Americans’ Desire To Learn Arabic Continues


By Paul Wulfsberg


Arabic has become the eighth-most taught language in U.S. universities, with around 26,000 public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade and 31,500 university students studying Arabic, according to the most recent national surveys.

Sustained interest in learning Arabic

In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. universities quickly expanded their Arabic course offerings to meet student demand. The number of American university students enrolled in Arabic surged from 5,505 in 1998 to 35,083 in 2009 — faster growth than any other language over the same time period.

Despite an overall trend away from studying language and toward science, technology, engineering and math, there has been a similarly rapid expansion of Arabic courses at the primary and secondary school level, reaching around 26,000 in 2015, funded largely by grants from the federal government.

Awad Awad, a teacher at North Atlanta High School, says he focuses on cultural proficiency, including community-based experiential learning with the Arab American community in Georgia.

One of his main goals, Awad says, is to help students navigate cultural differences. “You don’t have to agree with the person on the other end. Understand what’s happening without being judgmental.”

Modern Standard Arabic versus dialects

Arabic is a language with a distinct difference between its main written form of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and its spoken dialects. Awad explains his belief that students need early and frequent exposure to dialects, rather than the traditionalist MSA-centered approach.

“Communication is supposed to lead to intercultural competence,” he says. But outside of specific contexts, being able to only communicate in MSA “is an intercultural breakdown.”

Lizz Huntley, a doctoral candidate in second-language studies and an Arabic textbook author, expressed her belief that the Arabic teaching field in the United States is evolving toward more instruction in dialect.

“The younger generation of teachers embraces the idea that students need to be able to perform a range of tasks like ordering at a restaurant in amiyya [spoken dialect] and reading a newspaper in fusha [MSA], rather than just reproducing more academics for an ever-shrinking job pool,” she said.

Meet some of the American students learning Arabic on ShareAmerica’s Instagram account.

Previously Published on


Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.

All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community. A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities. A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.

Register New Account

Log in if you wish to renew an existing subscription.

Choose your subscription level

By completing this registration form, you are also agreeing to our Terms of Service which can be found here.

    Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.

Photo credit: iStock

The post Americans’ Desire To Learn Arabic Continues appeared first on The Good Men Project.

Older Post Newer Post