conducted primarily in Arabic. We use the most widely taught textbook series, Al-Kitaab, supplemented with a variety of authentic materials (newspapers and magazines, songs, advertisements, menus, YouTube videos, etc.) to make the cultural context come alive.
A Lively Approach. Our program emphasizes all four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing). As a beginner, you’ll start by learning to write the letters and distinguish the sounds of the Arabic alphabet. Many sessions zoom in on practical vocabulary and commonly discussed topics. As you advance, you’ll learn the grammar and vocabulary you need to maintain an interesting college-level conversation in Arabic. Our upper-level language courses use a huge array of authentic sources from the Arab world (Arabic online media, novels and poems, films, blogs, etc.). We offer advanced Arabic in topic-based courses such as Translation, Media Arabic, Arab Cultures, and Arabic Literature. We also teach Levantine Colloquial Arabic and offer a special introductory track for “heritage” learners from Arab backgrounds.
What Our Students Say
“Amazing program with teachers that really care about helping the students; I feel like I’m learning the language at a rapid pace and want to continue.” –Jessica Hotaling ’16
“I enjoyed all my Arabic classes and have great respect for the professors, and I have many friends in the class. The professors are outstanding and do a great job attending to each student’s individual needs.” – Karan Varindani ’16
“I studied abroad with BU’s Morocco program and I think that it really was integral to studying the language as a minor. Without studying abroad somewhere in the Arab world, whether it be in North Africa or the Levant region or the Gulf etc. you just wont get the same kind of experience or understanding of the language or culture in class unless you experience it first hand on your own. My experience with regards to [extracurricular Arabic at BU] was [also] really fulfilling and I liked how much effort the faculty put in always letting students know about the events etc. in the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/131982590181105/ . There was always something to attend.” –Justin Ford ’15
“Arabic is a beautiful language that has not been fully discovered yet. It is a widely spoken language in the Arabic world spoken by many people. If you have the opportunity to take an Arabic class, take advantage of it.” – Nida Shuttari
“It’s a tough language, but so rewarding. Job offers really do pour in as you advance in the language. Cultural activities are plentiful. The department is small but developing wonderfully, and they REALLY value students’ feedback in terms of changing and adding new programs.” –Matthew Knight
“Arabic seemed like such a daunting task at first, but quickly turned into a fun yet challenging experience. It is definitely worth the time put in. Some of my closest friends are actually classmates from my Arabic class.” –Stephen Allen
“Arabic is awesome because it’s a great, small, loving community of students who love learning a challenging language. Learning Arabic is challenging at times, but coming from a Romance language background, it is refreshing to study a completely new alphabet and culture.” –Janet Calcaterra
“Arabic blows your mind. It’s completely different than any language spoken in Europe. It is also very useful in today’s job market.” – Seth Mandelkern
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I major or minor in Arabic at BU?
Yes! You can minor in Arabic – see http://www.bu.edu/academics/cas/programs/modern-languages-comparative-literature/minor-arabic/. You can major in Middle East and North Africa Studies, which works as a de facto Arabic major – see www.bu.edu/mena/academics for details. If you are majoring in International Relations and minoring in Arabic, talk to your Pardee School advisor about a double major in IR&MENA instead.
Q: Are there scholarships?
Yes! And our program frequently wins them. In recent years several of our students have won Foreign Language and Area Studies awards through BU’s African Studies Center http://www.bu.edu/africa/forstudents/financial-aid/, covering their tuition on campus. Our students have also won national awards such as Critical Language Scholarships and Boren Scholarships, a SALAM scholarship for summer study in Oman, a Gilman scholarship covering a semester’s study in Rabat, and an all-expenses-paid scholarship to the prestigious Center for Arabic Study Abroad post-BA program in Cairo. The MA students in our Master of Arts in Teaching–Arabic program, run jointly with the school of education, have won fellowships from Qatar Foundation International to cover their graduate studies.
Q: Can you describe the kids who take Arabic at BU?
Between 100 and 200 students per year take Arabic at BU. The program is known for its camaraderie: the work is tough, and committed students develop a real sense that “we’re all in it together.” Our students do homework in pairs or groups and contribute to a warm, non-judgmental atmosphere in class. There are student blogs in Arabic, skits, presentations, and lots of extracurricular opportunities. There’s usually a final party and talent show. It’s inspiring to see how quickly our students progress – and how much fun they have.
Q: How fast will I progress?
Amazingly fast. By the end of first semester, you will be able to conduct a simple interview with a native speaker.
Q: Will I become fluent in Arabic?
We can’t guarantee fluency – that depends on how hard you study! But we can tell you that our four-year program, combined with a summer or semester in the Arab world or in an intense summer program, can bring you to advanced proficiency by graduation if you are committed and work hard.
Q: Where can I study abroad?
BU has a study abroad site in Rabat, Morocco http://www.bu.edu/abroad/find-programs/by-destination/rabat-morocco/, open to all language levels (summer and fall); there is a homestay and an internship option. You can also study Arabic on the BU Abroad program in Haifa, Israel http://www.bu.edu/abroad/find-programs/by-destination/haifa-israel/. And many of our students get transfer credits for programs run through other universities and language schools in Jordan or Oman.