Students at North Dakota State University say they want more Arabic language studies.
NDSU offers first-year Arabic through the U.S. Arabic Distance Learning Network. A professor from California teaches over interactive television to about a dozen schools in the consortium, and a native Arabic-speaking teaching assistant in the area meets with the NDSU class two days a week.
Dan Zakopyko, 24, a cadet in the ROTC program, would like to advance beyond first-year Arabic. He is a former Army specialist who spent a year in Iraq.
"When I was over there, the language barrier was such a problem," Zakopyko said.
Zakopyko is now a criminal justice major with plans to return to the military, and is enrolled in NDSU's Arabic 101 class.
He is gathering student signatures for a petition for NDSU to expand the program.
About 100 students have signed the petition so far, saying they would enroll in an Arabic or Middle Eastern studies course, he said. The NDSU class now is limited to 12 students.
Figures from the Modern Language Association of America show a major push toward internationalization on college campuses, with total enrollment in language courses growing 12.9 percent over the four years.
Spanish is the most popular language, followed by French. But Arabic has been found to be the fastest-growing major language.
Paul Homan, NDSU's chairman of modern languages, said he hopes NDSU can expand its Arabic offerings.
Many students interested in Arabic are involved with ROTC or are pursuing careers in international or government work, Homan said.
Officials at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., have talked about offering Arabic, but there are no definite plans yet, said Mary Rice, division chairwoman for language, literature and culture.
Concordia Language Villages has a summer Arabic program near Vergas, Minn., but it is for students ages 8 through 18.
Concordia added first-year Chinese this fall and is building toward offering a Chinese minor and eventually a major.
Japanese is the fastest-growing language at Minnesota State University, Moorhead with 147 students enrolled this semester, said Takanora Mita, chairman of languages and cultures.
Many students study other languages to help their career goals, Rice said.
"I think students perceive it as giving them the edge in the job market," she said.