Turning on the news to a Middle East region in turmoil is turning students on to learning the region's dominant language, and although MU follows the nationwide trend, it doesn't have a degree-granting Arabic studies program.
Although Arabic is the sixth most common language spoken in the world, it is still one of the lesser-taught languages in the country, according to a study by the Modern Language Association. MU's elementary Arabic course is starting to attract more student interest, Arabic language graduate teaching assistant Zaid Mahir said.
"It is quite interesting that there is this increase in interest in learning the Arabic language," Mahir said.
Mahir, the sole instructor for the language at MU, said the Middle East's turmoil sparked some of the interest. He said he's glad to see MU open the Arabic language to students by offering the lone class.
"We are definitely lagging behind other universities — even in the Midwest — that have full programs," he said.
MU's elementary Arabic courses are consistent with a national trend of students not enrolling in advanced foreign language courses, according to the study.
Nationwide, the number of students taking foreign languages has increased by 12.9 percent while enrollment in Arabic has increased 126.5 percent since 2002, according to the study.
As a group, languages considered less taught by the MLA, including Arabic, Aramaic and Persian, have increased by 31.2 percent.
The cap on the Arabic class is 20 students, Mahir said. He said 18 were enrolled in the fall semester and that at press time, 13 were signed up for the spring semester class. The class is offered through the Department of German and Russian Studies.
There is not a lot of talk at MU right now about creating a program for Arabic, but there is a lot of student interest, Mahir said. He said he thinks one of the main obstacles to the creation of an Arabic studies program is funding.
Mahir said he did not know if there was any effort to recruit more instructors for the Arabic class.
Mahir said courses in languages like Chinese and Korean have similar problems, but he said department officials can usually find speakers to teach the class, whether they were born in the U.S. or in a country where the language is commonly spoken.
"I hope it goes on," Mahir said. "I really hope that university can lend a greater hand towards evolving this program."