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Washington State University
News Travels December 2015 newsletter home page

Arabic 101

The students in the Arabic 101 class started with learning the Arabic alphabet, necessary for beginners because it differs vastly from the English alphabet. It is essential that students prepare and practice on a daily basis because mastering Arabic can be especially difficult for native speakers of English. The students used two books: Alif Baa, which consists of 10 units (one unit per week) and covers the Arabic alphabet with lists of vocabulary designed to help the language learners recognize the different sounds of the letters in different words. Students are required to engage in limited conversation with their classmates utilizing this vocabulary. When the students complete the first book, they are asked to create scenarios in Arabic and to present their skits before their classmates. An example skit from another university was shown in class a week ahead to help them develop their own scenarios. Since classroom time is limited, the students finish only the first lesson from the second book, Al-Kitaab – part one. In this book, they start to read and write complete sentences with a wider range of vocabulary and structures. At this point, they can deliver narrations about themselves in Arabic.

Although classes have focused on Modern Standard Arabic, there is a push to teach colloquialisms in the classrooms as well. The newest edition of the Al-Kitaab book puts an emphasis on dialect, which might be Egyptian or Lebanese. The necessity of learning both has become more important to be able to function well in Arab societies.

Why learn Arabic and the uses of the Arabic language:

Arabic is not the language of one country, of course, but of 26 nations across North Africa and the Middle East. It is a language that unites at least 400 million native speakers in the Arab world. Arabic is the 5th most commonly spoken native language in the world. There is a high demand and low supply of Arabic-speakers in the western world.

When it comes to finding job opportunities, foreign language skills play a crucial role in the international job sector. As Arabic speakers cover a broad range of business sectors in the Gulf, one can find top career opportunities available after learning this language.

Career opportunities in different fields:

Hospitality and Travel – The travel sector provides a wide range of opportunities for Arabic speakers. The students can find work options in hotels, restaurants and travel agencies. Apart from the knowledge of the language, one needs to have knowledge about the industry in addition to a pleasing personality.

Interpreter – There is a great demand for interpreters in Arabic speaking countries. To overcome language barriers in businesses, several multinational companies (particularly organizations doing business in Arab countries) prefer to hire proficient Arabic speaking translators. To qualify for this job, fluency in the Arabic language is mandatory. Moreover, experience significantly influences salary packages for this role.

Government – Many government jobs also hire Arabic translators and speakers for policy discussions and to conduct negotiations with other countries. These jobs require specialized training and pay well.

Finance & Commerce – Most of the Arabic speaking countries are considered among rich countries in the world. With its booming financial sector, expat job seekers who can speak and understand Arabic, job opportunities are readily available in this industry. If students already hold an educational qualification in finance, it is considered to be a desirable combination for potential employers. Similarly, International Trade requires translators.

There are various other industries, which have a huge demand for Arabic speakers such as Education, Health care, and Customer Service.