Unbeknownst to many students, UM-St. Louis has a secret weapon that even SLU does not possess.
Recently, Arabic classes have been added to the school's roster, and could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Four semesters ago, Laura El Hage Chehade came to UM-St. Louis and became the first (and so far only) professor to offer to teach Arabic on campus. From her first year teaching to her second, the amount of students who took her class doubled and El Hage Chehade is hopeful that this number will continue to increase.
"I think it is very important to offer languages at UMSL like Arabic or Chinese," El Hage Chehade said. "By learning the more exotic languages it gives [students] a skill that most people don't have….and it opens a lot of doors."
In the United States there has been a growing demand in the workplace for women and men who speak Arabic, which is part of what El Hage Chehade means when she says that learning Arabic opens doors for students. In fact, El Hage Chehade mentioned that a former student of hers was actually given a job merely because she had taken Arabic in the past.
"There are so many things you can do if you learn Arabic" El Hage Chehade said. "If you are an international business major you could think about going to Dubai where both Macy's and Anheuser Bush are expanding their companies."
"Also, the FBI and CIA are always hiring if you speak Arabic, and I would recommend learning the language to all students with criminal justice and political science majors as well."
Yet El Hage Chehade would not hesitate to recommend taking Arabic to students other majors besides criminal justice, political science, and international business. She believes that learning Arabic can benefit all areas of study at UM-St. Louis.
"Even those with a love for literature would benefit from learning the language," El Hage Chehade said . "There is so much beautiful literature written in Arabic which has never been translated and certainly should be."
Actually, many of the students currently taking El Hage Chehade's Arabic 1002 class have significantly different reasons for deciding to study the language.
Nour Aihyari, senior, biochemistry/biotechnology, has parents overseas and took the class in order to communicate better in the Arab world.
Nate Wilson, junior, political science, did so to gain new perspective about Arab speaking people.
Jesse Weaver, freshman, undeclared, said "I studied Arabic in the military, and I wanted to continue with it here."
Interestingly, a former graduate of UM-St. Louis, Dawn Blaloch, came to campus from a Ph.D program at SLU just to take Arabic with Laura El Hage Chehade.
"Arabic is not offered right now at SLU" said Blaloch. "I came to UMSL to learn Arabic so I can later read a mathematical dissertation that is entirely in Arabic and has not yet been translated."
According to El Hage Chehade, students like Blaloch might expect to be able to read and write simple Modern Standard Arabic by the end of their first semester. By their second, students will move on to reading paragraphs.
"By the end of your fourth semester as an Arabic student," El Hage Chehade said happily "you will be able to watch the news in Arabic and read simple news articles in Arabic as well."
This may be surprising to some, as it is common knowledge that Arabic is radically different from other languages such as German, French, or Spanish which are offered at UM-St. Louis. The fact that the language has a completely different script than the others, and is even read from right to left can be daunting to first time students.
El Hage Chehade however feels that Arabic is no more difficult than other languages offered on campus and takes precaution to never rush her students.
"I know that Arabic can be complicated because of its structure" El Hage Chehade admitted "but there is no reason that students should be afraid to take the course."
"Arabic is a viable language alternative to other foreign languages such as French or Spanish to take for your foreign language proficiency requirement here at UMSL. It is not only completely doable, but a really fun and rewarding experience," she said
Nate Wilson could not agree more with his teacher and said, "I have taken Spanish before and [learning a new language] is all about your mentality. You have to want to learn it and you have to take your time. Once you get the fundamentals down though, you will really begin to enjoy it."