Magazine article Insight on the News

Sudden Surge in Interest in near East: Americans Are Enrolling in Courses on Islam, Arabic and International Relations. (Trends)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Sudden Surge in Interest in near East: Americans Are Enrolling in Courses on Islam, Arabic and International Relations. (Trends)

Article excerpt

Hiyam Afram, the Iraqi-born Arabic instructor for the Department of Agriculture's popular evening language classes, has noticed one major thing since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: phone calls. Lots of them.

"I've had so many calls since Sept. 11 to study Arabic," she says. "They want to know the Arabic culture, their way of thinking, what does Islam say. People are really interested."

Once an afterthought of college language departments and language schools, enrollment for Arabic lessons has jumped nationwide in the last two months. The FBI's call for Arabic translators also has spurred interest.

Enrollment in elementary Arabic has increased by 70 percent at the University of Chicago, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Mohammed Sawaie, a Jordanian who teaches Arabic at the University of Virginia, says many people have inquired about the next Arabic 101 classes, which don't start until fall 2002. But interest in the language had been growing even before the attacks. "There's a new generation of sons and daughters of immigrants from Arabic or Muslim backgrounds who are college age and want to learn about their roots and religion," he says.

Spoken by 100 million people and understood by many more, Arabic has an alphabet of 28 consonants. It descended from the same Canaanite script as Hebrew, and its written form was introduced into Mecca not long before the Koran was introduced. Also like Hebrew, it operates on a system of vowel points, whereby the vowels are above or below the consonants instead of alongside them, as in English. It reads backward and its graceful script bears no resemblance to the Latinized lettering of the Western world. Several letters have no counterpart in English, and the English letters "p" and "v" have no counterparts in classical Arabic.

The language is filled with arche-types, symbols and hidden divine meanings, leading to the popular saying "Persian is the language of Paradise, but Arabic is the language of God. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.