The multiple-choice question flashed on the classroom's screen in English: "You've already had five cups of tea. When you are offered another one, you say... "
About three dozen high school students answered together: "Kefaya. Elhissab min fadlik!"
It was the Arabic translation of "Enough. The check, please!"
The Norfolk school division launched a formal Arabic language program this summer, with help from Norfolk State University's Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence.
The center is using part of a federal grant to pay for Norfolk's summer class and Arabic courses at Maury and Norview High schools starting this fall.
"The younger people are, the easier it is for them to learn languages," said Arlene Maclin, a Norfolk State engineering professor who is also the center's director. "We need to cultivate a whole new work force for the intelligence community."
A little more than half of the 60 high school students who applied for the summer program were accepted based on grades, teacher recommendations and a written application, said Lisa A. Harris, the school division's senior coordinator of foreign languages.
Teens gave a variety of reasons for wanting to take the course, which is worth one semester credit. Some said Arabic would help them pursue careers in the military or become more competitive in the business world, Harris said. Others wanted to learn more about the Islamic culture because their parents are deployed in an Arabic-speaking country.
"Everyone else is taking Spanish and Italian," said Jessie Solis, a rising senior at Maury. "I wanted to dabble more in languages that weren't accessible."
In the four-week session, students learned Arabic letters and pronunciations and practiced language skills in a computer laboratory.
Nadia Laassouli, the students' teacher, also taught some lessons about culture to dispel ideas that everyone in Arabic-speaking countries is militant or that all the women must wear veils. She is from Morocco.
"I wanted to project that there's another side of it," Laassouli said.
A guest speaker from the Central Intelligence Agency visited the class, and the students traveled to the National Cryptologic Museum and to CACI, a private security and intelligence company in the Washington area.
Those who completed the class with at least a C and missed no more than two classes received a $400 stipend.
"The thinking behind that was many of these students take summer jobs," Harris said. "We didn't want anybody in the program to be financially restricted."
Harris said she expects about 30 high school students to take Arabic courses this fall.
Richard Sawyer, a rising junior at Norview, said he enjoyed the differences of the Arabic language.
"When I figured out that you write from right to left, that was surprising to me," he said.
Katina Dell'Acqua-Lubich speaks German and knows some French and Italian, but she said she loved studying something new.
"It's like learning to read all over again," said Katina, a rising senior at Maury.