The first Arabic immersion camp for high school students in Hawaii gets under way Sunday at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, with participants coming from as far as Kailua-Kona.
"Learning critical languages is vital in today's globalized world," said Jill Takasaki Canfield, executive director of the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. "The camp is to promote student interest in Arabic. Camps in Mandarin have been offered before."
The two-week residential session is already full with 24 students and has a waiting list. It builds on the first Arabic language class held at a Hawaii high school, a pilot program offered in the just-ended academic year at Campbell High School in Ewa Beach.
Like the pilot program, the language camp is sponsored by OneWorld Now! of Seattle and the Qatar Foundation International of Washington, D.C., which provided scholarships for Hawaii students to attend. The Pacific and Asian Affairs Council is the local partner.
Two levels of Arabic will be offered: Level 1 for beginners and Level II for students who took the language at Campbell last year. Along with Campbell students, participants will include teenagers from Kealakehe High, Moanalua High, Waipahu High, Education Laboratory Charter School and Island Pacific Academy. The camp runs from Sunday to July 9.
Classes will be taught by Adly Mirza, an instructor who teaches Arabic at Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Hawaii, and who also handled the Campbell class. Participants will be able to practice their language skills with Jordanian and Palestinian students who will be in Hawaii for an East-West Center program in July.
Arabic is the fastest-growing foreign language studied at U.S. colleges and universities, with enrollment at 35,000 in 2009, up 46 percent from 2006, according to a survey released in December by the Modern Language Association. Less than 1 percent of high school students in the United States are studying Arabic, Canfield said.
"When people ask me why we are involved in teaching Arabic, I tell them that the question should be, Why haven't we been teaching our students Arabic and other critical languages?" Canfield said. "We need to develop students who can engage."