THE ARABIC PROGRAM
MarHaba! Welcome to the Arabic Language Program at the University of Chicago. Arabic has deep roots at the University of Chicago, and feeds into a variety of other activities
As stated on the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations website:
The University of Chicago taught Arabic in its very first quarter of classes in Autumn 1893, and has been teaching it continuously ever since; thus, Arabic has a long and distinguished tradition here, one of the oldest in the U.S. Moreover, the University library has been actively acquiring Arabic books and books on Arabic and Islamic subjects since that time, which is why its collection is stronger than that of almost any other university in the field. The University is also home to a major journal (Journal of Near Eastern Studies) and a weekly Arabic Circle. The courses and programming for Arabic language and literature draw on resources, faculty and students primarily from NELC but also from across the university, including the Center for Middle Eastern Studies which regularly hosts lectures by distinguished outside scholars, as well as the Divinity School, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Comparative Literature.
What Arabic is taught here?
The Arabic language offerings at the University cater to a wide spectrum of students, from the complete beginner to the advanced graduate student using literary, historical or other authentic Arabic texts. Elementary, Intermediate and High Intermediate Arabic are three-quarter sequences that are offered every fall. The latter is offered in two sections/tracks, one focusing on modern texts, the other on classical ones. Advanced Arabic syntax is offered every other year as a two-quarter sequence.
Throughout the Elementary and Intermediate sequence, a commitment is made to train students in all the language skills, as well as to provide them with a firm foundation in the rules of grammar and i’raab. It is a program where listening to and discussing news and cultural media is as important as parsing sentences and reading literature.
As the demand for Arabic increased over the years, and as more and more students entered the University with some Arabic, the Arabic program has both grown (in number of full-time lecturers), and begun to expand its offerings to meet the needs of these students. Thus, a variety of specialized one-quarter courses are offered by language faculty, focusing on language skills (e.g., listening, speaking, etc.), the texts/language of a particular period, and, of course, colloquial. Over the years, both Egyptian and Levantine dialects have been offered.
In addition to these courses, advanced students can avail themselves of the opportunity to work independently with language faculty on reading courses that speak to their particular needs.
Arabic Beyond the Classroom
The student of Arabic will find many opportunities to experience Arabic outside the language classroom. The long-standing weekly Arabic Circle (over 35 years old) is run by students and meets religiously every Friday at 3:00 p.m. A lecture is presented, followed by questions. A vibrant forum that brings together students and the public, Arabic Circle provides the opportunity for students to practice their listening skills and to see Arabic used in an authentic intellectual exchange.
Throughout the year, Arabic language films are shown, and informal conversation circles held. In addition, the University-based Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, a group of musicians and students joined by their love of Middle Eastern music, brings Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Armenian and other song to campus and indeed, to the city of Chicago, in their very popular concerts.
Most students of Arabic seek to study the language abroad at some point. They do this in a variety of programs from Egypt to Jordan, Morocco to Oman. The University currently has its own Study-Abroad civilization programs where Arabic is one of the courses, one in Jerusalem (since 2008), the other in Cairo (since 2011). The CMES administers the Cairo CASA exam for students applying to that program.
For those who do not go abroad to study Arabic, the University has its own summer Arabic program, where Elementary and sometimes Intermediate and High Intermediate Arabic are taught. These are intensive nine-week programs that cover a year’s worth of Arabic.