Why Study Arabic?

A Critical Language.   Arabic speakers are in greater demand than ever before.  The U.S. State Department has named Arabic a “critical language,” creating scholarships for language study in the U.S. and overseas.  At BU, Arabic language enrollment has risen by 68 percent just since 2005.  Practical as well as 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 years of modern standard 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.  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.

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.  Throughout your study, one class per week will focus on practical vocabulary and commonly discussed topics (colors, parts of the house, clothing, fruits and vegetables, family relations, the weather, etc.).  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 growing array of authentic sources (Arabic online media, novels and poems, films, blogs, etc.) and address topics such as translation, styles of writing, and the Arab media.  We also offer a course in Levantine Colloquial Arabic and a special introductory track for students from Arab backgrounds.

What Our Students Say

“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: How fast will I progress?
A: Amazingly fast.  By the end of first semester, you will be able to conduct a simple interview with a native speaker of Arabic, in person or via Skype.  You’ll also be able to give a presentation in Arabic introducing yourself, your family and friends, your hometown, and your hobbies.

Q: Will I become fluent in Arabic?
A: 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 a summer program such as Middlebury, 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 program in Rabat, Morocco.  It is open to students at all language levels, with programs during the school year and in the summer; there is a homestay and an internship option.  You can also get transfer credits for programs run through other institutions, or you can go to the Arab world and work or study on your own.  According to the New York Times, more and more students are spending semesters abroad in Arabic speaking countries. Our students frequently win scholarships for summer study in the Arab world.  Places they have gone include Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Israel and the West Bank, Jordan, and Oman.

Q: Can I major or minor in Arabic at BU?
A: There is no Arabic major yet, but by the time you graduate there may be.  We do have a new and thriving Arabic minor.  Besides language courses in Modern Standard Arabic, we offer a course in Levantine Colloquial Arabic (the dialect used by Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and Jordanian Arabic speakers) as well as several courses in Arabic literature.  Other departments (e.g., Religion, History) offer an array of related courses.

Q: Can you describe the students who take Arabic at BU?
A: The Arabic program is characterized by 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, resulting in a warm, non-judgmental atmosphere in class.  Some students make their closest friends through studying Arabic.  At the end of every semester there’s a final party and talent show (with Middle Eastern food, of course) where different classes show off what they have learned.  It’s inspiring to see how quickly our students progress – and how much fun they are able to have.