Arabic has become the fastest growing foreign language on college campuses in the U.S., increasing by 127 percent since 2002, according to a survey done by the Modern Language Association of America.
The association is composed of professionals in the fields of language and literature who aspire to strengthen the knowledge of those subjects.
At SJSU, a course in Arabic was offered for the first time last summer, said Fayeq Oweis in an e-mail. Oweis, who taught the summer Arabic class, will be teaching a continuation of the course at SJSU next spring.
Oweis said 15 students enrolled in the course last summer, and he hopes to have the same amount of interest in the class next spring.
The class was offered, he said, because several students had expressed an interest in learning Arabic and asked the department to add a course in the language.
Sami Monsur, a senior Spanish major, said the Arabic class was taught really well.
"Each chapter segued into the next one," she said. "It made it very easy to learn."
Monsur said Oweis was also able to keep the class focused on the language and culture, and leave out any political issues.
She said there was a good mix of students in the class who were interested in learning the language for various reasons.
These were people who wanted to understand the culture and the language, instead of just listening to what people were saying on TV, Monsur said.
Some of these students were Arab-Americans who, Oweis said, make up more than half of those who enroll in Arabic classes.
Oweis said he thinks this is due to rediscovering their cultural identity in response to the discrimination, racism and stereotypes that the Arab and Muslim communities faced after Sept. 11, 2001.
He said Muslim students also tend to enroll in the class because it will help them read the Quran in Arabic and improve their spiritual life.
There are also students who are interested in learning about the Arabic culture, as well as political science, international relations or Middle Eastern studies students who would benefit from understanding the language, Oweis said.
Monsur, who is half Palestinian, said she was influenced by the Arab culture growing up and was familiar with the pronunciations of words in the language.
She said she hoped SJSU could add more Arabic classes to the schedule so that she could take it as a minor.
Dominique van Hooff, chair of the department of foreign languages, said via e-mail that in this multilingual world students should have thorough language preparation.
"Our students are fully aware that adding the knowledge of a language to their education will globalize their professional profile," she said, "and make them more competitive in a world that is becoming increasingly flat."
The department of foreign language hopes to build a strong Arabic program at SJSU, van Hooff said.
"When you speak someone's language," she said, "you tell them that they are important enough in your eyes that you want to communicate with them and psychologically it is a major tool."
According to the Modern Language Association, Arabic made its way onto the top 10 list of most studied languages for the first time.
As of 2006, there were 466 Arabic programs offered at universities in the U.S., almost double what was offered in 2002.
Spanish, French and German continually top the most studied list, according to the Modern Language Association, with more than 70 percent of students taking classes in one of those languages.