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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

UF sees increased interest in Arabic courses

A national trend is hitting close to home as the number of students interested in learning Arabic has increased nationally, as well as at UF.

"I think Sept. 11 had a great impact on students' decision to join the Arabic program," said Esameddin Alhadi, a visiting lecturer and the undergraduate adviser for Arabic at UF.

According to a USA Today article published earlier this month, the number of students studying Arabic since Sept. 11 has increased.

In fall 2001, 17 UF students took Beginning Arabic 1, compared with fall 2007's enrollment of 99 students, according to information provided by the department of African and Asian languages and literatures.

The total number of students in Arabic classes jumped from 32 students in fall 2001 to 207 students in fall 2007, according to the department.

A national study estimated that 20,000 people in the United States enrolled in an Arabic-language program in 2006. That is double the amount of people that were enrolled between 1998 and 2002, according to a Modern Language Association study expected to be released this fall.

The increased demand has caused a shortage of teachers, both at UF and nationally.

Despite the scarcity, more sections of Arabic classes have been opened, said Rania Habib, a visiting lecturer.

UF has added mostly beginning-level classes.

Before Sept. 11, the department offered only one or two sections of Beginning Arabic 1 a semester. They currently offer five sections.

There has also been an increased interest in learning about Arabic culture.

Habib teaches a culture class, which is taught in English. Enrollment was capped at 40 students, but she had more asking to join the class.

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The reasons for students' recent interest are varied.

Alhadi and Habib said many want to go into the intelligence field, while some expect to enlist in the army or be deployed to Iraq. Others name family heritage as the reason for their interest. Some students hope that learning Arabic will provide them with better job opportunities because it is not a commonly learned language.

Arabic is considered a difficult language to learn. According to Habib, it is scientifically proven to be among the three most difficult languages in the world, along with Chinese and Korean.

"Let's say you spend about nine months learning a language - you may require 27 months to learn Arabic," Habib said.

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