Central Michigan University will offer Arabic classes as long as interest lasts.
The university started them in fall 2008. There were two sections of classes, both taught by foreign language instructor Ghada Ibrahim.
The class was successful and, this year, two sections of Arabic are being offered again. About 30 students were enrolled both years.
Instructors who teach Middle East-related subjects encourage students to learn the language. The class, FLN 197E, was approved two weeks into the semester to receive IV-Group B credits, which makes it more appealing to students.
"There is increasing interest of students who have taken other related subjects in history, religion and political science to supplement these courses with learning this pivotal language," Ibrahim said. "There is an idea to develop either a minor or a certificate of Middle East Studies engaging all the mentioned departments."
For now, FLN 197E is held in the fall as a introductory course and FLN 297E as the next level.
Offering intermediate class depends only on demand. An intermediate class may be offered next year if there is enough interest, Ibrahim said.
Lexington junior Justin Regan took both the fall and spring Arabic classes.
"As a political science student with a particular interest in the Middle East, I feel that the class was an extremely useful starting point — something of a springboard to later steps," Regan said. "Professor Ibrahim was an absolutely amazing instructor with a wealth of knowledge on the language and culture, and she incorporated both these things into the study."
She would often discuss the historical or religious rationale behind cultural differences between the West and the Middle East and, as a Muslim, was often able to give a perspective that gets missed or ignored in America, Regan said.
Half the students who took the introductory class took the second level, and several of them applied for a study abroad program. Many of them are in the Middle East now or ready to go in the spring, Ibrahim said.
"I'm traveling to Jordan next semester in order to continue my study of the language, which I find not only incredibly beautiful, but also very practical considering my interest in foreign relations," Regan said. "I could have gone with no cultural knowledge or understanding of the language, but (Ibrahim) has given me a leg up that will allow me to go above and beyond what I could have done alone."
Houghton Lake senior Michelle Fitzgerald also took advantage of both classes.
"I am a Spanish minor and love learning languages," Fitzgerald said. "It was definitely interesting and very fun."
Fitzgerald said she learned a lot about Islam and Muslim culture, including food and traditions of Arabic-speaking countries.
Besides the language, students also learn cultural advantages and awareness.
"I think, in this country, we make too many assumptions about Islamic culture and don't really take the time to learn about it so also in that regard this class was very useful," Fitzgerald said.