As a Middle Eastern Affairs major at the University of Nevada, Reno, Justin Fong didn't think taking Spanish as his foreign language requirement made much sense.
What did make sense was taking the Arabic language course offered through the Northern Nevada International Center in Reno. Not only does the course teach students how to speak Arabic, but it also offers them a glimpse into the culture of the Middle East.
"I actually went over to the Middle East this summer and got to experience first-hand a lot of the cultural things that were explained in the class," said Fong, who is in his fourth semester of the program.
The Arabic classes are open not only to university students, but to community members interested in learning the language as well. The classes include one for beginners and one for people who are more advanced with the language, said Natasha Majewski, educational outreach coordinator for the Northern Nevada International Center.
"We've had a lot of students from UNR who have traveled to the Middle East or are planning on going there, and we've had people in the community who are planning to go there for business or things like that," she said. "Some people are really fascinated with the language and just want to take the opportunity to learn a new language."
The International Center has been offering the Arabic class since 2006, and about 150 people have been through the program, Majewski said.
"The beginning class has been the most popular," she said.
This semester, the class will be taught by Yosry Tulbh, a visiting Fulbright professor from Egypt.
Fong said having a teacher that comes from an Arabic-speaking country makes it helpful, especially in terms of the cultural lessons about the Middle East.