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Cliff Notes May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

The Chic of Araby


After years languishing in the backwaters of academe, Arabic has come into its own. This newest addition to UCSD’s language program was introduced in the fall of 2002 with just one section of about 20 students and has since mushroomed to the point where a sixth section had to be added this winter quarter.

Increased national security concerns have created an urgent need for Arabic translators. This has opened career opportunities ranging from interpreters for the State Department to foreign correspondents to developers of Arabic software programs.

Students are taught Modern Standard Arabic, which is the official written language, and conversation is held in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, the most common of the five spoken dialects. Arabic is spoken in 22 countries, so there are many distinct customs and traditions to learn.

“ We always point out the differences in culture,” says lecturer Sonia Ghattas-Soliman, who started the program. “You never know where the students will be working, so we want them to be comfortable dealing with the people of any country. But the emphasis is on language.”

Ghattas-Soliman came from Egypt in the late 1970s for her postdoctoral work, and subsequently taught Arabic courses at UCSD Extension for nine years. Lately, she has seen an increased demand for the language. “After completing the four levels,” Ghattas-Soliman says, “the students would ask me, ‘So what now? Do we get level higher classes?’” She decided to approach the linguistics department, and they quickly made Arabic a part of their official course offerings.

Ghattas-Soliman recalls a common Arab expression: “Examine what is said, not him who speaks.” The Arabic program is giving students the opportunity to understand both the speaker and what is spoken.

For more information on the program,
visit http://ling.ucsd.edu/ Language/Arabic/


UCSD Arabic language program

Ghattas-Soliman recalls a common Arab expression: “Examine what is said, not him who speaks.”