To the Editor:
Regarding “Group Publishes Nation’s First Arabic Standards” (July 26, 2006):
As the Middle East’s influence in world affairs grows stronger by the day, so too does the importance of the Arabic language. The fact that Arabic is taught in only 96 schools at the precollegiate level in the United States, as your article notes, and at only 200 colleges and universities shows a lack of foresight. More should be done to integrate Arabic into the curriculum at both the higher education and K-12 levels.
The interest is there. At Baylor University, one Arabic instructor teaches two sections enrolling 120 students, with many more on waiting lists. The problem is both inadequate funding and a lack of credible instructors. The current administration in Washington is providing only about $114 million for foreign-language initiatives. This is hardly enough to support the programs we need.
To advance the cause of Arabic-language instruction, students across the country should be made aware of extracurricular programs available near them. Schools could spread the word, and even offer partial credit, as encouragement to students who enroll in classes outside their schools or campuses. Schools should also consider integrating Internet-based Arabic classes into their curricula. Since Arabic instructors are few in number, Internet-based classes may be the most practical medium for some schools for teaching the language.
Learning Arabic will not only open the doors to future career possibilities, but will also contribute to the understanding of a vitally important region of the world and its culture.
Hamid H. Gari
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colo.
A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of Education Week as Arabic-Language Courses Should Be an Imperative