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Arabic

The Breakdown

A historic and beautiful language, Arabic echoes through the ancient rock cut architecture of Petra to the fertile banks of the Nile.  Spoken by millions, it’s a language that crosses many lands and helps to unite a number of cultures.  And as one of the six official languages of the United Nations, Arabic is a language of political and international import.  If you enjoy learning other tongues and are curious about the Middle East than Arabic could be a major that’s right up your academic alley!    

As an Arabic major, you’ll certainly have your fair share of classes focusing on conversation, composition and grammar.  Indeed, you will probably be required to take classes in both modern standard Arabic (the formal Arabic typically used for reading and writing) as well as Egyptian colloquial Arabic (one of the major spoken varieties of Arabic used throughout the Middle East). Fortunately, studying a language at the collegiate level goes far beyond those brick and mortar lessons.  You will also be exposed to the culture, art and history of the Middle East, North Africa and the Arabian peninsula.  You’ll be able to study everything from the tales of the Arabian Nights to the political climate that sparked the War of Attrition.  Perhaps most exciting, you will likely have the opportunity to study abroad.  And there’s no better way to learn a language than total immersion!

Should you decide to study Arabic, you’ll need the patience and the fortitude required to achieve proficiency (not to mention fluency) in a foreign language, especially one as different from English as Arabic.  It also helps to have a good ear for accents and an appreciation for the nuances of grammar.  Moreover, when studying another culture, it’s best to maintain an open mind.  And you probably shouldn’t be partial to the Latin alphabet.

 

Nuts and Bolts

Don’t fret; Arabic majors don’t spend all of their time conjugating verbs.  While grammar is certainly a part and parcel for the department, you’ll enroll in a variety classes designed to address all aspects of Arabic culture and history.  Courses might include: Readings in Arabic I, Cultural Encounters: The Arabs and the West, Medieval Arabic Literature in Translation, Real World Arabic, Imagining Palestine, Sufism, Islamic Palaces, Gardens and Court Cultures, Islamic Texts, Advanced Arabic, Elementary Spoken Egyptian Arabic, Linguistics Analysis of Arabic, Arabic Media and History of Islamic Iberia.

Decisions, Decisions

Arabic majors love to learn about different countries and cultures, from languages to literature and all topics in between.  Therefore, they might also think about studying French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Korean, English, Hebrew, Portuguese, art history, international business, political science, East Asian studies, Middle Eastern studies, Islamic studies, Jewish studies, international relations, Slavic studies, Latin American studies, African studies and anthropology.

What's Next

You might not believe it but as an Arabic major you’ll be uniquely positioned.  Indeed, the writing and critical thinking skills you’ll hone coupled with the international savvy acquired through studying another culture make you quite marketable.  And while teaching and translation are common, noble and attainable positions, you will discover that you are not limited to those two professions.  Certainly, many graduates find positions with companies based in the Middle East (within a variety of different industries).  Others might seek employment in international education or with study abroad companies.  A number of Arabic majors also land jobs with NGOs, doing aid work within both the Middle East and North Africa.  The foreign service is another attractive route as is international business.  Lastly, the tourism and hotel industries are popular, as they allow for a high degree of interaction with international clients.

 

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