AUSTIN, Texas—Responding to the critical need for advanced Arabic speakers in the United States, The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Middle Eastern Studies has established a National Flagship Language Program in Arabic. The National Security Education Program awarded the university more than $700,000 to establish the program.
Although the United States government has identified Arabic as a language critical to national security, few Americans are proficient. The university’s Arabic Flagship Program (AFP) will address the deficiency, increasing the number of advanced Arabic speakers.
The university has one of the most prominent Arabic programs in the nation, including the largest group of tenured faculty devoted full-time to teaching Arabic language, literature and culture. It is also home to the Center for Arabic Study Abroad, the nation’s premier study abroad program for Arabic students.
Americans’ interest in the language has soared in recent years, but enrollment numbers are far below more popular languages. In 2002, 10,000 students were enrolled in college-level Arabic courses, compared to more than 700,000 in Spanish.
The AFP is one of the few U.S. programs designed to train students in both Modern Standard Arabic and colloquial dialects such as Egyptian and Levantine Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is used for reading and writing. Colloquial forms are used in everyday life and are crucial to navigating day-to-day business in Arab-speaking countries.
In addition to language classes, students in the four-year undergraduate AFP will attend cultural events, films and lectures, and will study abroad in an intensive yearlong program in an Arab-speaking country.
"Government agencies, universities and many private companies are eager for fluent Arabic speakers," said Mahmoud Al-Batal, director of the university’s AFP and associate professor of Arabic. "Not only will students learn about a rich culture and language, but they will open the door to numerous opportunities after graduation."
Enrollment in the AFP will be highly competitive, and students will be selected from a variety of majors, including international relations, business, economics, psychology and film.
For more information contact: Mahmoud Al-Batal, associate professor, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, 512-471-3463; Tracy Mueller, public affairs specialist, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404.