While enrollment figures in some language courses at UF have dwindled, others have increased by over 200 percent in the past eight years.
Chinese and Arabic language courses at UF have had the highest percent growth since 2000, according to UF statistics.
Enrollment for Chinese climbed to 463 students this year. Arabic topped the list for highest percentage growth with 343 students, compared to 55 students in the 2000-2001 year.
Arabic lecturer Soraya Bouguettaya said the increase in Arabic enrollment is probably the result of increased media attention and awareness of the Middle East in the years following Sept. 11.
Some of Bouguettaya's students are political science majors who aspire to work in the Middle East and want to learn more about Arabic culture, she added.
UF Chinese professor Cynthia Hsien Shen said many of her students find themselves drawn to Chinese language courses because of the job opportunities that China offers.
"A lot of people see a career in China," Shen said. "They see the chance to make money in China."
UF junior Davis Blank, one of Shen's students, chose Chinese as his foreign language after passing up Spanish, German and French. To Blank, the European countries seemed economically stagnant, he said.
Some of the European languages have higher enrollment numbers than Chinese or Arabic but have experienced less growth in previous years. For example, Spanish class enrollment experienced a 10 percent decrease since 2000.
Blank, a physics major with a head for business, was looking for a language with more potential. As Blank began learning Chinese, he became engrossed in the language's complex characters, he said. Last summer, he practiced his Chinese when he studied abroad in Beijing.
When Blank saw the vertigo-inducing skyscrapers and breakneck pace of life in the country's capital, his intuition about China's potential as a world power was confirmed.
"It's like New York on steroids," Blank said.
But for other students, it's not all business.
Some of professor Shen's students are Chinese but have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. For them, Chinese courses give them a chance to better understand their own culture, Shen said.
Lynne Guey, 18, is one of those students. Chinese classes give the freshman a chance to learn more about her Taiwanese heritage.
"It'd be nice to connect with my family more, to not have that language barrier," Guey said.